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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

Career Change Articles

Stay ahead of the curve with insights from our CTL Associates.

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  • 19 Sep 2010 5:21 PM | Anonymous

    By Janet Civitelli

    This blog post continues my series of interviews with people who started businesses following a job loss. This interview is with author/infopreneur/coach Melanie Jordan.

    What type of career did you have before you launched your business? I was a marketing professional for over 20 years (including being a former VP of Marketing for one of the country's largest banks). I also did a fair amount of sales training.

    Describe the circumstances of your job loss, how long you looked for a job, and how your job search went. I was laid off for the second time in my professional career when a private financial education company I worked for had over expanded and had to reduce its sales force. As the second trainer hired, I was the first to go -- exactly one day after I got the highest possible review and raise! I did look for a job for well over a year, but knowing that it was unlikely, given the economy and workplace changes, that I would get anything commensurate with my talents or pay level, I focused just as hard on working on taking my sideline business that I had been moonlighting with, full-time. I wasn't counting on others to give me a job - I was making my own job! While I hadn't planned to go full-time with my business at that precise time, getting laid off again was to me a sign that maybe it was the right time.

    How did you survive financially while you started your business? I had savings--I was never one to live from paycheck to paycheck. Plus, unlike others, I viewed my unemployment as a "federal grant" that would help tide me over until I could get my business going strong enough in the event I couldn't find an appropriate job. 

    How does your current income compare to your previous income? I'm not at the level of my prior income...yet--that should occur next year. But I'm completely self-sufficient, and making enough that I don't have to worry about how I'm going to pay my bills, and can instead focus on my business.

    What skills and previous experience were you able to bring to your business that help you to succeed? My extensive marketing, sales and training experience were a natural fit and gave me skills that I could instantly offer to others on a select basis. And then all my experience online since 2001 as a writer and publisher, and in doing online marketing, which eventually evolved into original content infopreneuring gave me the experience I needed to take my own work to the next level.  I divide my time between client work, and furthering my own original content information products and services.

    What is the best part about running your business? The freedom to have a completely flexible lifestyle as a home-based entrepreneur. If I want to work from anywhere in the county, or the world for that matter, as long as I have my laptop, a good Internet connection and a phone (and I don't always need the phone), I'm good. I love to be able to go the gym when it's least crowded, and to get time off from the boss (a.k.a. me) at a moment's notice. I never have to ask to take a vacation, and I can take one whenever I want.

    What is the most challenging part about running your company? I'm my own toughest boss -- very self-motivated and I love what I do--so sometimes it's hard for me to stop working and disconnect for a while.

    What new skills did you need to learn to be a successful entrepreneur? Managing my cash flow, social media/new media and to stop looking at the job classifieds when the going got tough and just persevere.

    What career advice do you have for job searchers who may be considering an entrepreneurial path? Make sure that you are honest about your financial situation first. Don't just pull a "Jet Blue" and be the flight attendant who pulls the emergency chute without first deciding if you can afford to outright quit your day job. The least stressful way to take an entrepreneurial path is to make your business a sideline first and then go full-time when it makes sense, or at least have it as a "Plan B" so that if you lose your job, you're already well on the way to being able to stand on your own two feet in case you can't get another job, or you simply don't want to. That's one of the reasons I believe that original content infopreneuring (what I do) makes a great moonlighting venture since it's virtual, can be done from a home office or really anywhere, has flexible hours and low start-up costs.

    Anything else you would like to share? Most people think being an entrepreneur is risky, but I think being an employee is far riskier because you are never in control of your own destiny -- today's workplace bears this out. If you have the ability to approach your entrepreneurial path the right way and stay the course, it's so worth it!

  • 14 Aug 2010 6:12 PM | Anonymous

    By Janet Civitelli

    This blog post continues my series of interviews with people who started businesses following job loss. This interview is with Steven J. Ferrusi, inventor of FitDesk.

    What type of career did you have before you launched FitDesk? Prior to taking my invention to market, I worked as a sales rep for a large company that has 3Ms in its name.  Our target market was high end residential.

    How long did you search for a job and how did your job search go? There was no reason to search for jobs as 8 months prior to getting laid off it was clear that the job market had been narrowed and job search would be futile. I didn't search for jobs...I went straight to plan B: bring my product to market.

    How did you survive financially while you started your company? I planned ahead by selling my expensive home before a market downturn and I bought a smaller home with a small mortgage.  Also, I had a small rental in my new home that paid the mortgage each month. 

    What skills and previous experience were you able to bring to FitDesk that are helping you to succeed? I had basic life skills such as managing money, living within my means, and making it a priority to save.  These skills are always needed to manage a startup.  Also, organization and patience have helped with the daily chores of running a startup.

    What is the best part about running your company? The best part is that I believe in this product as a way to help others who have a hard time getting a fitness program started and sticking to it. I had always heard that belief in what you are doing is important when you launch a new venture, but now I completely agree and I suggest that this be part of your decision factors.  Sales are always welcome because they validate your efforts.

    This would be a good point in the interview to describe FitDesk. What is it? FitDesk is a product that comfortably allows a person to exercise while using a computer or video game.  It offers a solution for the problem of not getting enough movement into our lives. I took something that people love to do (computers and gaming) and made it a part of what people need to do (exercise and movement). This increases the likelihood of consistency.  After a year and a half of trying many different designs, I decided to go to market with a method that was patentable, cost effective to produce and easy to install and modify.

    That sounds genius! You solved the "When and how do I exercise?" problem suffered by so many sedentary people! Yes, I believe I did.

    What is the most challenging part about running your company? The most challenging thing about running a new company that has no products like it are PR (no one knows you exist and no one knows how your product will perform) and balancing advertising costs with income. One of the first challenging tasks is to develop a list of resources for potential sales/referrals.

    What career advice do you have for job searchers who may be considering an entrepreneurial path? Read books and information on topic. Write a business plan that is flexible. Start slow while you learn about resources that will produce results. Expect highs and lows. Bring all your energy to the table. Make sure you have enough capital to survive 6 months minimum.

    Anything else you would like to share? When people tell you that you have a great idea, expect most to give verbal appreciation but not actually part with their money. People take time to make a purchase. Do not take everything personally. Keep pushing your product with utmost confidence.

    What new skills did you need to learn to be an entrepreneur? I had to learn the difference between public relations, marketing, and sales.  These may seem similar but are very different and need to be understood before you spend time making a business and marketing plan. I also had to make sure my organizational skills are top notch.

    How does your current income compare to your previous income? (not numbers, of course, just generally) Income is down only slightly because I'm keeping my startup costs low. I'm using discipline to start out slow so that I can build my resources with the goal of realizing profit and minimizing marketing mistakes.

    Any other words of wisdom for people who have recently lost their jobs? Find a way to make it positive. Personally, I was able to triumph. I would not change it for the world. 

  • 29 Jul 2010 6:22 PM | Anonymous

    By Janet Civitelli

    This blog post kicks off a series of posts where I will feature success stories of people who wanted to find a job but when they couldn't do so, they became reluctant entrepreneurs who succeeded beyond all their original expectations. Today's post is my interview with Ben Coleman. Ben created a business around his love of origami, the art of folding paper into objects.

    What type of career did you have before you launched your business? In my previous job, I worked for a manufacturer of propane trucks. I managed the production schedule, handled inventory, and also wrote the manuals for our trucks as well as about a thousand other duties. It wasn't an easy job but I liked it. Then I was laid off. Prior to that job, I taught high school math, and before that I ran a computer retail sales business.

    How long did you look for a job and how did your job search go? I looked for a job for about a year. I sent out between 325 and 400 resumes. It was really depressing, because not only was the labor market dead, but lots of new unemployed were entering it. I fell through the cracks in terms of COBRA, and all the unemployment extensions because I had been laid off a few months prior to the "official" recession. It was clear to me that if I continued to seek employment as part of the conventional work force that I would become homeless in a matter of months.

    What type of business did you start? My business is focused on making origami more accessible and more desirable to everyone. Perceptions of origami vary, but many people consider it useless and complex, and therefore a waste of time. I use technology and innovation to make the art form more accessible, and I've developed applications that make it useful. In fact, my first book "Origami Bonsai" (Tuttle 4/2010) was reviewed by a reader on Amazon calling it "the first practical use of origami." I released my second book "Advanced Origami Bonsai" electronically after the publisher rejected it as "too specialized" in June of 2009. And I released my third book "Origami Bonsai Accessories" electronically in March of 2010. I sell all three books on my website and I also sell the first mass-produced, prefolded origami flower in the world (my patented invention) there as well.

    How did you survive financially while you started your business? When my own money ran out, I had help from my parents. I expect to have repaid them (with interest) in full in about two months.

    How does your current income compare to your previous income? Companies are now coming to me to write books for them! In the past eight weeks I made more than I made in a year working for the propane truck company. My second and third books are selling well all over the world, and because they were too "specialized" for the publisher, all the profit from their sales is mine.

    What skills and previous experience were you able to bring to your business that help you to succeed? My business is customer-driven. I learned that from working at the propane truck company. I think it's really important to answer customer questions quickly, and in a coherent and respectful manner, and then to confirm with the customer that you answered their question satisfactorily. The same customer that gets their questions answered goes out and tells three friends what a great book they bought. If I ensure that my customers are successful, then I'll be successful automatically! I also think that having taught math brings a unique skill set and perspective to the table when it comes to explaining things that seem, at first, to be complex. After having learned how to explain concepts to teenagers, I've learned to innovate, and bring some fun into the learning experience. And I'm sure that my experience as a small businessman in the early days of personal computing helps a lot with day to day operations. I recognize that taking chances, carefully, is part of the entrepreneurial process.

    What is the best part about running your business? Figuring out what needs to be done next. It's important to remember that there is always something that needs to be done, it's just a matter of finding it. I don't like doing things like paying sales tax, but I love making sculptures. The sales tax isn't going to pay itself, and if I don't pay it I won't be in business for long. So the chores come first so I can free my mind to work on the creative stuff. Believe it or not, I'm not sure I like writing the books. I'm really hard on myself, constantly asking questions, "Will they understand it?" "Does it make sense?" "Can't I find an easier way to represent that?" When I'm working on a book or magazine project I work about 14 hours a day, with real high intensity, until the project is done. Once it's done I can make some art!

    What is the most challenging part about running your company? Success hangovers. I'll sell a record number of books, or I'll be in a newspaper, or something else important to the growth of my business will happen, and then it will be weeks or months before something better happens. I start to think I'm depressed, but in fact I am frustrated. I have to constantly remind myself that the most important thing is slow, continuous growth, not instant fame. Instant fame comes and goes, and that's not what I'm in business for.

    What new skills did you need to learn to be a successful entrepreneur? People. I don't know how to say this, but I had to learn how to deal with people in a more coherent manner. I used to always say things like, "Your business is appreciated." Now I say, "I appreciate your business." If you can't see the difference, then you've got the same problem I used to have. I have learned to make a person to person connection, almost emotional, but professional, with customers. I make it clear that I care. It's not just about making customers the number one priority, it's about connecting with them on a whole new level.

    What career advice do you have for job searchers who may be considering an entrepreneurial path? Just because you're starting a business doesn't mean you have to give up your job search. In fact, I'd argue that you should continue your job search until your entrepreneurial venture starts paying the bills. My parents insisted that I continue looking for a job even though it was clear that my business was supporting me. It's not called the conventional job market for nothing. Wives, parents, children, friends, are all a lot more comfortable if you're looking for a job, so avoid the controversy and continue. But start your business venture. Start it right now. The world market is huge, and I believe there's room for everyone in it. This is the first time in human history that a specialty business in Akron, Ohio, USA can be found easily by a customer in Sao Paulo, Brazil. And it costs nothing to make your presence known. Get your product or service on the web. Start manipulating search engines. Give people a way to find you and they will find you.

    Anything else you would like to share? I don't think there has ever been a better time to start a business. The web changes everything. Individuals have never had access to markets like they do today.

  • 25 Jul 2010 7:01 PM | Anonymous

    By Joan Runnheim Olson

    On a flight recently, I struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to me. Always curious as to where someone is from and what they do for work, I discovered that Gary has been a registered nurse for a number of years. It turns out that after high school, he enrolled in a pre-dentistry program. Thinking it would be difficult getting into dental school, he shifted gears and graduated with a degree in business administration. 

    After trying his hand at a variety of careers, including seasonal park ranger and machine operator/machinist, Gary decided to pursue his long-held dream of working in the medical field. A lay-off allowed him to re-train for a different career, which facilitated his move into nursing. Gary felt that nursing seemed natural for him and knew he would be good at it. Nursing allows him to live in a small community in a somewhat remote area that he loves while helping his neighbors and friends recover from an illness, injury, or surgery and take care of the family and survivors of dying loved ones. Gary says, “I’m able to let them know that I care and allow them to feel more at ease with a familiar person helping them through difficult times. I know that makes a difference to them." According to Gary, "Whether it's me as a male nurse, or it's a female nurse, I think we all know our limits, our strengths, and our weak points, and are able to do our jobs, based on them. It all pulls together for the best possible outcome for the patients."  "Nursing is not for everyone, but there are a multitude of options or areas in which to work," says Gary. He goes on to say, "I would encourage any male to consider nursing if they are at all interested in the medical field. They can always continue on and expand their interests with the options that are available, whether it is as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant."

    I recently read that the need for registered nurses will grow by 580,000 in the near future due to the millions of baby boomers reaching retirement. Nursing will continue to be a high-demand career for years to come.

  • 07 Jul 2010 1:31 PM | Anonymous

    By Louise Garver

    The opportunities for a midlife career change are available. Is a career change hard work? Yes. However, it can transform your life in thrilling new ways. Four strategies you can take for re-careering are:

    1 - Recognize your reasons for making a change. Are you tired of your work and need something that provides greater stimulation and challenge? Or, are you seeking social interaction and personal reward that your present occupation doesn’t offer? For example, I coached a client who became an executive director for a nonprofit organization in order to give back to the community.

    2 - Determine your commitment. Decide if you want to work full time or part time,  or if you want to job share or telecommute at least part of the time. Are you attracted to seasonal or cyclical work? Depending on your career choice, it may mean starting out at an entry level.

    3 - Consider a hobby or a passion. Many people find successful new careers and businesses based on their hobbies … love of antiques, outdoors, environment, animals, fitness, etc. Sometimes it isn’t so obvious. For example, one person converted her passion for organizing and strengths in negotiating into a career as a meeting and events planner.

    4 - Know your limitations. You may be great at arranging things, but dislike dealing with customers. You may enjoy talking to your pet, but have little patience for cleaning kitty litter pans. Although it’s important to know what you like, pay attention to your head. Conduct a thorough self-assessment or seek career coaching before you pull the plug on your current career.

    Take ownership of your career and life plans; resist the temptation to follow someone else’s dream for you. After all, it’s your life.

  • 19 May 2010 5:55 PM | Anonymous

    By Kate Schaefers

    Given their numbers, educational level, and wealth of experience, baby boomers represent a huge potential talent base for nonprofits.  Nonprofits have taken notice, and savvy organizations are strategizing ways to capitalize on boomer volunteering.  Understanding the motivations of boomer volunteers will be essential if nonprofits want to attract and retain them.

    People volunteer for lots of reasons.  Mark Snyder and E. Gil Clary summarized some of the reasons in a chapter they wrote for the book The Generative Society: Caring for Future Generations. They identified six psychological functions of volunteering:

    --Express Values.  Volunteering allows people to demonstrate important values such as altruism and humanitarian concern. 
    --Understanding of Differences.  Volunteering exposes us to people who are different from us, and deepens our sense of understanding of differences. 
    --Social Connections.  Volunteering provides opportunities to work together with others, to build relationships, and to fit in with a reference group.  We get a sense of belonging from volunteering. 
    --Career Advancement.  Volunteering can be a path to developing new skills, expanding professional networks, and enhancing a resume.
    --Gratitude.  Volunteering may be motivated by gratitude for what we have, and reducing personal guilt.  When we serve, we give back for the opportunities we have. 
    --Growth and Development. Volunteering can provide outlets for personal growth and development.  Through this growth, we can enhance self-esteem and confidence.

    As Boomers look down the road and explore ways to live and work, volunteering may be an important part of the puzzle.  Volunteering opens doors, builds networks, enhances self-esteem, fosters growth and development, and promotes career opportunities.   Volunteering may serve as a bridge to a different line of work, or as a transition into an encore career. 

    AND, it’s good for your health!  Studies find that volunteering can boost mental and physical health.  It’s rare to find an activity that provides so much benefit, to the volunteer personally and to society as a whole.   

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