Surviving and Thriving in Limbo

COVID-19 and Pro AV
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Let’s state the obvious: it’s weird and scary right now. While we can make educated guesses about what the new normal may look like, no one can (or should) claim they know exactly how things are going to shake out in the future, whether in the near term or further out. Instead of speculating, SCN sat down (remotely, of course) with several experts to discuss what AV pros can do now to promote their development while living in limbo.

For AV Pros (Salaried, Freelance, Laid Off and/or Out of Work for Now)

“The benefit of the newness of these circumstances is that no one has a playbook. There has never been a more level playing field,” said Jennifer McKay, a leadership and career coach based in Monroe, NJ. “This is a great time to reinvent.”

Jennifer McKay

Jennifer McKay

McKay advised AV professionals to pause and examine the circumstances with fresh eyes, focusing on how their industry—and their role in it—is changing, and what new challenges must be addressed. She offers this list of questions people can ask themselves to initiate the thought process:

  • What is this change likely doing to my industry?
  • What changes/trends am I already seeing?
  • What new problems can I find to solve?
  • What are my strengths and unique talents?
  • How have my accomplishments prepared me for this change?
  • What role can I play in this new world?

Moving further along in this process, McKay urges AV pros to take a detailed inventory of their skills, strengths, and successes. “We don’t know what will be useful going forward, so it is advisable that you have a comprehensive picture of everything you have to offer,” she said. “That way you know how you fit into new opportunities as they present [themselves].”

As anyone who has recently binged on online Pilates and cooking classes knows, this is also a great time to dedicate to skill-building and knowledge expansion. Many of the major AV technology manufacturers are providing remote training on their products and systems, and AVIXA has opened up its online course catalog to all AV pros—regardless of membership level—through June 12.

McKay underlined that it is crucial that those who are out of work right now keep working anyway. She counsels those in this situation to continue reading, commenting on, and sharing industry articles via social media. “This keeps you top-of-mind with other professionals on those platforms,” she said. She also suggested that AV pros create their own blog posts and articles that demonstrate their subject matter expertise. “Being seen as a creative problem-solver or thought leader can help you land your next role.”

[Tackling the Uncertainty: The AV Industry Faces COVID-19]

Volunteering is another way for professionals to expand their networks, McKay added. And if a contract side gig is available, it may be worth taking. “It will give you a bit of income and could show you a path to starting your own business,” she said.

Daniel Keller

Daniel Keller

Back in March, Daniel Keller, CEO of Get It In Writing (GIIW), a creative media agency specializing in servicing professional AV, music, and immersive technology companies, co-founded AV Industry Relief Resources, a public Facebook group that provides a forum for industry professionals whose livelihoods are suffering as a result of the pandemic. (As of press time, the group had almost 2,000 members.) 

Keller relays that his inspiration in founding the group came from his own experiences with reinvention throughout his music and professional audiovisual career. He said that instead of offering a platform for commiseration, he wanted to get AV pros thinking about ways they can reposition themselves to get through this tough period … and beyond.

“There are a lot of people out there who are exceptionally talented but kind of pigeonholed into one particular thing. The advice I wanted to give them was: Look at all of the things you’re capable of. Look at all the things you do and find ways to make it through this mess. And the best way to do that, I’ve found, is by networking with other people,” Keller said.

He noted that AV Industry Relief Resources isn’t necessarily a job forum—although members do share leads when they arise—but more of a platform to get people interacting and thinking about how they can take a new approach to their careers. “Maybe we can help each other out. This has always been an industry full of not just versatile and creative people, but people who have always pulled together. And so my thought was, Let’s all get in the same room and talk about it.”

Mark Winner, TierPM

Mark Winner

Mark Winner, managing partner at TierPM, reported that even in these uncertain times, there are some AV pros expressing interest in seeking new opportunities—even while they are safely ensconced in a current job. He admitted that he found this a little surprising, but he does have a take-away: “My advice is to not stop,” he said. “You have career goals. You want to do what you set out to do before this happened—don’t let it stop you from going after what you want. Continue to go after opportunities and don’t let this impede your plans for the next step in your career.”

For AV Entrepreneurs

As dystopic as the current situation may seem, McKay reminds those in small to mid-sized businesses that there are always opportunities. What’s more, smaller companies can practice greater agility than large enterprises, enabling them to switch gears quickly when a change in climate needs to be addressed. “Don’t lose heart,” she said. “Reassess, get creative, and leverage your network for collaboration opportunities. Resilience restores people’s confidence and opens doors. People want to do business with people who are determined to be successful, which means you have to believe that there is a viable path to success for your business.”

[Hello Alice Launches COVID-19 Business Resource Center To Support Small Businesses]

SCORE Association, a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration based in Herndon, VA, offers entrepreneurs mentoring services, workshops, and educational resources. The organization recently launched the Coronavirus Small Business Resource Hub, a forum of continuously updated materials that entrepreneurs may access for free, including content (audio, visual, and print) discussing business resilience, financial support, and mental health; live webinars and online workshops; and government resources for SMBs. Entrepreneurs may also request a remote session with a business mentor, also for free.

For Everybody

As much as we may not like to admit it, this pandemic can take a psychological toll on even the most solid individuals. This is why McKay noted that it’s important to consider the impact these circumstances are having on your outlook. “We will all need to be mindful of the energy that we are bringing into our professional lives,” she said. As we move through this crisis and into a clearer vision of what the new normal will look like, professionals in every industry will be faced with more competition for opportunities. “Our energy can feel heavy to others if we haven’t taken the time to process what we are feeling and move that heavy, negative energy out. While those negative emotions are totally normal, we will come across as more ready for professional challenges if we have resolved any mindset issues or behavior patterns that are weighing us down.”

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Again, whether you’re an AV professional who works for others or an AV entrepreneur, McKay reminds us that investing the time to reflect on our own careers can give us strength and guide us toward useful new ways of thinking. “Taking the time to review your professional accomplishments and celebrate everything you’ve achieved can help you feel confident and positive as you entertain new opportunities,” she said. “The weeks and months to come may contain a lot of hard and heavy news. A reminder of what’s gone right in the past and everything you’ve learned can help you maintain the confidence and professional energy you need to keep going.”

Read, Watch, Listen, Learn … and Share

AVIXA’s Latest on COVID-19 and the AV Industry

AV Industry Relief Resources

SCORE’s Coronavirus Small Business Resource Hub

Carolyn Heinze has covered everything from AV/IT and business to cowboys and cowgirls ... and the horses they love. She was the Paris contributing editor for the pan-European site Running in Heels, providing news and views on fashion, culture, and the arts for her column, “France in Your Pants.” She has also contributed critiques of foreign cinema and French politics for the politico-literary site, The New Vulgate.