Career Center

Reinventing Yourself for a New Century
by Greta E. Couper, Director of Alumni Career Services

With the emergence of a new information economy, you may want to reevaluate your career goals and strategies, and find that it may be worthwhile to develop new skills consider new lines of work. This doesn't mean you need to change completely. But now may be a good time to see if you're currently using all your skills and potential. By tapping into underused skills, you can reinvent yourself to become more successful and happier.

In this rapidly changing world, we can no longer think in terms of a single career, a single calling. The average professional today changes careers-not just jobs-three to five times over the course of a life. The internet has brought the global community closer together and opened up a wealth of new opportunities.

More than ever, this is a world of change, and change brings about potential and promise. The traditional security of a good job may no longer exist, but employees no longer need to stay stuck in an unfulfilling job in a rigid, hierarchical organization. Your personal success relies on your ability to adapt to new situations.

It's a good idea to have a career portfolio of at least three vocations. Start with the field you're currently working in. Then add two more that you think you'd enjoy. This means you may have three distinct résumés.

How would your experience translate into three fields? Write down projects and skills that you've used in previous jobs, and in your hobbies and volunteer activities. Now, sort them into the three areas matched to your career goals. On each résumé, emphasize those tasks that apply to the field.

Coming up with alternatives
Perhaps you're having trouble thinking of alternate vocations. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Talk to people in jobs you think you might want to do, and ask what they like best and least about their industry.
  • Obtain the names of alumni by industry using your alumni association directory.
  • Attend professional meetings and seminars, where you can get information on vocations and meet people employed in specific industries.
  • Take an evening course in a subject you want to explore. Talk with your classmates and ask about their experience and skills.
  • Ask yourself how you feel about a job or industry. Following your heart can lead to wonderfully creative jobs and personal connections.
  • When it comes time to look for a new job, be sure to set realistic goals. Be open to both necessity and opportunity. Jobs are usually found using three principles:
  1. Someone needs the service you are providing.
  2. The job is available
  3. You have the skills that are required
It's always better to work toward a job that is in demand. This can be a matter of timing. For example, ten years ago, after birth rates in the U.S. had declined, it was harder to find a job teaching; but today, with more children entering school, the demand is great. Careers that were once in short supply may become more plentiful as demand increases.

Read the job descriptions in the JobCast® e-mails from Cruel World and identify jobs that match your skills and interests.

To prepare for a new career, expand your current job to include a skill that you want to refine and add this skill to your job description. Not only will this make you more valuable to your employer, it may eventually allow you to transfer to another area within the same company or to take a new job in a new field.

Feeling too young . . . or too old?
This common concern doesn't have to be a real problem.

  • For younger workers, emphasize part-time, internship, and volunteer jobs to enhance your experience.
  • For older workers, remember that many industries value experienced people, including education, retirement and financial advising, counseling, and customer service. These industries seek mature people who can bring a sense of stability, calmness, and experience to the tasks.

Between Jobs?
To draw attention to yourself as a candidate, use a technique popular in sales and advertising-do something unique. Sure, respond to job listings that need your skills, but don't rely on these efforts alone.

  • Have a set of business cards printed with your contact information, including e-mail. In place of company and title, put the title you want to have, such as "Sales and Marketing Professional." Pass these cards out at social occasions, and let people know that you'd like to talk to employers needing your skills.
  • Write an article for a local newspaper. Request a tag line so that readers can contact you. Being published tells people in your field you have vital knowledge to share.
  • Give yourself a day off as a thank-you for your efforts. That means no job hunting. Do this so that you'll spend the other four weekdays working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the job search. On your day off, go to a museum, concert, beach, gym, lecture, or library. Be sure to take along those business cards.

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours." -- Thoreau

In today's professional world, it's not enough to simply have a dream. Because the world isn't static, your dream can't remain static. You must change course when necessary, and you may have to change professions. Throughout your life, you must always be ready to reinvent yourself-to change your job, your career, your calling.

Greta E. Couper, Ph.D., is director of Alumni Career Services at Pepperdine University.
She can be reached at