The end of a tumultuous year is finally close. As we all prepare to frantically shut the doors to 2020 and open windows to new beginnings, it’s important to think about the lessons this past year has taught us and how we can truly learn from them.
The start of a new decade seemed promising, but 2020 took all of us for an unexpected ride, no matter if you were a long-term employed professional, an experienced business owner, or a budding entrepreneur. All of us had to rethink our marketing strategies, business plans, and short-term and long-term career goals.
Restaurants that were dine-in only suddenly had to pivot and open the doors to delivery and take-out options. Professionals who were at the top of their career and built longstanding time at companies were suddenly part of unexpected mass reductions-in-force. Budding entrepreneurs who didn’t have enough time to build equity and followership in their businesses suddenly felt the waves crash against their plans and crush their goals. On top of that, parents were forced into juggling parenting and teaching simultaneously while trying to navigate their own remote work transition.
2020 has been a painful year for all of us on one level or another. It’s frustrated us and exhausted us. It’s also forced us to rethink many of our steps and create new pathways, just in case of that unexpected situation. The lessons we’ve learned in 2020 will shape us for 2021 in ways we never anticipated. Here are some of the key takeaways from 2020 that can help you re-ignite your career in the new year:
Map out your finances
Before 2021 hits, look introspectively at your finances. What financial goals did you meet in 2020, what financial hardships did you face, and what financial mistakes do you not want to make again?
Now is the ideal time to create that financial budget and think of ways to budget your money wisely for 2021 while also making your money stretch further. Look at your credit card bills, retirement accounts, and health savings accounts. Also, review your credit score to see how it has changed and determine how to increase it. A 6-month emergency fund is a must, especially in an unexpected year like 2020. The key to an emergency fund is to have it in a separate account that you cannot see on a daily basis. Make it only touchable in emergency situations such as a job loss where money is no longer incoming and for basic necessities. Review places where you’ve had excess and unnecessary spending, such as dining out, vacations (or staycations), and splurge purchases. Where you may have previously rewarded yourself with that expensive name-brand purse for a new job or graduating a higher learning program, that money should go towards something more useful long-term that can actually lead to a tax deduction or tax credit.
Start a side hustle
If you were placed in an unfortunate and difficult employment situation in 2020, consider ways to create a side hustle for 2021 that can increase your cash flow as a back-up plan. As a personal example, I vividly remember starting my writing business as a side hustle at the beginning of 2010 during the height of the last financial crisis. For the first couple of years, my involvement in my writing business was minimal because I had a full-time legal career. Freelance writing and tutoring projects brought in a few hundred dollars a month to every other month (which helped pay a bill here and there). It wasn’t until I began to put more sweat equity in the business that I saw the payoff happen. I undertook higher paid projects and increased my credibility, authority, and trust in my work that eventually led to becoming a top expert in my field. That meant taking the money I made and reinvesting it into my business to make more money and expand long-term gains.
The great thing about a side hustle is that it doesn’t have to become a full-time gig. It can remain part-time just for additional cash flow if money suddenly stops coming in due to unforeseen circumstances like a pandemic. Some of the top side hustles in 2020 include delivering food (UberEats and DoorDash), shopping for others (Shipt and Instacart), dog walking (Rover) doing handy projects (TaskRabbit and Handy), and becoming a freelancer (Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer).
Increase your learning
2020 has been the year of the pivot for many in various industries and transitioning isn’t always easy, particularly if a company is looking for specific experience and credentials. Increasing your learning can boost your career for the long-term. During COVID especially, many universities and online programs offered reduced cost and free e-learning opportunities. With an abundance of online certificate and learning programs available (Coursera and LinkedIn Learning), seize the moment to increase your education and upskill your talent. These programs can advance your career, increase your skills, and catapult you into new territories for remote work opportunities in the long-term. If you’re in sales, you may want to consider increasing your negotiations skills, consultative sales approaches, or business development strategies. If you’re a business owner, you may want to take online courses on marketing and advertising strategies to help you devise new and creative ways to promote your business. Stay at the pulse of your career and learning – it is a lifelong process.
Businesses and careers evolve, and 2020 has taught us that preparation for the unexpected is key. In 2021, take your commitment with you and hitch your wagon to that plan.