December 5, 2008
It takes soul-searching to find a new field
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — "What if today was your last day to dance? What would you do?" asks the director interviewing dancers in the Broadway show "A Chorus Line."
More workers today are facing the question of "What do I do next?" — especially as people lose their jobs in troubled industries such as real estate, mortgage lending and construction. Others are retiring from careers and starting new ones, so-called "recareering."
It's not an easy question to answer. Some people are multitalented. They dabble in many pursuits and can move from one to another if they want or need to do so. But others have done one type of work most of their lives.
"Recareering takes a lot of soul-searching. If you've never done it before, it's scary," says Marilyn Durant, owner of Durant Resources Group in Boca Raton, Fla., who is working with a mortgage professional on a developing a new career.
She first does an assessment of the person's behaviors, skills and interests. "I determine what their strengths are and then try to apply that to a realistic target," she says. "It doesn't necessarily mean joining a rock band."
Some clients have had to completely change their careers, such as the entrepreneur who is unsuccessful and forced into finding a job. "Sometimes it means moving," Durant said.
Ruth Storrings, director of human resources at AlphaStaff in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., recommends looking at similar fields to use your skills. "If you're going to be changing careers, go into a career where you have some ability to succeed, where you have experience," she says.
A fast-food restaurant manager, for example, might move into the hotel industry.
Learn about the field first by searching online, interviewing people in the field and volunteering at the workplace. Then review your ideas with trusted family and friends. "They usually give you the right advice, the straight scoop on whether you should or should not," Storrings said.
Storrings also said to be prepared to take less money initially and work harder to learn new skills.
Ten years ago, Heather Deeley was a newspaper reporter in Akron, Ohio. She became a vegetarian and was interested in animal rights. "I wanted to use my journalism skills to help in the nonprofit world, to help animals," she said.
Deeley first took a communications job for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, based in Fort Lauderdale. About a year ago, she moved to the Broward County Human Resource Society, working with help-line volunteers to answer pet owners' concerns.
"My boss said she hired me for my passion. My first year was a huge learning experience. I was lucky she gave me the chance to try it," says Deeley, 38.
Her advice for others making a career transition is not to expect to stick with the career you chose in college. "We grow as people. Our interests and skills change. There's nothing wrong with evolving," she says.
Sometimes, the new career is not a full-time job for a corporation, but a contract job or part-time position.
Jim Leogue, 74, retired from his human-resources executive position at Norwegian Caribbean Lines in 1987. He now works as a consultant in compensation.
"If I had waited until normal retirement age, I think I would have had a difficult time," Leogue said.
Still, the transition from corporate world to consultant took time and was a lifestyle adjustment.
Initially, the challenge was being accepted. "Until I had a client list, that was the biggest hurdle," he said.
Then there was the matter of no steady paycheck. He might receive a large sum of money for a project and then no income for the next month or two. Currently, Leogue works about 20 hours a week.
Support from co-workers is another issue. He has to seek out feedback from friends in similar lines of work. "You can't walk down the hall and talk to somebody," he says.
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