The economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has been devastating. Entire industries have collapsed in the blink of an eye and unemployment rates are at a record high. If you’re feeling fear and uncertainty around your career and future, you’re not alone.
Perhaps you might find comfort in the thought that, throughout history, some very successful people have turned times of crisis into opportunities to thrive. And at this very moment, there are influential leaders and business moguls being born.
From coming up with the next revolutionary product to creating inspiring art or stepping up to help your team navigate the changes brought by the pandemic, you could be next. Here are five successful people whose careers skyrocketed during times of crisis to inspire you.
James E. Burke
James E. Burke had been the CEO of Johnson & Johnson for six years when the unthinkable happened: seven people died after taking cyanide-laced capsules of Extra-Strength Tylenol, a brand owned by J & J. Many predicted this crisis would be the end of Tylenol, but the company managed to make a swift and successful comeback under Burke’s leadership. His approach, which included a transparent communications strategy and a massive product recall, is used as a case study for exemplary crisis management to this day — and it solidified Burke’s executive career.
Walt and Roy Disney
Brothers Walt and Roy Disney co-founded the Walt Disney Company right before the 1929 Great Depression started. While entertainment tends to be a recession-resistant industry because of the need to escape daily stressors without spending a fortune, the Great Depression was so brutal that box office sales experienced a stark decline. Thanks to innovative animation techniques and great characters, the Disney brothers were able to take advantage of the economic downturn to get their empire off the ground and become iconic entrepreneurs.
Whitney Wolfe Herd
Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd turned one of the most stressful moments of her career into an opportunity to create a company worth billions and snag spots on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list two years in a row. Wolfe Herd was the co-founder and VP of marketing of Tinder, which she left in 2014 due to growing tensions. She filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Tinder and used her experience to inspire the launch of female-focused dating app Bumble.
The early 1980s recession was the worst economic decline in the US economy since the Great Depression. Despite record-high unemployment rates, Trip Hawkins left his job at Apple to found video game publisher EA (Electronic Arts). The move paid off and turned Hawkins into an influential force who changed the gaming industry by unleashing developers’ creativity.
J.K. Rowling was in the midst of a severe personal crisis when she wrote Harry Potter. As an unemployed single mom suffering from debilitating depression, Rowling had her back against the wall. In 1995, after years of planning and building the fictional universe that would later become one of the most successful entertainment franchises ever, she sent the manuscript for the first Harry Potter book to publishers and received 12 rejection letters. She finally found a small publisher willing to print a limited amount of copies of the book. The rest is history.