There’s plenty being written about how to cope with the calamitous deterioration of our economy. I’ve written some about it myself. But the sun will come out again. Not tomorrow and No, the economy is not going to rebound “like a rocket ship.” Even with trillions of dollars being authorized to assist the increasingly devastated economy we’re going to have a long, and I think slow, road back. There are at least four reasons for this:

1. Many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of businesses will being going under. Note: there are over 30 million small businesses in the U.S. – those employing fewer than 500 people. If only 1 in 20 of them go under that’s over 1.5 million businesses gone. Businesses that won’t be rehiring.

2. As workers start to get rehired they will be needing to repay obligations that were waived/delayed during the crisis and replenish savings that were drawn down. Much of the new money they’ll be earning will thus be replenishing coffers. An analogy: after a drought, when the rains start to fall, reservoirs need to be filled before water can be released to the thirsty land.

3. Consumer confidence will take a LONG time to recover, which means people will be more circumspect about their purchasing habits, saving more and spending less. Anyone old enough to have parents or grandparents who lived through the Great Depression knows how thrifty those who lived through the ‘30s became.

4. Taxes will almost certainly have to be raised to pay for at least a part of the multi-trillion relief packages that are being/will be passed by Congress, not just to get us through the current crisis but on an ongoing basis to aid the many millions of Americans who will lose the support offered by the
multitude of non-profit organizations serving the needy that will go under.

But, even if it’s a long time coming, now is the right time to begin to plan for a brighter future. Here are a few suggestions:

– Acquire some new abilities

Not only will learning some new skills improve your marketability to select employers once they start rehiring (e.g. coding skills will be valuable in certain tech jobs, social media expertise in many marketing positions, an ability to speak Spanish or a project management certification in yet others) but your initiative in doing so will be generally impressive, an indication of initiative and resilience that will be pretty universally admired.

– Volunteer

It’s going to be easy to feel depressed and hopeless in this atmosphere of not-knowing. Not having answers to questions like “How long will economic downturn this last?” “When will I be able to hang out with my friends again?” “Will I get sick” “Might my employer go out of business or, even not, is my job safe?” “How will I ever rebuild my retirement savings?” or “How will I afford my medicine or mortgage/car/tuition payments?”

Finding a way to help others in even greater need than you will help take your mind off of your own worries and give you the satisfaction of knowing that you’re making an important difference in someone’s life. And God knows the need for volunteerism is going to be enormous.
And when the turnaround in the economy comes, many employers are sure to be impressed with someone who lent a helping hand, and what that says about you.

– Think entrepreneurially

There will be massive societal shifts as a result of this crisis, as there were in the 1930s. Out of
the Depression came such innovations as supermarkets and the Yellow Pages. Get yourself centered and think about what needs are likely to increase, or emerge, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. New ways of sanitizing? Communal living models? “Victory Garden” planning? New delivery services?

– Fortify existing relationships and create new ones

As just about anyone who has engaged me professionally knows, I emphasize the importance of relationships and connections. They can enlighten you in a myriad of useful ways, identify opportunities for you before they’re widely known, and open doors for you that it might be otherwise difficult to enter. Now is a particularly auspicious time to be reaching out to those you know and to connect with those you don’t yet. You can do this through being introduced to your connections’ connections BY your connections (known on LinkedIn as second degree connections), through your school’s alumni data base, through a neighborhood list serve, or on Facebook. Many people are willing to take time to engage with someone seeking their wisdom and guidance, and I think this will be particularly true in today’s gloomy atmosphere.