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Layoff leads to $500 million

Change can be scary, especially when it hits the wallet. But being able to recognize opportunities that have opened up and seizing the moment can turn out far better than the old job ever was.

As described in a recent article in the Atlantic, Tim Chen is the poster person for adversity as opportunity. Mr. Chen is founder and CEO of the NerdWallet personal finance website, which compares products available from banks and insurance companies. Each month, 10 million people use the site to help make financial decisions. Begun in 2009, the site is valued at more than $500 million.

And it started when Mr. Chen was laid off as a financial analyst in the bust times of 2008. “[I was] totally blindsided. Never in a million years would I have thought that the institutions that I worked for, or the banks themselves, would be worried about going out of business. In hindsight, I feel very fortunate that there was a recession, from a personal perspective, because I never would have gotten into entrepreneurship, even though it was an ambition of mine. It’s just too hard to take that risk when you have a stable job and you’re living in a really expensive city like New York,” Mr. Chen explained in the article.

The bust-to-boom journey has taught Mr. Chen “that you can’t just put your head down and work hard and do things. You have to communicate well what it is you’re trying to do – the vision behind what you’re trying to do – to get other people inspired to understand what you’re doing and help you out.”

In contrast to the “job-for-life” world of the mid-20th century, the present reality for millennials is a series of jobs, and Mr. Chen said he relishes this shift. “I really want to learn from the person I’m working for, and 3 or 4 years from now, I’m going to come out with a different set of skills. I think the best opportunities in 30 years, while we can’t anticipate them now, are going to go to the people who have picked up a lot of skills along the way.”

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