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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In fact, the whole notion of having a single career at any one time is giving way to the notion of having a portfolio of skills and jobs at the same time – "a slash career," as Ms. Alboher puts it, whose own résumé includes journalist/author/speaker. "The best approach for people seeking change is to start experimenting: exploring things that interest them through internships, classes, reading, and getting out into new worlds. The most successful career transitioners are those who build on what came before and end up with a custom-blended career."Skip to next paragraph
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After majoring in finance at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Brad Berkowitz spent 22 years as an analyst on Wall Street. But the constant stress, and eventually the lagging markets and slumping economy, became overwhelming. So when he was laid off by a hedge fund at the end of 2007, the inveterate football fan decided to leave Wall Street permanently and pursue something he had dreamed about for years – becoming a sports agent.
He took the exam required to represent National Football League players. As a newcomer, however, he found it hard to elbow his way into the business. So he has worked other jobs to help pay the bills. His tongue-in-cheek book, "The 21st Century Guide to Bachelorhood," is now being made into a screenplay. He has co-written a science-fiction thriller that's also being converted into a screenplay, and he is trying to get a nonfiction manuscript – about a former boxing champion who's now homeless – made into a documentary. All the while, he's been serving as co-president for two website businesses developed by his father-in-law.
Last April, Mr. Berkowitz got his breakthrough as a sports agent: representing a onetime star college football player who is likely to play offensive lineman for the Philadelphia Soul in the Arena Football League. This fall, he signed four more clients, and he also landed a coveted role as an independent contractor representing football players for Agency Athlete, a New York marketing company.
"I wish I had done this at age 22," he says. Being professionally involved with football "makes me much happier now."
Many people do abandon their cubicles because they want to, not because they are being forced to do something else. The BLS reports that, in normal economic times, the annual "quit" rate among American workers – those who voluntarily leave their jobs – runs at about 25 percent. That doesn't necessarily mean that one-quarter of the workforce turns over each year, since no one knows how many people might quit several times in a 12-month period.
Nevertheless, it suggests that the natural turnover rate remains relatively high, with one exception: People tend to cling to their jobs during recessions. In the depth of the most recent downturn, for instance, the quit rate dropped to 16 percent, according to the BLS.
In fact, a recent survey by Right Management, a unit of the employment services firm ManpowerGroup, suggests that by this standard the economy might be improving: In a poll of more than 1,000 employees this past fall, it found that a whopping 84 percent intended to seek a new position. Many people, apparently, don't like their jobs, or at least seem comfortable enough now to consider making a switch.
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