The job-shifters: people who reinvent themselves mid-career
How many professionals are creating second careers in an unforgiving economy? Meet six who did it successfully.
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It should come as no surprise that many people who reinvent their career make less money after the transition, especially if they've gone through a bout of unemployment during a downturn. For example, fewer than half of those who lost a job during the Great Recession were employed as of 2010, according to a recent study by Princeton University economist Henry Farber. Job losers who found new work typically earned 17.5 percent less per week than in their old jobs, much of that because they moved from full-time to part-time positions.Skip to next paragraph
Even job losers who found new full-time employment experienced on average an 11 percent decline in earnings (including earnings increases they would have enjoyed had they kept their original job). Some studies have detected a drop in earnings 20 years after layoffs. There are exceptions, of course, sometimes dramatic ones.
Mr. Blair remembers the lice. Before being put in a juvenile detention facility or joining a gang, he was living in a shed behind his sister's house. He had left home because his father, a former corporate vice president who Blair says became a drug addict, had accused him (erroneously) of stealing his gun collection and had threatened him. The shed was a haven; it was also infested with lice.
"It didn't matter how much I showered or what I tried to do to my hair to get rid of them – the next day they would be back," he writes in his new book, "Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain." "Finally, in an act of desperation to be rid of the lice, I decided to shave my head."
When school officials learned of his living arrangements, they confronted his mother and persuaded her to leave her husband. She got a tiny house in a gang-ridden neighborhood, which drew Blair into a life of shoplifting and fighting. But it also led to his mother finding a job, working her way up from deli clerk to department manager, and dating a customer who turned out to be a successful real estate entrepreneur. The entrepreneur's business and lifestyle began to show Blair that there were other, legitimate ways to get ahead. Eventually, the man would become his stepfather.
"Having a mentor is unequivocally the one thing that all the successful people I know have in common," Blair says. His stepdad gave him his first job. Blair left that to work in a call center for Logix Development Corp., a Camarillo, Calif., software developer; got transferred to its data center; and began to develop his fascination with computers. With a lot of hustle and by absorbing all he could by reading computer science books, he became supervisor, manager, then vice president, earning $100,000 a year. His career seemed set, except that Blair had bigger dreams.
Careers have a way of taking unexpected turns. When the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracked baby boomers born from 1957 through 1964, it found that they had changed jobs 10 times by the age of 44. The Great Recession seems to have scooped up a greater-than-normal share of careers and twisted their courses even more. In a survey last year by CareerBuilder, a job-listing firm, of 809 US workers who had been laid off and found new employment, more than half said their new jobs were in entirely different fields. Determining exactly how many times people change careers is tricky, since even small transitions can lead to big changes over time.
"Career change is an evolving process, not an instant transformation," says Marci Alboher, a former lawyer-turned-journalist and now author (her book, "One Person/Multiple Careers," will soon be released in digital form). "It's better to think about careers as living things that morph over time, adding layers as you grow and adding experiences, skills, and roles."