Dust Yourself Off, Dive Back In

Reinvent yourself to find your next career calling

by Russell T. Westcott

Are you currently in one or more of these situations?

  • Laid off months ago or recently.
  • Expecting a layoff in the near future.
  • Unemployed and told you are overqualified for jobs for which you’ve applied.
  • Unemployed and know the likelihood of getting a job like the one you had is slim.
  • Attended classes or guidance sessions provided by an outplacement firm.
  • Attended every job fair you could get to.
  • Answered every job ad in any field in which you have experience.
  • Sent résumés to several employers.
  • Realized that your age and other factors may be barriers to finding a job.
  • Attended job help group meetings provided by local libraries.
  • Joined a support group for unemployed professionals.
  • Contracted with a job counselor or career coach for help.
  • Exhausted all approaches to find a job and are now just waiting for a miracle.

If any of these is true of your dilemma, you may need to refocus your approach.

Reinvention for success

As someone one who provides career coaching to professionals, I believe reinventing yourself is often the only way to lift yourself out of the hole you are in. Here are two examples (names have been changed).

Sam was laid off from a lucrative job in the digital printing industry. He and his employed wife have two young children. He found himself in the role of homemaker to save on childcare expenses. He was in his early 40s and aware that work in his prior industry was unlikely.

We explored his many talents, looking for a logical fit. With the ability to compose well-written material and his experience as an amateur photographer, he refocused on a career as a photojournalist. He approached local newspapers and was quickly hired.

Today, he is busy adding accomplishments to his résumé while bringing home a modest income and partially breaking out of his homebound lifestyle.

The right industry

Paul was laid off from a number of parts supervisor positions in several declining auto dealerships. Unemployed for six months and with family responsibilities, he researched industries most likely to survive. He concluded that if he took courses to qualify as a healthcare provider and passed the license exam, he might find work.

He passed the exam, applied for and obtained a job in a rehabilitation and hospice-type facility three miles from home. His employer, recognizing a multitalented, go-getter personality, has increased and diversified Paul’s duties and increased his compensation.

Today, Paul handles multiple assignments ranging from assisting with patients, purchasing materials and answering phones. He is also encouraged to make improvement suggestions to management. He’s a strong "people" person and enjoys his new work, even though the pay, so far, is not quite what he was used to. With his positive attitude and multiple skills, however, he is confident that will improve. Paul realizes now that it may have been even smarter to make this career change earlier.

Putting KESAA to work

Don’t just sit there waiting for the phone to ring. You’re a professional. If you envision losing your job, or it’s already happened, make the effort to assess your knowledge, experience, skills, attitude and aptitude (KESAA) factors.

You are capable of reinventing yourself. I speak from experience—I’ve done it six times so far. It’s predicted that recent college graduates may experience six to eight career changes in their working lives. That’s career changes, not just employers!

Do you have some idea of what types of jobs may grow and prosper in the next two, five or 10 years? Find out and see if you can match your KESAA factors and your interests with any of them. Take a lesson from some young folks who, when they couldn’t land a job after graduation, built their own businesses.

You’ve got talent. Now put it to work.

Russell T. Westcott, based in Old Saybrook, CT, consults on strategic planning, project management, quality management systems, work-life planning and career coaching. He is an ASQ fellow and a certified manager of quality/organizational excellence (CMQ/OE) and quality auditor. Westcott is editor of the CMQ/OE Handbook, third edition; co-editor of the Quality Improvement Handbook; and author of several books. Westcott also serves on the Quality Management Division Advisory Committee and ASQ’s Thames Valley Section executive board.

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