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.Play
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.

Listen to your passion. Heartstorming, as it's sometimes called, can be so powerful. Just because you've always done one thing, doesn't mean you must continue down that path.

This may be the best time to finally go after what you've always dreamed of doing. What's standing in your way and how can you overcome it?

Even though Colette Burnett had no experience owning and operating a restaurant, she used the financial skills acquired as a bank manger, plus the customer service skills that bank customers and restaurant customers demand. What she didn't know, she learned by attending a business planning workshop.

Talk to others who've made the transition. Stories of reinvention are everywhere. Talk to people who are now doing something that's different from their previous career. Also spend time with people who do what you'd like to do. Ask how they got into this line of work. Encourage them to candidly share the challenges as well as the triumphs. By using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you can reach anyone these days for advice and inspiration.

Training Is One Way to Reinvent Your Career

Get training. No matter what the skills you need to jump into a new field, there are many affordable options available.

Self-paced courses are available for free online or classroom instruction is highly affordable. Check with your public library, mayor's office, community college, non-profits and Career One-Stop to find out about training programs that may relate to your interests.

Ask to intern or job shadow with someone who is doing what you'd like to do. The more you're around the people and position, the easier it'll be for you to relate to the realities of this potential line of work.

Finally, don't cry over what was -- don't dwell angrily on the good ol' days. It will only drive you crazy. Instead, focus on what you'll be. Envision your future and take deliberate steps every day to make it a reality. Don't expect magic miracles overnight. If you start each day by asking, "What will I do today to make today better than yesterday -- and what exactly will I do today toward my career goal?" good things will no doubt happen for you and your new career.

Have questions? Talk to me directly at

Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on ABC's Good Morning America and the anchor of Job Club on ABC News Now. She is the CEO of Women For Hire and the author of Fired to Hired.

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