Work Opportunities in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic
You may have previously heard or read somewhere that the Chinese word for crisis is comprised of the characters for danger and opportunity. Though some have taken issue with this statement (as illustrated in this very erudite thread)—the same way that some have taken issue with the assertion that speakers of Eskimo languages and dialects have fifty different words for snow—this observation may in fact be said to have a basis in truth, which I say as a long-time student of Chinese. Either way, the truism (that—along with danger—there is opportunity in crisis) remains valid. And so it is with the current, COVID-19 crisis.
What I'm talking about here is completely legitimate use of "healthy" options in the face of dramatically changing circumstances, whereby "taking advantage of" and "exploiting" opportunities may be regarded positively.
There is of course an important distinction to be made between what may be considered the ethical and that which may be considered the distinctly unethical or even immoral. A prime example in the latter category is price gouging, as in those widely circulated and infuriating reports of people who bought out necessities like toilet paper and then put them up for sale online at exorbitant prices. That is not what I'm talking about here. What I'm talking about here is completely legitimate use of "healthy" options in the face of dramatically changing circumstances, whereby "taking advantage of" and "exploiting" opportunities may be regarded positively. Case in point: A client of mine, a psychologist, recently emailed me to announce that she had finally published her website. The lull in normal activity had opened up time to attend to this important achievement (working on her business, as opposed to simply working in it, as the expression goes). In the same email, she lamented that her work as a therapist would probably have to wait until things get back to "normal"—a timeline that at this point is anybody's guess, if things ever really return to the way they used to be, which is in itself a questionable assumption. She went on to explain that there were two reasons for being obliged to be locked into this holding pattern indefinitely. First, therapy is for the most part conducted in person, face to face, which is no longer safe or allowed during the time of the coronavirus. Second, because so many people are out of work, "no one has any money these days to pay for therapy, anyway." After congratulating Linda (not her real name) on the significant achievement of getting her website up and running, I offered an alternative take on her situation. "There is a greater need now than ever for mental health services, including therapy," I began, after which I sent her links to articles describing how some therapists had successfully converted their practices to a teletherapy mode (also known as online, remote or e-therapy)—and demand was such that they are busier now than they were before the pandemic. First, there are people who can still afford to pay for therapy. Second—even more significantly, perhaps—insurers are increasingly moving in the direction of covering teletherapy. In a subsequent consulting session with Linda, I showed her various ways in which she could attract new clients for teletherapy, all of which involve no out-of-pocket expense. To her great credit, she was open to these suggestions and is now moving forward professionally instead of standing still—very excited, by the way, at the prospect of staying on her feet financially while at the same time helping others in a very important way.
In terms of work opportunities, the ability to survive and thrive in the COVID-19 era by ethically enhancing our income, we can conceptualize several categories.
A seismic change that forces us to rethink our life strategy might be just what it takes to achieve positive transformation.
In addition to the multitude of opportunities presented in this crisis—as in any other—for generation of income, there is also an opportunity of a more profound and existential nature: a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hit the reset button, to "remake" ourselves, in accordance with a truer vision of who we really want to be. How many people have gotten themselves into a kind of rut, in which they are functioning and paying their bills but not really enjoying life to its fullest by doing something they would really enjoy doing? A seismic change that forces us to rethink our life strategy might be just what it takes to achieve positive transformation. Of course we didn't want this pandemic to happen. But now that it has, why not rise above the situation and make the best of it, leveraging the crisis to actually improve our lives? Circling back to the opening paragraph above, as one well-informed commentator explained a few years ago, the Eskimos do not have just fifty different words for snow—they actually have more than a hundred! And regardless of how sinologists choose to argue the debate over how to interpret the Chinese compound word in question, there is indeed opportunity present in crisis, as the examples above demonstrate.