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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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  • 30 Dec 2015 8:55 AM | Anonymous

    By Wendy S. Enelow, CCM, MRW, JCTC, CPRW
    Enelow Enterprises, Inc.


    Never in the history of modern-day business have you – as a working adult – had so many different options for your career. Not only do you need to decide WHAT you want to do – finance, sales, IT, HR, general management, etc. – you have to decide HOW you want to do it. Do you want to be:

    • An employee, enjoying the safety, security (somewhat questionable these days!), and benefits of “corporate” employment. There are a great many positive things to be said about getting that W-2, your pension plan, and all the other perks.
    • A consultant, thriving in the world of projects, clients, and solutions. The diversity of a consulting career intrigues many senior managers and executives, allowing them to leverage their particular expertise and enjoy lots of different experiences and opportunities.
    • An entrepreneur, defining and pursuing your own course of action. Entrepreneurship can be enticing and tremendously rewarding, but you must learn to live with the risk and potential for financial uncertainty. It can be a heavy load to carry.

    This article will focus on each of these different career paths, their advantages and potential disadvantages, to help you determine which is most appropriate for you. We begin with the most widely pursued path, that of the employee.


    Despite the uncertainty of financial markets, the recently poor performance of the technology sector, and other depressing economic news, the opportunities for employment do exist – today and in the future. Finding them might take a bit more effort and creativity than in years past, but jobs do exist and will continue to exist.

    If you’ve made the decision to pursue employment, then you must ask yourself the following questions:

    • How are you going to manage and advance your career?
    • How are you going to position yourself for continual increases in your compensation?
    • How will you find self-satisfaction and personal fulfillment in your job?

    The single most important thing to remember as an employee is that no matter who writes your paycheck, ultimately you work for yourself and for your family. Therefore, your job must not only provide money, benefits, and the like, it must also provide you with a feeling of self-worth and personal identity. In a world where work often dominates our lives, these personal feelings of value and contribution are vital to your own personal growth and sense of achievement. Just as critical, your employer must find value and worth in what you bring to their organization.

    Planning and preparation are key. It is strongly recommended that you develop your own “Career Map,” a tool that allows you to envision where you will be a year from now, 5 years from now, 10 years from now, and so forth. With your “Career Map” in hand, you’ll have a road map to chart your projected career growth and direction, knowing that it will change over time as you move forward, encounter new opportunities, expand your knowledge, and reposition yourself for continued growth.

    When you have a plan in hand, you have control over your destiny, something that all too many employees feel they give up when they accept an employment opportunity. Many believe their careers are now in the hands of the company, and they sit passively by, waiting for the company to make the next move.

    But, not you! You know that your objective is to move up another tier in the management structure of your company, or another company, within the next two years. In anticipation, you should engage in the following activities:

    • Prepare and continually update your “Achievement Journal,” highlighting each and every contribution, project, cost saving, revenue increase, and more that you’ve delivered to the company. This will be a vital tool in negotiating your next promotion and accompanying salary increase.
    • Develop a “Networking Resource File” that you can easily and quickly update with each new network contact, people who may be of value when planning and executing your next job search campaign.
    • Prepare a “Compensation Chart” to specifically depict your REALISTIC projections for growth in salary, benefits, and other financial perks. Keep this with your Career Map and update them simultaneously.

    As an employee, you strive to meet two independent, yet interrelated, agendas – your personal agenda and the agenda of your employer. It is quite possible to achieve both as long as you are clear about what you want and can communicate that information, and your supporting qualifications, achievements, and talents, to an employer.


    Ten years ago, there were few consultants, and those who were, most often worked for the large, well-established consulting firms. Today, however, consulting has become a rapidly growing profession, advantageous for both the consultants and the companies who engage them.

    As a consultant, once you’ve established yourself and built a solid reputation, you are free to pick and choose your assignments, concentrating on areas of professional interest and challenge to you. Further, you are often quite well paid for your expertise, and the opportunities are unlimited. There are consultants who specialize in strategic planning, sales, marketing, IT, HR, productivity and efficiency improvement, corporate and investment finance, mergers and acquisitions, operations, and virtually every other profession and function you can think of.

    As an employer, you can capture the best talent for a specific project or assignment, whether for two weeks or two years, and be “done” with a consultant when the project is complete. There is no long-term commitment or “marriage” as there exists between employer and employee.

    If you’ve made the decision to pursue a consulting career, then you must answer the following questions:

    • Do you thrive in a constantly changing work environment? Consultants are on the move, from client to client, working in a diversity of organizations. To succeed, you must be able to quickly adapt to your changing environment and get up to speed almost instantaneously.
    • Can you handle the pressure of constant deadlines and commitments? More often than not, consultants work on time-sensitive projects and are constantly pressured to deliver, deliver, deliver. Can you handle the stress?
    • Do you have strong team building and team leadership skills? Teaming is the preferred method of operation in tens of thousands of companies today. Virtually no one works independently. Rather, you are engaged as a consultant to either participate on a team or lead that team. Do you have the requisite management, leadership, and communication skills to meet that requirement?
    • Are you a talented marketer, confident, articulate, and self-motivated? Most consultants, other than those employed with the largest of consulting firms, must sell their consulting services as the first step in building new client relationships. As such, no matter your area of specialization, you must be an astute marketer, able to quickly communicate your knowledge and expertise; able to quickly demonstrate your value to a prospective client.
    • Do you wish to work as an independent consultant, or do you prefer to join an established consulting firm? This is perhaps the most critical of all questions.

    If you choose a career as an independent consultant, you are choosing what many consider an entrepreneurial path. There will be no single employer writing your paycheck, no paid sick days, no paid holidays, and no paid benefits package. Rather, you will have to create your own opportunities through a combination of your marketing savvy, your client relationship management skills, and your particular area of consulting expertise. What’s more, you have to ask yourself if you can live with the financial risk of self-employment and the roller coaster of emotions that often follows along. You’re “up” when you’re working and “down” when you’re not.

    If, on the other hand, you choose to join a consulting firm, you are often getting the best of both worlds – the dynamic and constantly changing working environment that appeals to so many consultants, along with the stability of that biweekly paycheck from your employer (the consulting firm).

    Today, consulting is a well-established and well-respected career path appealing to the professional, the manager, and the executive. Opportunities abound as companies have realized the tremendous financial and operational benefits consultants can bring to their organizations. It truly is a “win-win” for everyone involved. If you have the fortitude, the drive, and the expertise to position yourself as a consultant, you will find the personal, professional, and financial rewards can be quite significant.


    Nations around the world have nurtured entrepreneurship in its various forms for centuries, but never before has there been such a phenomenal number of entrepreneurs, from the small business owner down the street to Bill Gates of today’s technology revolution. It is vital that you be realistic in your expectations, knowing that the vast majority of entrepreneurs own small ventures and not mega-corporations. We are not seen on Oprah, not featured in Time magazine, and not rushing to the bank with our millions of dollars. Rather, we are hard-working individuals who have chosen an entrepreneurial career path for a diversity of personal and professional reasons.

    Before you make the decision to launch an entrepreneurial venture, ask yourself the following questions:

    • Are you a risk-taker?
    • Can you live with the uncertainty of when you’ll get your next paycheck? Do you have money saved?
    • Can you work tirelessly for weeks and months on end? Do you have a high level of energy?
    • Can you work through disappointments and lost opportunities, and continue to move forward?
    • Are you confident, assertive, self-motivated, and self-reliant?
    • Do you have the emotional support of your friends and family?

    If you answered “yes” to these questions, then you most certainly have the entrepreneurial grit, determination, and support system that are so vital for success. Without those qualities and an intense commitment, you’ll face an almost insurmountable challenge.

    Then, ask yourself why you’re considering entrepreneurship.

    • If it’s to escape the drudgery of a 9-5 job, forgot it! 9 to 5 will seem like a vacation when you’re self-employed.
    • If it’s to make a ton of money, forget it! No matter the business concept, no matter the marketing strategy, no matter your network of contacts, no matter anything, building a new venture COSTS money. It will take time, maybe 6 months, maybe 3 years, before you ever begin to see a steady stream of profits.
    • If it’s so that you can call your own shots, forget it! Although you may be profitably self-employed and think that you’re running the show, the reality is that your customers/clients run the show. Now, instead of reporting to just your manager, you’re reporting to each and every client that you work for. Your accountability increases, not decreases.
    • If it’s so you can pick and choose which hours you want to work, forget it! You’ll find that you’re working ALL of them to meet client and project deadlines. Sure, it’s easier to take a Friday off here and there, but only if your business continues to operate and respond to client needs in your absence.
    • If it’s to create a stable working environment, forget it! Entrepreneurship is a dynamic and forever-changing career path. You must be able to work fluidly, be willing to change as the market and your customers dictate, and be able to emotionally handle the constant flux in which you may find yourself.

    Are you totally discouraged now? Don’t be! Yes, there are uncertainties, long hours, lack of sleep, financial concerns, and tremendous commitments as an entrepreneur, but there are also tremendous advantages. As an entrepreneur and small business owner myself, I cannot imagine doing anything else. Despite the many negatives, there is no other career path that would have been appropriate for me. Is it the same for you?


    Work is such a huge part of our lives today that both personal and professional fulfillment are vital in your career. Now, with such unlimited opportunities as an employee, consultant, or entrepreneur, you can pick and choose the path that is most closely aligned with your skills and long-term career objectives. Go forward with zest and determination, and make your career what you want it to be!

  • 14 Dec 2015 11:23 AM | Anonymous

    By Amanda Augustine

    In this turbulent market, it seems that many people are reevaluating their careers. Some know exactly they’d like to do: they want to switch from Wall Street to Silicon Valley or transition from product marketing to sales – while others aren’t sure of the next step.

    Similarly, there are a lot of recent graduates out there looking for their first professional job and having difficulty getting a foot in the door.

    If I had one piece of advice to give these groups, it would be this: master the “informational interview.”

    What does this mean exactly? It means reaching into your network, finding connections (friends, friends-of-friends, friends-of-your-relatives’-friends … you get the idea) that are in your target field of work, and asking them out for a cup of coffee or a phone chat to pick their brain.

    This not only helps you clarify your job goals and eliminate options; it can also help open doors to your next role. Below are 5 practical tips to help you master the informational interview:

    • Come prepared with a copy of your resume, a pad of paper and pen and a list of questions.
    • Remember: you’re not asking for a job in these meetings. Your goal is to learn more about the industry, finding a job within that line of work (including websites and other resources to use, and common hiring processes), and career options available for someone with your background and skill set.
    • You want to ask each person for their story – what did they want to do when they first graduated, how did they find their first job, how did they end up in their current job, and what do they like or dislike about their work. Don’t feel as though you are pestering this person or begging for anything – most people like to talk about themselves, and many want to offer their ‘pearls of wisdom’ to an earnest job seeker.
    • You’ll naturally end up sharing your experience and interests during this conversation as well. Take this time to explain what you love about this line of work (show your passion!). Your goal is to walk away from each informational interview with a more refined list of career options and resources. Ideally you also want an introduction to another person in the field so you can continue setting up new informational interviews.
    • Don’t be afraid to give back. When you’re in the job hunt, you become immersed in industry news, career resources and job listings. You’ll end up joining new and interesting groups associated with your targeted industry or line of work. You can offer up tidbits of information that may be of interest to the other person. This way, you’re also providing value in the conversation.
    As you meet more people, get your personal brand out there, and become more knowledgeable about navigating the job-search process in your chosen field, you’ll become better at identifying and pursuing positions that you’re qualified for. And one of these contacts may remember you when the right opportunity pops up.
  • 14 Dec 2015 11:05 AM | Anonymous

    By Barbara Safani

    Many people tell me they are thinking of making a career change. They often tell me one of these four things:

    • I hate my job.
    • I don’t think my job is a good fit.
    • I want to do something more meaningful.
    • My friends tell me I would make a great (fill in the blank)

    But when I hear these statements, I’m not always convinced that the person expressing these doubts really wants to change careers. Instead, I often believe that there is something else going on at work or in the person’s personal life that is causing the unrest or thoughts of quitting and it’s important to explore these factors before jumping into a career change.

    Career change can be challenging on many fronts. Landing a job in a new career generally takes more time than landing one in a linear career path. You will need a robust network of contacts and many, many advocates to get your foot in the door. A career change may require significant education costs and there is no guarantee that acquiring that education will lead to a new job. The most logical career changes are those that have a recognizable intersection between the old and new careers such as a sales person going into marketing or an operations professional switching to human resources.

    In over 75% of the cases where I coach clients considering a career change, after in-depth discussion, introspection, and assessment it is frequently determined that the client doesn’t hate what they do; they hate the person they work for. Study after study shows that people don’t leave companies; they leave bad bosses. So before you embark on a full-blown career change, ask yourself the following questions:

    1. What tasks that are part of my job do I enjoy doing?
    2. What tasks that are part of my job do I hate doing?
    3. Am I good at what I do? Have others commented on my strengths?
    4. What types of tasks do I want to do that are not part of my current job? Is there an opportunity to do these tasks in the future as part of my job?
    5. What types of situations in my current job stress me out?
    6. How much does my relationship with my boss affect my feelings towards my job?
    7. Do my feelings about the company culture affect my feelings about my job?
    8. Can I remember a time when I did similar work and enjoyed what I was doing?
    9. Are there growth opportunities for me or is my industry/job function contracting?
    10. Am I willing to put in the time and effort necessary to change careers?
    11. Have I considered the financial ramifications of changing careers?
    12. Am I willing to take a step (or two) backwards to achieve my new career goals?
    13. What would my perfect job look like and is this a realistic expectation?
    14. What are my priorities? How important are money, time off, meaningful work, or the goals of the organization to me?

    Answering these questions may help you gain clarity around your reasons for embarking on a career change. Your answers may help you sort out what you can and cannot live with. Armed with this information you may decide that a retooling of your current career is more prudent than a total career change. Or your responses may validate that a career change is in fact the right path to take.

    People change careers every day but it’s always advisable to make sure you are changing careers for the right strategic long-term reasons and not making a decision based solely on your emotions. Look before you leap and find others to support you in your journey.

  • 14 Dec 2015 10:45 AM | Anonymous

    By Jack Mulcahy, ACRW
    Jack Mulcahy Resume Services

    “You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” – Frederick Wilcox.

    I have had to remind myself of that wonderful quote virtually every day since I left my day job to open my resume practice full-time. I took a leap into the unknown by doing so, and asked myself numerous questions, mostly of the “What do I do if the phone doesn’t ring?” variety.

    And yet, as I think about it, aren’t we all taking a leap into the dark every day? We wake up and try to maintain some semblance of routine throughout the day, whether it’s to shower first then have breakfast or the other way around. Chances are when we drive to work, we follow the same route every day, and we arrive at work at the same time, where we have our day planned for us.

    We surround ourselves with sameness and routine so we don’t have to think about the unknown-the future.

    But for all the routines we establish for ourselves, the future still waits for us, and is still completely unknown.

    Maybe that’s why we stay in jobs that not only don’t nourish us, they degrade us. We put up with the badgering boss whose “leadership” style is to make everyone around him cower. Or with the supervisor who blocks our advancement because she fears our replacement won’t make her look as good as we do. The devil we know, as the saying goes, is better than the devil we don’t know.

    “If I leave this job,” your inner voice says, “who knows what kinds of trouble it may bring?” So instead, you put up with a supervisor who only knows one way to address people-by yelling. Or the manager who always comes up with some emergency project that has to be done right at the end of the day. Or, worst of all (short of sexual harassment), the job that doesn’t quite fit you in the company that definitely has no place for someone of your talents. That last one was yours truly seven years ago, and after taking an extended leave of absence, I was fortunate enough to find work as a resume writer, a profession that combines my writing self with my strong desire to help people.

    But the truth is, no matter how well you think you know what’s coming up, you really don’t.

    You can’t. None of us can. We all face the unknown every day of our lives. And while I don’t recommend jumping ship without another position to go to, which is what I’ve done three times in my 40-year career, what I do recommend is not fearing the unknown so much that it freezes you in a job that’s detrimental to you. Think it through, set up a plan-and go steal second base.

  • 14 Dec 2015 10:43 AM | Anonymous

    By Amanda Augustine

    I know it can be incredibly frustrating when you send out application after application and don’t hear back anyone. You are definitely not alone! Let’s be honest – searching for a job, especially in this economy, is not fun. Have you ever heard anyone say “I love job seeking!”

    No? I didn’t think so. Looking for a job – and a really good job that you actually want – takes time. A LOT of time. It takes patience. And a whole lotta work.

    Trying to switch industries or change careers is even more challenging because you will rarely meet all the must-have requirements in the job description. But there are some things you can do (and prepare for) that will help set you up for success.

    1. When considering a switch, do your research.

      Focus on identifying an industry that is strong or emerging in your targeted area and has similarities to your current industry experience.

      If you’re unsure which industries are easiest to transition to, look for former colleagues who held a similar role to you and have moved on to other companies – what industries are they working in? What companies have accepted their previous experience? This is a good place to start.

      Once you’ve identified what industry you want to target, begin immersing yourself in their terminology. Subscribe to industry-specific online newsletters and blogs, join professional groups online and attend networking events or trade shows where you’ll learn more about the industry and meet new people. Identify connections in your current network that work in your targeted industry, and take them out for a cup of coffee to pick their brain. This is a great way to gain valuable insight into the market and uncover unpublished opportunities.

    2. Pick one target, not five.

      Notice that I said “industry” and not “industries” – if you’re going to make a switch, you’re going to have to do a lot of work to become really familiar with that industry. The research I mentioned above takes time.

      Now imagine doing all of these things multiple times for multiple industries – it would get old really fast, believe me. Not to mention that you need to set up your resume and online professional profiles so they are positioned for your new target industry.

      Do yourself a favor and based off your market research, pick one main industry to pursue for your switch. If you’re switching industries, stay in the same function – i.e. if you’re in sales now for one industry and you want to switch industries, target sales jobs in that industry – not some other role like corporate finance. One change at a time is challenging enough.

    3. Focus on job requirements, your qualifications & results.

      Your cover letter and elevator pitch should focus on your ability to deliver results. In your resume, play down the industry of your former positions and play up other aspects of the company (revenue, number of people, ranking, etc.) that may be similar to the companies you’re now targeting. If you’re struggling with repositioning your resume and online brand, don’t be afraid to reach out to the experts for help – that’s what they’re here for. There are lots of services out there, which will help you rewrite your resume with a switch in mind.

      When applying to jobs, focus on the nuts and bolts of the job requirements and show how you meet all of those requirements. A “t-format” cover letter can be a really great way to showcase how you fit these core must-haves.

      If you’ve worked in multiple industries in the past (especially if you’re in sales), mention this in the cover letter to prove that you have been successful in a variety of industries, and can do it again for this organization.

      For example: “Over the past 10 years I have met or exceeded quota in every role I’ve taken on, in industries ranging from financial services to pharmaceuticals. I excel at immersing myself in new industries, and then applying that knowledge to deliver above-average results. I am eager to put this practice to work for you.”

    4. Don’t rely on applications alone.

      Even with an excellent, well positioned resume and tailored cover letter, you may have difficulty getting a call back if you are only sending out applications online. Especially if the job description emphasizes relevant industry experience as a must-have. This is when networking becomes an even more important part of your job-search strategy.

      Why? Well, you need people to vouch for your previous experience and get you past the gatekeepers. Your connections in the industry can help you learn about job opportunities that aren’t even published anywhere. Pursuing these job leads (and with someone in the industry advocating on your behalf) puts you in a much better position to land the job. You will also gain valuable insight into the hiring process for that industry, and be able to navigate it more smoothly as a result.

    5. Show passion … and patience.

      It’s imperative that you let your passion for this new industry shine. Why are you interested in this industry? Why is this company so appealing? How does it relate to your previous work? Have you worked in the industry in the past? If so, why are you so interested in returning to this type of work? Remember, this is your sales pitch. You need to find some element of the company or industry that you find particularly interesting or appealing and play that up in your elevator pitch and during interviews.

      Keep in mind that transitioning to a new role can be a long process, especially in this saturated job market. Be prepared to be in the job hunt for many months – many career coaches agree it takes an average of 8 months to find a new job these days, even when you’re not looking to make major changes to your career.  And that’s only the average! The greater the gap between your job goals and most recent experience, the more challenging this transition can be. It may be necessary to compromise on compensation and job title in your next job in order to get you on the right track towards your targeted role.
    Think of this job as a ‘stepping stone’ along the way to your dream job.
  • 30 Jan 2011 6:33 PM | Anonymous

    By Janet Civitelli

    This post continues my series of interviews with people who launched businesses because they couldn't find a job, with the happy outcome that their businesses became successful and they wouldn't accept a salaried job offer now even if they were offered it. This interview is with Sydney Weisman, a partner at WHPR (Weisman Hamlin Public Relations). Ms. Weisman founded WHPR with her husband, David Hamlin.

    Sydney, what type of career did you have before you launched your business? My husband and I both had experience working in communications related to political campaigns. Prior to the political campaign work, we had been freelance writing and before that, back in Chicago, my husband had been an executive director for a non-profit and I had been a journalist and then retired from the profession to become an independent publicist.

    Describe the circumstances of your job loss, how long you looked for a job, and how your job search went.  Following the end of the political campaigns in 1986, we began job searching in LA and across the country. We were in our 40's and we had no plan to open our own PR shop. Quite the contrary, we didn’t want to do so. I had done it in Chicago, with limited success on my own, we didn’t have a client base with which to launch our own agency, and we were relatively new to LA. All those factors were against our considering opening our own PR firm. By mid-’87, after landing interviews for entry level or receptionist type jobs at PR firms, given the depth of our experience, we had no option but to consider opening our own shop.

    How did you survive financially while you started your business? We worked as Kelly Girls to support our burgeoning PR firm, which we opened in our two bedroom apartment. 

    How does your current income compare to your previous income? We have made a very comfortable living for ourselves and our family, and I believe we are making more money with our PR business than we would have working for others. 

    What skills and previous experience were you able to bring to your business that is helping you to succeed?  My husband’s skill as a non-profit executive and mine as a journalist have been the basis of our success as a PR firm specializing in non-profit PR.

    What is the best part about running your business? Being “the boss of me,” and working with my husband.

    What is the most challenging part about running your company? Maintaining our marketing edge and self-promotion. 

    What new skills did you need to learn to be a successful entrepreneur?  I had a skill set in place, i.e., the ability to stand in front of people and talk about myself (for networking purposes), but I had to hone each skill and adapt it to being an entrepreneur. Perhaps the most important skill I had to learn was how to be a business partner, even though my partner is my husband. When you work alone, it’s very easy to lose track of the need to collaborate and consult with someone else. I had worked alone in my own PR business prior to opening WHPR with my husband, so that was an important lesson to learn.

    What career advice do you have for job searchers who may be considering an entrepreneurial path?  Be sure, if you become an entrepreneur, to give yourself lots of free time away from your business. If you open an office in your home and you’re by yourself, make dates to get out and meet people every day, or at least three times a week. Be sure to access networking opportunities. Join networking groups and remember it takes a good two years before most networking pays off.

    Anything else you would like to share? Have fun!

  • 06 Jan 2011 6:36 PM | Anonymous

    By Janet Civitelli

    This blog post continues my series about reluctant entrepreneurs who created successful businesses after they couldn't find jobs. This interview is with Eric B. Heinbockel, Managing Partner, Chocomize.

    Eric, please share with us your job search experience before you decided to launch a company. During this time I worked as an unpaid intern at a structured finance firm in New York. I was offered three jobs during the year I spent looking but all were commission based with little or no base salary. I was interviewing for these jobs in the fall of 2008, and I interviewed on the days that Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers went under.

    After you couldn't find a full-time job, what did you do? I helped to co-found Chocomize, the first mass customization/co-creation chocolate company in the United States. Customers create their own custom chocolate bars by selecting their base Belgian chocolate (dark, milk, or white) and then adding up to five ingredients from a selection of over 100. Ingredients range from fruits and nuts to 23 karat gold flakes and even beef jerky.

    That sounds delicious! How did you survive financially while you started your business? We survived financially during the earliest stages of our startup by keeping our spending and costs down and figuring out creative inexpensive ways of spreading the word about our new and unique company. This meant taking full advantage of social media and pitching our story to journalists at as many and varied publications as possible. As a result, we became profitable after four months, and we have been featured in Oprah Magazine, CNN.com, Costco Connection Magazine, and many others.

    How does your current income compare to your previous income? While we are not getting rich yet (we are re-investing most of our profits), getting a paycheck at all is an improvement from my previous predicament.

    What skills and previous experience were you able to bring to your business that help you to succeed? The three skills that I think have proven to be very useful in running our business are critical/analytical thinking skills, writing skills, and sales skills. The first two I think were mostly developed during college. I developed sales skills through several jobs and internships.

    What is the best part about running your business? The best part about running my own business is that there are constantly new challenges that come from a wide variety of sources. Every day there is a new issue or opportunity that needs to be addressed, which makes things more exciting. I am not solving the same old problem with a formula; therefore, the job is never boring.

    What is the most challenging part about running your company? The most challenging thing about running my own business is also what makes it interesting. The variety of issues that come up often puts us outside our comfort zone. In order to become successful and hold our own in negotiations we have had to learn about other industries in our supply chain. An example is learning the language and process of cardboard packaging manufacturing. It can be difficult to constantly learn enough about other industries to make sure we get exactly what we want at a fair price.

    What new skills did you need to learn to be a successful entrepreneur? I think I have had to learn more organization and time management skills than I previously had. We always have a variety of very different tasks and issues to deal with simultaneously. This demands organization in order to get everything done properly and on time.

    What career advice do you have for job searchers who may be considering an entrepreneurial path? The career advice I would offer for those considering their own startup as an alternative to a traditional career is to recognize that there is a great deal of risk associated with starting your own company, and those risks are increased as the economy is in recession. In my case, however, the risk wasn't as great because I had no job to give up. The other thing is that once you begin your own business, it is a constant part of your life. While you may be able to take off certain times and work on your own schedule, your work will always be there and often needs to be taken care of during times that, in your previous job, you could leave the work at the office. In most cases if you don't do it, no one else will, either, when you are first starting out. This means in most cases you will be working more hours than you did at your previous job. Don't start a business if you have a romantic fantasy that being your own boss means you can come and go as you please.

  • 01 Dec 2010 6:38 PM | Anonymous

    By Janet Civitelli

    Lindsay Barron was an unemployed teacher who was first challenged by the stress of substitute teaching and then by temp firms where she was told, "You have no skills." Lindsay decided to shape her own career destiny by launching The Whole Child Learning Company, which provides enrichment services for young children (age 2-5) in child care centers, preschools and other venues. Read my interview below about Lindsay's journey to successful entrepreneurship.

    Lindsay, what type of career did you have before you launched your business? I was a Title 1 Preschool Teacher in Roanoke City Public Schools.  This was my first job out of college, and I taught for three years until my husband accepted a new position with his company that required us to relocate. I absolutely loved teaching preschool and hated to leave my job, but we believed that his career needed to take precedence as his earning potential in his field was greater and we thought that I could teach anywhere.

    Describe the circumstances of your job loss, how long you looked for a job, and how your job search went. I resigned my position when we moved to Pennsylvania (in 1996). I had several months to prepare and I applied for certification in Pennsylvania and sent in for all the required clearances, fully expecting to have all my paperwork in order in time for the summer hiring season in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the required FBI clearance did not come back until late September so my application was considered incomplete, and I was ineligible to be hired. Even if I had a complete application, I doubt that I would have gotten a job because the area where I lived (Chester County Pennsylvania) and some of the surrounding counties had a very competitive hiring environment. These districts paid very well and teachers did not leave their jobs willingly -- there was a recession going on at that time. I began substitute teaching, which I found very stressful. I was still hopeful of getting a position for the next academic year and substitute teaching can be a great way to get to know principals and develop a good reputation. I was always anxious to do a good job and make a good impression; however, you never knew what you would face each day when you walked into a strange classroom and if you would have a good day or a horrible day. Little things are not in your control. For example, a teacher might leave needed materials under a pile of papers, making them impossible to find, and then you look incompetent. I became discouraged with the substitute teaching route and decided to try temp work. This was even more discouraging because when I took the typing test and other evaluations I was informed, “You have no skills.” At this point I began thinking about doing something on my own working with young children.

    Please tell us more about The Whole Child Learning Company. We have four programs: GiggleBytes computer classes, Little Amigos Spanish classes, BusyBodies movement fitness and health, and Great Minds. The first three programs are full service specialty instruction that child care centers do not have the expertise, staff, or budget to offer on their own. The classes provide a convenience for busy working parents who don’t want to add another activity in the evenings or on weekends. Great Minds, our newest program, is an in home customized tutoring service for children age 4 to college age. We have expanded through franchising and have 35 franchises in various states.

    How did you survive financially while you started your business?  We were fortunate that our business model is very low overhead. As a home based business, we do not require a retail location, or even commercial office space. Our classes are offered on site in existing locations of child care centers, preschools and private schools. Startup costs were relatively low as it was mostly just the cost of a computer and software, and the model also allowed us to begin generating revenue as soon as classes were started in a location. In the beginning, I would get schools started and teach them myself. Then, as we found additional locations to offer our services, I would hire a teacher to replace myself and I would develop a new schedule of 5-7 locations, then hire another teacher, etc. We were aggressive about marketing our program to the venues that could offer our services, and we focused on our quality.  We were very motivated, especially after my husband, Matt, quit his job and we decided to move to Texas for both of us to pursue our business full time. It was very much a feeling of sink or swim. We were relying totally on ourselves, and we had burned our bridges so failure was not an option.  It was scary, but we were totally focused. We used credit cards to see us through until we were able to replace our former income within a few months.

    How does your current income compare to your previous income? Everyone knows that teachers don’t do the job for the money – the pay is relatively low compared to other professional fields. I definitely make more money as an entrepreneur than I would as a public school teacher but I’m still able to work with children and be a positive influence in their lives.

    What skills and previous experience were you able to bring to your business that is helping you to succeed? My professional background as an educator definitely helped me relate to the directors of the child care centers. I was also able to develop quality curricula and programs and parents really recognize the benefit of this.

    What is the best part about running your business? I love the fact that our business has a positive influence on people’s lives. The children who participate in our classes benefit from quality programs and learning important skills and concepts. The teachers who teach our classes benefit from a position that is a great lifestyle fit for the right person. All of our teaching positions are part time because of the nature of the preschool day -- the kids nap for two hours in the middle of every day. We usually hire teachers who have left the public school system, often after they have children themselves and they want to work part time and be paid well for their time but still want to be able to pick the kids up from school or be home when they get off the bus. Our franchisees benefit from the opportunity to become entrepreneurs and build their own businesses. They can develop incomes that exceed the average income for most public school teachers and they can have more freedom and control over their time.

    What is the most challenging part about running your company? The franchisee/franchisor relationship can be challenging. The franchisor has a mentoring role as well as something of an authority figure role. Additionally, it is important to serve the needs of your franchisees. Although the franchisor tells the franchisee what to do and how to do it, the franchisee is also, in a sense, a client or customer as they have purchased a business, so it can be a balancing act.

    What new skills did you need to learn to be a successful entrepreneur? I had to learn to do sales. As a teacher I never anticipated or wanted to do any kind of sales. I can remember sitting in my car outside child care centers working up my courage to go in and speak with the director. I’m really a fairly shy person and sales were very uncomfortable for me, but it was necessary and I learned to do it, and even enjoy it. The feeling of completing a successful sales call and establishing new business is fantastic! I also had to learn to delegate and to be an effective supervisor or boss -- these are skills that I’m still working on!

    What career advice do you have for job searchers who may be considering an entrepreneurial path? Do lots of research. Research your market and especially your competitors. Don’t let competition scare you off of a good idea -- if someone else is successful running a business then there is usually room for someone else who can do it better or at a lower price. You have to be careful to fully understand your costs so that you don’t put yourself into a situation where you can’t make a profit. When you start a business, your passion, enthusiasm and commitment can give you an edge in providing excellent service which can help develop loyal customers or clients. Expect to work hard in your startup phase. Starting a business is like having a newborn – it is 24/7 and all-consuming in the beginning.

    Anything else you would like to share? I would not accept a salaried job now even if I were offered one, and neither would Matt. We are really excited about the future of the company! Through the economic downturn, we saw a decline in franchise sales, which was not surprising and reflected the overall trend in franchising nationwide among all kinds of franchised businesses. However, our revenue from class tuition did not decrease. While almost nothing is truly a “recession proof” business, parents seem to be willing to reduce costs in other areas in order to provide educational opportunities for their children. We are making some changes to our structure to make our franchise more accessible including selling our four separate programs as stand-alone franchises rather than a bundled package. The cost for a single program unit will be lower than our current model and franchisees can have the option of adding an additional program for flexibility in their markets. With many new teachers unable to find jobs and other experienced teachers taking early retirement packages, we believe this will result in lots of new territories being established. It is a great opportunity for those teachers.

  • 10 Oct 2010 6:40 PM | Anonymous

    By Janet Civitelli

    Today's blog post continues my series of interviews with people who started businesses after a career challenge. I am excited to tell the story of coffee entrepreneur Forrest Graves from JumpinGoat Coffee Roasters.

    Forrest, what type of career did you have before you launched your business? I was a Business Consultant for a well-known Fortune 5 company. I was part of a broad team that sold capital equipment to the print industry. My career has spanned sales, marketing, and sales operations.

    Describe the circumstances of your job loss, how long you looked for a job, and how your job search went. I was laid off along with countless others in response to the economic downturn of October, 2008, with my employment actually ending the day after Christmas, 2008. I was seeing job openings after I got word, but to me, the jobs were actually false indications of opportunity because I was also seeing "hiring freezes," a steady rise in unemployment, and fewer "new postings." While I kept looking for several months, I was more aggressive in deploying my plan "B"...to hang out my own shingle. While I searched and considered my options, I simply felt a knowing that I would be better off to do my own thing. 

    Please tell us about the business you started. Our flagship business, JumpinGoat, is coffee and tea, but more specifically, it's coffee roasting. We purchase green coffee that comes from the 10 major coffee regions around the world...we roast it fresh, and we sell it via retail, wholesale, and over the internet. It's a very exciting time for our business, and due to an overwhelming response we are currently developing a JumpinGoat license business opportunity. The most unique aspect of our coffee shop business plan is that we don't actually vend coffee by the cup. When they come into our store in Helen, GA, we offer our patrons a free cup of specialty gourmet coffee. Our business model success is driven by the simple fact that customers can brew at home for much less than they pay for a cup of coffee at big box retail. 

    How did you survive financially while you started your business? I was raised in the country, and subsequently I was taught some pretty basic values about self-reliance and survival. I was taught that survival is largely about good planning, tools, and resources. Community is also a great thing. For instance, with barn-raising, if you help raise a barn when you yourself don't need help, more than likely when you need help to raise your own barn, you will get the help you need. I also get a lot of inspiration about survival from observing nature. Even a squirrel will bury nuts for a hard winter and that behavior is innate. I cannot imagine a squirrel trying to outsmart Mother Nature, meaning, since we cannot possibly know the future, it's best to be well prepared.

    How does your current income compare to your previous income? I was at six figures prior to starting JumpinGoat, but I was way underpaid and even more underutilized at my former job. I don't fault anyone for that; it’s just an unfortunate fact and a testament to me of how easily large corporations can lose sight of what's important to people. My passion and income are now fueled with the truth that I'm actually building something sustainable. I am now the benefactor of a few additional streams of income: a better "work life balance," freedom to make my own mistakes and failures, and the notion that there is no cap on my financial well-being. JumpinGoat outperformed my previous income after only six months in business.

    What skills and previous experience were you able to bring to your business that help you to succeed? Perhaps my most appreciable skill is listening. My wife may disagree, but when I'm not waiting to hear myself speak, I can be one of best listeners on the planet. I also love people, too, and I'm experienced with dealing with people. I fashion myself a pretty good life observer of sociology. I think when you put that together with hard work, execution, and the ability to envision what success actually looks like, you have a fair chance to realize your own rendering of success.

    What is the best part about running your business? When I see the customers happy, I'm at peace. If a happy customer tells someone about our products and that customer also became happy, I'm ecstatic. If that second person tells someone, and they also become happy, at that point, I have reached one of my most important business goals. I'm not sure I can describe how that makes me feel, but it's really, really good!

    What is the most challenging part about running your company? Bridling growth. I am always balancing top line revenue with bottom line cost while scaling the business. It's easy to want it all, but it's not sustainable or practical.

    What new skills did you need to learn to be a successful entrepreneur? I reached an appreciable level of success as a person and in business when I learned how to "execute." I fundamentally believe this is one of the most important skills an entrepreneur can have. Without execution, all you have are perhaps a few ideas, or worse yet, unrealized ambition and dreams.

    What career advice do you have for job searchers who may be considering an entrepreneurial path? The new paradigm in business, marketing, and web 2.0 is the social media revolution where everybody seems to be an expert. I've been in computing for perhaps 30 years...I'm a certified network technologist, and I believe that social media can be a huge gotcha for many people starting out in business. Don't operate with the belief that if you build it, they will come. Be cautious about search engine optimization and social media pitches. Instead, focus heavily upon "cost."  Controlling cost is one of the most important things you can do for a new business.  Don't start out with the notion that you need three rounds of funding to start your business. Instead, try to begin where you are, and where it's appropriate, to keenly identify your market and build your brand. Once you define your market and you have proven beyond any doubt that that there is a demand for your product or service and that people want to purchase your product or service, write a detailed "go to market strategy," and then execute! The free enterprise system is built around supply and demand, and it's best to validate both components before you engage in business.

    Anything else you would like to share? Yes, thank you for asking. I extend my sincere thanks for the opportunity to share with your readers. I appreciate the valuable contribution that you make in providing tools, resources, and community...it’s a valuable contribution. Keep up the great work!

  • 08 Oct 2010 4:55 PM | Anonymous

    By Kathleen Sullivan

    You are over forty and have decided to make a career change.  Whether your decision is based on your desire to pursue a dream or your need to find a new career due to a job loss, use these career change strategies to make your transition successful. 

    Vet your new career choice carefully: Choosing a new career can be exciting, filled with new possibilities and potential.  Rather than be carried away by the romance of a new career, be wise and vet your career choice carefully. Typically, a career change involves transitioning both to a new role and to a new industry.  Before making a move, thoroughly investigate the new role and the new industry you are targeting.  First, learn as much as you can about the role and the industry.  Conduct research using career exploration websites for information about required skills, occupational outlook, career paths, and salaries. Two of these career websites are:  www.onetcenter.org and www.jobstar.org. Speak with practitioners in the field.  Identify people who currently hold your desired position and work in your target industry and ask for an informational meeting to discuss qualifications, trends, compensation, and career entry. Gather additional insights and information by attending professional meetings and industry or trade association conferences.  A key focus of these organizations is to support the development and advancement of individuals in that specific field or industry.

    Next, assess your current qualifications for your desired position. To evaluate how you would measure up for this position, look for an example of your target position on a company web site or job board.  Review the key competencies, level of experience, and results expected. Do you have the transferable experience and skills to meet the criteria for this role?  If not, what kind of knowledge and training will you need to meet those requirements?  Is there is a sizeable gap in your knowledge and skills?  If so, how much time and money would it take to bridge these gaps? Also, get an expert opinion on how a hiring manager would perceive your qualifications for this position by speaking with recruiters for this profession or industry.  Would they see you as a viable candidate?  If yes, ask how you would market yourself effectively for the position.  If not, ask if there are alternative paths for you to make a transition to this role or industry.

    Use multiple methods to assess your career choice.  Be realistic in determining your strengths and weaknesses to make this change.  In some cases, you may have to pause and revise your career target. As you vet your career target, you will discover risks involved with pursuing your goals.  These risks usually are to your current professional status, reputation, and compensation.  To make a successful career change after 40, you may have to make a lateral career move or take a step back, sacrifice your current standing and become an unknown in a new field, or accept a lower salary or fewer benefits. Are you willing to undergo these risks for the possibilities of new rewards and new challenges?  If not, you may wish to reconsider making this change. If yes, you can minimize the professional and financial risks. 

    Assess the value you would bring to the new role and industry.  Just because you are making a transition, you do not leave the knowledge, experience, and results you have achieved behind.  Develop a value proposition for your new career and communicate how you can contribute your current assets to impact your new role and industry. 

    Put your new career to the test: How do you know whether you will really enjoy or fit in with your target career?  You have conducted research and spoken with people in that role and industry and evaluated the risks, but next you must put your choice to the test. There are several ways to test out your new career choice:  a part-time job, job shadowing, an internship or apprenticeship, or contract or consulting work.  All of these options provide the opportunity to evaluate your target career while contrasting it to your current career.  The benefits of testing out your new career are that you can learn the expectations, meet the people, try out your skills, and experience the environment, while maintaining the security of your current career. If you enjoy the test experience, you have further validation that you are making the right choice and can move forward with transitioning to your new career.

    Build a new professional network: Your current professional network has helped you to get you to where you are now, but you will need to build a new professional network to support your career transition.  First, create the framework for that new network:  who are the key people who could offer advice and assistance in moving you towards your target career?  These key people would include:  professional and industry experts, business and organizational leaders, future colleagues, consultants, and vendors.  You can identify key people by participating in professional and industry and trade organizations, reading business, professional, and trade periodicals, and reviewing social networks and blogs. Once you have a list of key people, use networking and informational meetings to ask for introductions to these people.  Initially, when you make contact with these key people, you will be asking for advice or an introduction to a company or hiring manager.  However, your longer term goal is to build a professional relationship with them.  Developing and maintaining a strong new professional network are critical to your career transition and to future opportunities.  

    Enlist a mentor: A mentor can champion your career change and open professional doors for you.  A mentor provides guidance and feedback as you navigate your new career path and then as you continue to move your new career forward.  He/she can assist you with networking, provide insights and information about your new career, make you aware of any pitfalls or politics, and support you in landing and executing new job assignments.  You can identify potential mentors from within your new professional network or take advantage of any formal mentorship programs available from professional and industry / trade organizations. You have an advantage in making a career change when you have a mentor. 

    Re-brand yourself: When you are making a career change, you are reinventing yourself.  To solidify your new professional identify and develop your new reputation, build a new brand.  Think of yourself as a new product that you are taking to market.  Define the key aspects of your product brand and communicate them through your presence, your written collateral like resumes and business cards, and online.  Create awareness of your brand by developing a marketing plan that conveys your value proposition.  Developing and communicating a strong brand will make you credible in your new career.   You can make a successful career change at 40+ if you are realistic, focused, and determined.  Six strategies to your success:  carefully evaluate your career choice, minimize risks, put your target career to the test, build a network for support, have a champion, and communicate an authentic brand.  Your dream can become reality.

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