Reinvention May Be Realistic for You

Reinventing my career after a painful pink slip was the best thing that could have happened to me professionally. I had worked in public relations and was fortunate to have great jobs in exciting companies that I loved. I thought I'd stay in PR forever.

Then came a management change and I was abruptly fired. It forced me to rethink everything I thought about the industry, the day-to-day work, and, most importantly, what I really wanted to do long-term.

Had it not been for that jarring wake-up -- one that was chosen for me, not by me -- I'm not sure I would have found what I now know to be my true calling.

I often have the great pleasure of talking to people who've happily reinvented their careers.

VIDEO: Tory Johnson takes a look at three people who changed their lives.
Turn Job Loss Into a Career Win

It used to be that if you lost your job, but loved your line of work, you'd hop over to the competition. Now, they don't exist or they're laying off as well. That's when it's time to move in a new direction.

Reinvention can be both freeing and frightening. You're excited to move in a new direction, but you know there will be changing pains to get there. That's unsettling.

But if you prevent the panic from getting the best of you, and you recognize that your career won't sink when you hand in your corporate ID card, you can starting plotting and planning your next move with confidence. There's a lot of help and resources out there, so buckle down and dive in.

In Brooklyn, N.Y., Colette Burnett went from bank manager to opening a take-out chicken wings joint, thanks in part to training from the city's Small Business Services and the Kauffman Foundation.

Colette and I met through a new TV series, Job Hunt, which I host for the city of New York.

Carmen Cronin became a certified nursing assistant after a career in customer service, with the help of training through Massachusetts One-Stop Career Centers.

David Allen used his local library to master social media to make a switch from retail management to defense manufacturing.

While I'm thrilled to celebrate all of their successes, I'm struck more by those who are terrified about what's next. They're paralyzed by the thought of needing to do something that's different from what they've always done.

My husband, Peter, spent 30 years working in the newspaper industry, the last 24 of which were at USA Today. It's no secret that print media is struggling, so he gladly accepted a buyout.

Not a week goes by when he doesn't hear from colleagues who are so fearful of a pink slip. "This is the only thing I know. If this job disappears, I don't know what I'll do," they say. "I've only done one thing my entire career."

Think About Your Back-Up Plans

My advice: Instead of living in fear, start thinking now about your Plan B or C.

Brainstorm by removing yourself from your most recent industry and employer. Focus on your day-to-day work. Make a list of the tasks you perform daily, the skills you routinely use, and the problems you often solve. Looking at that list, imagine other uses of those same skills and knowledge.

A reporter must find the right people to interview for possible stories. During the process, that reporter is sizing up the subject to figure out if he or she is credible. A determination is made as to whether that person is a good fit for the overall story. Couldn't those same skills apply to a recruiter? I recently helped a laid-off journalist reinvent a career in HR.

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