Last week, financial expert Susan Hayes Culleton gave advice to readers about staying afloat financially during this uncertain time.

This week, it’s about looking ahead, using this time to innovate yourself or your business and work towards a future where you can financially thrive. Susan has this advice:

See this time as an opportunity

The past year has been different for everyone.

Some have found it stressful, struggling with lockdown fatigue while others have found the break from normal life relaxing, embracing creativity.

Now is the time to think about the things you always wanted to do

But it doesn’t matter if your productivity levels have been at zero or 100, if you’ve come up for air and want to work towards setting yourself up financially in a post-COVID-19 world, there is no time like the present.

Now is the time to think about the things you always wanted to do, either for yourself or your business.

Innovating yourself

With everything going online during the pandemic, this has opened up opportunities for people. Before this, people in rural areas may not have been able to register for a course because of the commute. The pandemic has changed that, making further education more obtainable for all.

Not only does the online format of the Springboard Initiative make it accessible, the Government are funding up to 100% of the programme if you are unemployed and up to 90% if you are employed.

People are signing up for all different reasons. Some have lost their jobs or are working in an industry where they question what life will look like post-COVID-19, for example, hospitality. Others want to stay in their industry but improve their own credentials or their business.

Then others are preparing to return to the workplace. Yet another cohort of people are thinking, I have nothing to do for the next three months, the government is willing to pay so I will give it a go.

Accepting that vulnerability isn’t always easy but it’s part of the process

Whatever their reasons, innovating yourself can be exciting and uncomfortable in equal measures. You need to understand that you could be an expert in your field but now vulnerably you have to go back to being a student. For example, if you’re a parent returning to work, you could have four kids and people would be amazed at how hardworking and efficient you are at running a household. But suddenly, you have to figure out how to set up a zoom meeting. You’re putting yourself into a new space. You may not have all the answers and you might have to ask for help. Accepting that vulnerability isn’t always easy but it’s part of the process.

You also need to think about your end goal. Is it a new job? Is it a new revenue stream for you or your business? Is it a new product? And once you have decided what you want to achieve, ask yourself are you doing all the things you need to do to get there?

Innovating your business

If you want to use this time to innovate your business, look into the Innovation Partnership Programme where Enterprise Ireland funds between 60-80% of the research.

A university pursues innovation on your behalf. It dramatically lowers the research costs and you’re drawing on their expertise and fresh perspective. You come in with your big ideas and they help you lay the foundations. This is the big brother to another Enterprise Ireland initiative called the Innovation Voucher where a university does up to €5,000 worth of problem solving for you.

Another option for smaller businesses is the Trading Online Voucher Scheme which is a grant up to €2,500 to encourage more trading online and this is through the Local Enterprise Offices. Now could be the time to avail of these initiatives which could help strengthen your business.