`Do Something Each Day'

MASSACHUSETTS

`IT was scary. Unemployment, with no money coming in."

The words are Joanna Fairchild's, as she recalls the spate of joblessness she experienced in the current recession.

"I completely misread the economy," she says, referring to her decision to leave a secure position with a large, international company here in the Boston area, Reebok International Ltd., to strike out on her own. She had signed a six-month contract as a public relations expert for a nonprofit company, the Museum of Science.

But when the job ended, "there was nothing there," says the single mother of two daughters, one in college the other in high school. It was the first time in her life she had to face unpaid bills.

"For six months I looked everywhere." What she realized was that white-collar middle management was very expendable. "I took whatever job anybody wanted me to do, from a day, to three months, to monthly retainer," she says. Then, she realized that "I had to think about what I did and then sell it. I realized I could make a living on my own doing public relations and public affairs consultant work," she says.

She started her own "small but growing" public relations company in Boston (she has three clients). She is also vice president of Directional Marketing, another small, Boston-based public relations firm.

The low point came for Ms. Fairchild when she considered having to sell her house and move back in with her parents. "This was unacceptable," she says. She found she couldn't even refinance her home because she couldn't show any income. It was family support that helped her get through the hard times and keep up the mortgage payments.

"Maybe it was more easy for me to be vulnerable than a man," she says, "but I called on every contact I had."

She is emphatic about one thing: Do something each day.

Join committees or volunteer at nonprofits if necessary, "at least you'll have an office and a phone you might be able to use," she says. "You have to be willing to lick the envelope and walk to the post office." Volunteering helps you meet new people so that you are not solely dependent on old contacts and friends to network with, she adds.

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