A message to Millennials and Gen Z: Finding opportunity in uncertainty

In uncertainty, there is opportunity. Seize it.

The following post was written by Leslie Cohen, Principal and Chief Operating Officer at Samuels & Associates and 2020 President of NAIOP Massachusetts

For most leaders of companies, the last eight weeks have been among the most challenging of their careers. The pace of change, the uncertainty ahead, the multi-dimensional contingency planning, all while adopting to new virtual environments and motivating a team unmoored from its daily routines and worried about their own health, the health of their family and friends, the economic uncertainty and the status of the world during this pandemic.

But most of us have lived through multiple challenging moments, from the aftermath of 9/11 to the crash of 2008. And we know that while the path ahead of us is unlike either of those moments, we will eventually get to the other side.

For the younger professionals in our firms, however, these are unchartered waters. Though they came of age during the Great Recession, they have experienced only economic growth in their careers. And while those are undoubtedly more fun (and possibly more lucrative, at least in the short term), these moments of uncertainty offer opportunity as well.

For those on our teams and in our circles who have not worked through a crisis or economic downturn, I can assure you that:

  1. You will not only get through this, you will be prepared for the next time. In the short term, this situation may result in a temporary setback on your professional goals, your personal goals. But not only will you adjust to the new normal, you may see opportunities that weren’t there before. There is also something really powerful about learning to adjust your personal expectations for the greater good. And when the next moment of crisis comes – and it will – you will have the confidence that comes from having survived this one.
  2. You will learn a TON. I learned so much about the real estate business in 2008 – because that moment required different things from a smaller team than I had ever been asked to do before. That’s where I learned how to be a leasing agent, how to be an asset manager, how to identify the mission critical items in loan and venture documents, and more. My mindset changed from that of a project manager with an engineer’s point of view to that of a businessperson with a broader perspective.  
  3. You will be a smarter businessperson, smarter manager and smarter leader. Up cycles are wonderful – they offer the resources to foster creativity and explore new ideas. But down cycles foster resiliency, innovation, and the need to do more with less, set yourself apart from the pack, and always be hunting for the way to turn smaller opportunities into valuable assets.
  4. You will be a leader. Even if you aren’t in a partnership or management role, this crisis enables you to take a leadership position – to rally the troops, to be creative and reinvent yourself and help others do the same. Once it feels like the crisis phase of the pandemic is over, we’ll be faced with new challenges. Embrace these skills as we navigate the “new normal” and return to the office – creating new systems, embracing new protocol, and fostering a positive environment for new ideas.

I didn’t know any of this during the early moments of the 2008 downturn. And I probably would have scoffed at the idea, during a moment when it felt like the world I knew had fallen off a cliff, that the experience would define me in all of the most positive ways. But it did. 

In uncertainty, there is opportunity. Seize it.

Leslie Cohen – Principal, Chief Operating Officer

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