Dealing with Upheavals
Do you have a plan or some handy tips for starting over? Most of us don’t. What if your work disappeared tomorrow? What would you do, besides go back to a diet of ramen noodles? I’m here to tell you that it’s not fun, usually. But also, I’d like to reassure you that most situations are temporary. You’ll see better days, but only if you take charge of how you react.
How can I be so certain? I’ve started over many times. My husband was in the Army, and to date we’ve made over 20 household (and geographic) moves. We’ve lived in multiple Iowa towns, 3 places in Germany, Alabama, Oklahoma, Colorado, and now 4 places in South Carolina. Being a nomad gets old! Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Living in so many places was interesting and enjoyable, and we made good friends everywhere.
But it seemed that, just when we were getting comfortable in our surroundings, we’d have to pack up and move on. Sometimes the Army moved us, most of the time we handled the logistics. And along with the actual moving of our household goods, I’d have to find a new job. Ugh. And usually it was the first one that came along, rather than choosing a career path and waiting for the ‘right’ position.
Get All the Experience you Can
With such frequent changes, I got a little experience in a lot of venues. Here’s a partial list. Bear in mind that I may have forgotten a few!
- Dog groomer (my folks raised and showed Collies, Miniature Schnauzers and Bouviers)
- Medical office admin (family doc, pathologist, dentist)
- Pizza maker (met my future husband there)
- Telex operator (at headquarters of the Singer Corporation, aka Singerwerke, in Germany)
- Clerk/typist for a statistician in an Iowa university
- Teacher (middle/upper school science and math)
- Clerk/typist for an Army ordnance battalion in Germany
- Substitute teacher
- Assistant athletic director for a small private college
- Riding instructor
Because of your own life situations, you may have worked in as many (or more) varied positions. Learn all you possibly can about each one. You never know when the skills you’ve gained will come in handy, in a new setting that you couldn’t have imagined, to move you forward.
Find What Works Best for You
Late in my work career, I got the opportunity to become an entrepreneur. Using the typesetting skills learned from a printer friend, plus a lease-purchase agreement with the Compugraphic Corporation, I opened Typographics at our home in Gaffney, SC. At the time there were only 2 phototypesetters in the Upstate, so business was pretty good from the start. Mainly the company served printers and ad agencies, but since we lived in a small town, most of the business came from a larger town 30 miles away. Back then, we didn’t have email, or the internet, so all jobs had to be transported by courier.
Working from home was great! I got to stay close to our 2 boys and take breaks when needed, without fear of being fired. That’s not to say, however, that there weren’t responsibilities. When you run your own business, you end up with as many bosses as you have clients.
If you decide it’s time to run your own show, congratulations! Take a little tip, though, and run your business from the start like it’s already an established company, with regular hours and meticulous bookkeeping. Dress for business every morning, even though you’re at your own home, because you never know who will drop in to talk about a new job, or want to meet at a coffee shop in 20 minutes to go over their project.
Adjust to Technology
When you make the jump from employee to business owner, especially in a technical field, you have to learn new skills to make your business work. Leasing companies normally offer training when you start out with their equipment, or upgrade. However, most of the time that’s scheduled at their convenience. You have a business to run, so if you have an owner’s manual, you can keep it close by for reference and learn while you work.
During my typesetting career I upgraded once with the same company, then changed to a Mergenthaler machine (pictured above, isn’t it lovely?). In both cases, the trainers wouldn’t be on site until 3 weeks after the machines arrived. They did keep the appointments, but through my own self-study their training time was mostly spent watching me work. The Mergenthaler manual was translated from the German; in some cases guessing was expected, I think.
Business was growing, and after several years my company was beginning to be recognized as a leader in the Upstate. But then one day, one of my clients announced they would be doing their own typesetting. They’d purchased a new Mac and could make their own type ‘for free’. Never mind that the fonts were extremely limited and full of jagged edges from the pixels. They didn’t care. What they were after was control of their own output.
First that client, then another faded away. Month by month, my company’s profits slid. So, we bought a used 2-head printing press and went into the short run job printing business. That shored things up for a while, but technology advanced faster than anyone realized or could keep up with.
Life Happens. It Just Does.
Catastrophe arrives in different ways. It comes creeping like a rattlesnake; you know it’s there, you see it coming, and there’s no avoiding it when it coils and finally strikes. Or it shakes you like an earthquake; first the tremors, and you notice the dogs howling, birds flying away, then the violent shaking of the ground and bridges falling into waterways.
Or it stalks you like a tornado; the news says there’s storm cell rotation, but you’ve heard that before and tend to ignore it. Then the sirens start, and the rain begins. Still you stall, until, all of a sudden, you hear that freight train sound and your roof blows away. Or maybe there’s no warning at all, like a sink hole that opens directly in front of your car doing 65 on the highway. How do you deal with that?
First, of course, there’s the shock. I won’t deny that. Our graphic design/printing business came to an early end when our elder son nearly lost his life in a head on collision. That’s a call you don’t want to get. We never saw it coming, but in a way, it wasn’t a surprise. Before my husband came home to help in the business, he spent many years driving big trucks all over the USA, and there was always the chance he’d be in a wreck. For 10 weeks, one or the other of us drove the 60 miles to Charlotte and back, every day, while our son made the slow journey from trauma ICU to neuro ICU to private room to rehab. We concentrated on our family, not on the day to day of our business. And after he was able to come home, the long recovery process began. Altogether it took a good 5 years.
If our company hadn’t been faltering already, I still think it would have been finished off. Our business depended on immediate gratification of our clients, and they passed that ethic on to their own customers. It didn’t make sense to expect them all to wait while we got our house in order. My husband went back to driving, while I stayed available to keep medical appointments. I still did what graphics work dribbled in, but it wasn’t enough to keep everything going. Three years later we sold our 2 story brick home and moved into a 1000sf duplex rental.
There’s a lot more to tell you – for instance, how we got into the landscaping business and out of it again – but the point of this is, sometimes you have no control over what happens to you. The things you can control are your attitude about it, and what you do to overcome it.
Way early in my life, Creative Writing was my favorite class in high school. And whatever happened along the way, I’ve managed to write about it, in letters to family and friends, in club newsletters, whatever. For 20 years I wrote about weekend motocross races for Cycle News. Frequently my typesetting clients would ask for content specific to their own businesses. And most recently, I’ve written blog posts for Autumn Lane Paperie, highlighting the awesome branding they’ve done for their clients.
Now, I’m crafting SEO and creating content, and couldn’t be happier! It’s true what they say – when a door closes, a window opens. Sometimes the door slams shut on your fingers, and you might have to jimmy the window a little. Or the window might be higher up than you can reach, so you need the help of a friend to make it to the ledge. But there’s always something you can do. Always. Never quit.