A recent poll of 250 unemployed, middle-aged men commissioned by Newsweek and featured in the April 25 issue’s article entitled “Dead Suit Walking,” found that 84% of them had been unemployed for six months or more and 60% think it’s unlikely they will ever get to their previous level of work again. Despite the fact that 82% of them expressed concern about their predicament, the poll also showed that well over half had not yet resorted to taking a job they would consider “beneath them.”
Focusing primarily on the psychic toll the current and unprecedented so-called “Mancession” is having on educated, middle-aged white men in particular, the article concludes that far too many of them are simply in denial about just how different things are this time around. Past economic downturns have actually left the middle-aged, college-educated white male relatively unscathed. Not this time. With nearly 600,000 degree-wielding, white men between the ages of 35 and 64 unemployed in the first quarter of this year alone and not much relief in sight on the job-availability front, authors Marin and Dokoupil assert an “historic change” is afoot. In fact, according to Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute who is cited in the piece, “the suits are ‘doing worse than they have at any time since the Great Depression.’”
So what’s a college-educated, unemployed, middle-aged white male to do when and if he comes to the realization that his old working life may be gone for good and that he needs to reinvent himself? Marin and Dokoupil touch on retraining and rebranding as viable options, both of which have downsides they point out. Companies that used to pick up the tab for outplacement services to retrain people who were let go are now a rarity, meaning the cost all too often falls back on the individual and it can be pricey. As for the whole concept of rebranding, the jump in the number of consultants (aka independent contractors) has skyrocketed in the last five years. Competition in this arena is fierce for sure. Great work if you can get it…and steadily.
There is a third option the authors leave unexplored, one that also has its share of challenges to be sure, but is valid nonetheless―home-based or other small business or franchise ownership. The fact is that there are literally thousands of legitimate, proven and reputable business, licensee and franchise or distributorship opportunities out there to choose from and that offer individuals with the right skill set and an entrepreneurial spirit the very real possibility of both financial success and personal fulfillment. Many of them do not require a tremendous start-up investment and, for the right candidate, may even offer financing options or some degree of assistance in this regard.
Now, business ownership may not be the first thing any of us who has spent much of our life working for someone else thinks about when it comes to reinventing our professional future, that’s for sure. But let’s face it, “I’m the boss!” has a nice ring to it. If nothing else, it certainly beats working far too hard for someone else, doing less than you’re capable of and making money to fill someone else’s pockets while you make less than ever before, right? So isn’t it worth taking a look at what’s out there? What can it hurt?
As American industrialist and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller once said, “If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” No denial here…that’s good advice.