Wednesday, February 11, 2009


By Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster Of K Squared Enterprises

How does a 25-year veteran advertising executive reinvent herself as she watches her industry shrink?

Where does a 15-year magazine production manager go when magazines everywhere are folding?

What happens if you get laid off and realize that your career hasn’t fulfilled you for years anyway?

Welcome to the age of opportunity disguised as loss. When industries shrink, erupt or otherwise change, it provides the survivors an unforeseen opening into new and different frontiers for work.

Do you find yourself in an industry that is dwindling? Is it hard to see a place for yourself in the current state of your chosen profession? You may be in a position where re-inventing yourself is the best option.

The difficulty with re-inventing yourself is twofold:

1) You have to weather a temporary loss of identity. YOU are no longer defined by your job title. Your former employer and industry do not equal your definition of self.

2) You don’t have another identity (a New You) to jump into. For the time being, you have to tolerate a period of identity limbo.

During this kind of career transition, you can construct an interim, more general definition of your talents, skills and capabilities. This short-term identity is based on the skills that you want to continue to use as you enter a new industry.

For example, if you’ve been selling mortgages and you like the activity of customer relations, you can define yourself as an expert in customer service. Or if you are the V.P. of IT for a shrinking bank and you excel at completing projects on time, you can bill yourself as a project manager and look for greener pastures in other industries.

In some cases, re-inventing yourself may involve returning to a long-term interest and getting the skills or training you’ve always wanted. After years in the retail industry, you may yearn for a degree in library sciences. As you prepare to move away from a career in accounting, you may pursue a childhood passion for electronics.

Why is it so difficult to re-invent ourselves?

The short answer is most of us hate uncertainty. It’s much easier to stick with what we know and who we know than it is to forge into new areas. This includes self-definition. And who wants to be a beginner again? Re-inventing yourself requires some tough exercises. You have to engage in self-assessment. You have to determine where your talents lie. And you have to be willing to transfer your well-worn skills into new realms.

Here are some tried and true tips for re-inventing your work identity
1) Appreciate that it takes guts to re-invent yourself. Give yourself credit from the start.
2) Get help in defining the skills and talents that you’d like to apply to a new position within a different industry.
3) Consider interning, volunteering, getting trained or educated to build your credibility.
4) Find like-minded people who have either done this successfully or are in the process of re-inventing themselves, and let them support you.

It’s not easy to re-invent yourself, but it can be very exciting and ultimately rewarding. We encourage you to take the chance. If you can weather the discomfort, a new, more fulfilling career path awaits you.

Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster are the authors of the national bestselling book Working With You Is Killing Me – Freeing Yourself From Emotional Traps At Work. Acclaimed speakers, seasoned trainers and skilled workshop leaders. their company, K Squared Enterprises offers real solutions for managing workplace relationships. Their next book, Working For You Isn’t Working For Me – The Ultimate Guide To Managing Your Boss, will be released in Fall, 2009.
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