Business Opinion

If Jobs Are Hard to Find, It’s Time to creative ‘An offer new products that people can’t refuse’

The economic impact of the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders has upended many traditional jobs and industries, paving the way for agile entrepreneurs and creative startups to offer new products and services that people need and want.

As coronavirus lockdowns have weakened the US economy this spring, causing business closures and layoffs, teenagers are particularly hard hit. According to The Wall Street Journal, the teen unemployment rate is the highest it’s been since at least 1948.

Widespread shut-downs in the restaurant and hospitality industries have affected entry-level and low-wage workers, including teenagers who often rely on part-time work to gain experience and get a taste of financial freedom. Summer jobs that teenagers typically fill, such as lifeguard, camp counselor, or golf caddie, have also dried up, and many companies have rescinded their summer internship offers.

In the Journal article, a recruiter suggests that teens act nimbly during this uncertain time: “Be willing to take work that a mother of two can’t take,” she said. “Be flexible with overnight shifts, or doing delivery at the restaurant you used to work at.”

Flexibility and a willingness to explore work possibilities outside of one’s comfort zone are key qualities for teens seeking jobs in 2020. But now could also be a great time to encourage teenagers and young adults to become entrepreneurs. The economic impact of the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders has upended many traditional jobs and industries, paving the way for agile entrepreneurs and creative startups to offer new products and services that people need and want.

Entrepreneur and investor, John Chisholm, says that now is a great time to start a business. The author of Unleash Your Inner Company: Use Passion and Perseverance to Build Your Ideal Business, Chisholm told me in a recent interview that “the pandemic and government-imposed shutdowns have created new human and customer needs. As an entrepreneur, your job is to figure out which needs are the best fits for you and your passions, skills, knowledge, and relationships, where you have natural advantages to satisfy those needs, and also which needs are more likely to be longer-lived rather than short-lived. It is a tough calculation that requires talking to a lot of people, weighing a lot of data, and taking some risk. But the longer you keep asking questions, the clearer the picture will become. It takes both passion and perseverance. It is not easy. But you can do it.”

My teenage daughter, for example, has been passionate about baking for several years now, with a longtime goal of creating a baking business. With many of her activities canceled this spring due to the pandemic, she has had time to build out her business plan, develop a website, and study for and pass the food handler certification exam. Many local coffee shops have reduced or eliminated sales of baked goods over the past several weeks, and neighbors are craving fresh, homemade breads, rolls, muffins, cupcakes, and more. As an entrepreneur, she is able to recognize and satisfy some of this unmet neighborhood demand.

Perhaps the teenagers and young adults in your life have ideas and passions that they could turn into a business right now. Maybe they have time to tinker in the basement on inventing a new product, build a website to sell a product or service, or create and monetize a YouTube channel. Maybe they can offer in-demand services to their neighbors such as starting a babysitting business for local parents who have had their children’s summer camps canceled. It could also be a great time for tweens and teens to learn new skills, such as coding, to help with their own entrepreneurial pursuits or to become more desirable to employers who are looking for workers with technology and programming experience.

T.K. Coleman, FEE’s Director of Entrepreneurial Education, offers advice and inspiration for aspiring young entrepreneurs in his weekly Revolution of One podcast and social media content. Like Chisholm, he also believes that now is a great time for teenagers and young adults to start a business. Coleman says:

If you’re interested in starting a new business, you can find lots of cool ideas simply by paying attention to people’s problems. You may have a shortage of ideas, but there’s never a shortage of people complaining about things. And you can transform those complaints into gold if you can figure out a creative way to make them feel better. If someone complains about how busy they are, that’s an opportunity for you to pitch yourself as a personal assistant who does all the little things that get in the way of the bigger problems they should be focusing on. If someone complains about struggling to get their kids to do homework, that’s an opportunity for you to pitch yourself as a tutor. The opportunities are endless because the problems are endless. The key is not underestimating your ability to make a difference with the knowledge and experience that you already have.

Teenagers, like all of us, need to be flexible and imaginative during this challenging and unpredictable time. Encouraging young people to create their own work that adds value to others can be a powerful way to turn a teen employment sag into a productive and personally meaningful entrepreneurial venture.

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Grads who do see their offers revoked are thrown back into the job market — the nation’s worst in more than a decade. For those with federal student loans, they also face mounting financial pressure — especially as their six-month payment grace periods start to run out.

Fortunately, not all hope is lost. Though finding a job in today’s flailing market is certainly challenging, there are still employment options out there. If you’re one of the many 2020 graduates on the hunt for one, this guide can help.

Navigating the job market in 2020

Not all industries have been hit the same by the pandemic. The hospitality and leisure industry, for example, has taken the biggest blow thus far. Since the start of the outbreak, the sector has lost more than 4 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In just the restaurants and bars category, jobs are down by 3.1 million since February. Though things have started to pick up in these areas in recent weeks, total employment is still nowhere near its pre-pandemic numbers.

Retail has also taken a beating, losing more than 2 million jobs in March and April alone, and the transportation industry has also seen steep losses, largely due to waning travel and tourism.

It’s not all bad news, though. Many industries have actually expanded in recent months, and focusing your job search in these sectors may help to make the job search easier.

The health and family care sectors are just a few of such thriving industries. Health services gained more than 350,000 jobs in June, while child care, family services and private education saw notable upticks as well. Here’s a quick look at some of the best and worst-performing industries during the most recent months of the pandemic:

Industries going strong:

  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing
  • Private education
  • Real estate
  • Finance
  • Construction

Industries hit hard:

  • Restaurants, bars and food services
  • Hospitality (hotels) and tourism
  • Airlines and transportation
  • Retail
  • Entertainment (theme parks, movie theaters, sports venues, etc.)
  • Beauty and personal services
  • Oil and gas

Shifting your focus to some of these stronger markets might lead to more opportunities. You should also consider looking outside your geographic area. Since many companies are now operating remotely, you may be eligible for positions in other states or even other countries. Check out remote-specific job boards like FlexJobs and Remote.co for potential options.

Tips for getting through the financial hard times

Even if you do hone your job search and look toward more thriving sectors, there’s still a chance employment won’t come easy. If that’s the case, you’ll need to get creative in how you manage your finances until things turn around. The below tips can help.

Look for lower-cost housing.

If mom and dad are up for it, you might consider moving in with your parents for a while — at least until the pandemic blows over. You’ll save big on housing costs, and you can also take advantage of the rent-free time to save aggressively. That will ensure you’re ready to put down that security deposit (or down payment) as soon as you’ve locked in a job.

If moving home isn’t an option or your family needs financial help, too, you can:

  • Talk to your landlord or property manager. You may be able to get on a payment plan or defer your payments for a certain period of time.
  • Look for housing assistance. Many states and municipalities offer rent and housing payment assistance for residents in need.
  • Consider adding a roommate. If you can add another person or two, you can cut your housing costs drastically — not to mention your utility bills, too.

Depending on your household’s income level, you may also qualify for Section 8 housing. This usually requires just 30% of your income.

Take on a side gig or part-time job.

Food delivery services like DoorDash, Uber Eats and other similar apps have exploded thanks to stay-at-home orders. The same is true for grocery delivery services, like Instacart and Shipt.

Some other potential side gigs include:

  • Dog walking
  • House sitting
  • Mowing lawns
  • Babysitting or nannying

Though these gigs don’t come with massive salaries, they can help you stay afloat during difficult times. They’re also pretty flexible schedule-wise, which is helpful in case you line up an interview.

Get serious about cutting corners

Keeping your costs low is critical if you’re not bringing in much income. You’ll want to reduce things like your grocery bill, utilities, gas, and more.

Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Shop at discount stores, like Costco or Aldi — both for groceries and general household items. The local dollar store may also have some staples.
  • Review your utility and service providers. If it’s been a few years since you chose your power company or phone provider, chances are you’re not getting the best rate. Take time to compare your options, and don’t be afraid to call up your current providers to renegotiate.
  • Rely on fans and open windows rather than your A/C. Air conditioning costs can get expensive, especially in the warmer months. Make it a point to open more windows, and invest in a few box fans to keep the air circulating instead.
  • Cut the cord. You’d be surprised at how much you can save by cutting out cable or other entertainment services.

You can also commit to DIYing more. Cook at home instead of ordering takeout or cancel that gym membership and work out at home instead.

Dealing with student loan debt

If you have federal student loans, you’re probably coming up on the end of that six-month grace period. Fortunately, if making those new payments seems impossible, you actually have quite a few options.

With federal loans, you can apply for several types of repayment plans, including ones based on your income level or ones with increasing payments over time. You can also file for forbearance or deferment, both of which put a temporary stay on payments while you sort through the financial hardship.

For private student loans, refinancing can help. This lets you take advantage of today’s low interest rates, ideally lowering your monthly payment in the process. You might also ask your lender about any discounts you might qualify for. Some companies offer discounts if you set up autopayments. This could save you a lot both over time and on your monthly payment.

All in all, here are some of your options if you’re having trouble making your payments:

Once you find a job, there’s a chance your employer may help you with paying off your student loan debt. Not all companies offer this, but it’s worth asking HR about once you’re hired on.

Bottom line

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it particularly hard for the 2020 class of college graduates — especially those with student loans. If you’re one of the many 2020 grads who’s struggling financially, be ready to get creative. Negotiate with your landlord and utility providers, slash that shopping budget, and talk to your student loan lender as soon as possible. You have more options than you think.

This article uses some point of view from Bankrate

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