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Reinvent yourself as you transition from one career to another

FORT LAUDERDALE —When South Florida real estate agent Anna Collins saw the bottom drop out of the market, she needed a new career. Today, she is a comedian who performs at local comedy clubs.

Jan Rutter was a longtime singer and dancer on cruise ships, but she had to hang up her tap shoes when she lost her voice. Now, Rutter is a private investigator.

After Fort Lauderdale resident Bennett Mazor lost his job as an inventory manager, he found he wasn't passionate about some aspects of his former job. He recently found a job as a staffing consultant.

When a job is no longer viable, workers are forced to reinvent themselves. For some, it might lead to an even brighter future.

Think about your "unique selling proposition" — what you are better at than your competition, said Peter Fogel, a Delray Beach speaker and copywriter who has reinvented himself several times.

"The first thing you have to do is define the reality of the situation," Fogel said. "Do an assessment of your industry and your company. Do I still like my industry? Where is my industry going to be next week or next year? Do I still have the passion?

Then decide whether you want to work for someone else or start your own venture, said Fogel, author of Reboot Your Career. "I'm used to being on my own, sink or swim. But a 9-to-5 person may not be a good fit" for an entrepreneurial pursuit, he said.

"I examined what I'm good at and what I like to do," said Collins, 55. As a baby boomer, Collins has found a niche for her humor, launching Beyond Complicated, a boomer-themed comedy show with Fogel on Internet radio, TalkZone.com. She also has written two humor books.

Rutter was devastated when at age 47 she lost her voice and could no longer perform. But she moved on by considering what she could do: She loves talking to people, and has always been interested in mystery and detective stories.

She enrolled in private investigator classes, reasoning that she at least had the wardrobe for a private investigating gig. "If I ever have to go undercover, I have plenty of wigs," Rutter said.

After graduating, she attended association meetings to get to know other private investigators. Now 52, Rutter is building her business slowly by doing contract work for other agencies.

It helps to be passionate about your choice. Mazor, 46, was an inventory manager for a South Florida retailer for 12 years. What he enjoyed most about the job was coordinating planning with vendors, merchandisers and others; he least enjoyed analyzing the data. "I liked being the glue, keeping everyone on task," he said.

He applied for inventory management jobs, got interviews, but wasn't getting offers. He turned to a career coach who told him: "I don't feel your passion."

Mazor then talked about his passions, which include helping people. "I like the reward and sense of accomplishment," he said. They discussed the occupations where he could transfer his skills, and one was "recruiter."

Through contacts he gained during his job search, Mazor set up informational meetings with recruiting agencies. He was offered a job at TransHire in Fort Lauderdale within seven days of making the decision to switch careers.

"When you find your passion, it's pretty powerful," he said.

Getting an employer to take a chance on someone who has no experience in a field is difficult, especially in this job market. But Mazor was given a two-week trial run to find out if the day-to-day activities of a recruiter really suited him. They did, and he was offered a permanent job because the agency owner liked "his desire to learn."

Think of yourself as a marketer when exploring your potential career, Fogel said. "Am I going to make money at this? Find someone at the top of the food chain and ask, 'Should I get into this now?' "

Unexpected barriers to entry can hamstring a career change. Like Rutter's, a new career may require going back to school.

And switching careers may entail a pay cut. When Collins was a real estate agent in the hey-days, she was making more than $100,000 a year. "I was at the Capital Grille three times a week. After I got out of real estate, I'm eating grilled cheese. … I went from Coach bags to sitting in coach," she quipped.

Reinvent yourself as you transition from one career to another 08/27/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 11:05am]
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