How to Reinvent Yourself

How to Reinvent Yourself by Dr. Scott Yorkovich

Photo by Rhys Asplundh, Available at

You’re out of a job. You’ve quit or you were fired. Perhaps you were downsized. Whatever the case, what was yesterday is nothing like today. Now what? In our current economic climate, it’s not likely you will be able to go back to doing the same thing. You will have to reinvent yourself and go in a new direction. How?

The July 4, 2011 issue of Fortune presents a set of five, short case studies of people who have reinvented themselves and pursued new careers. There are some nuggets of wisdom in these case studies and I want to present them here.

David Kahn was once a Blockbuster franchise owner, but we all know what Netflix and Internet-based video have done to that business. Driving a Hummer and living in a mansion, Kahn and his family were accustomed to a rather comfortable lifestyle. However, a good dose of humility allowed him to shed these trappings and begin the reinvention process. Kahn was keenly aware of his expertise – franchise business, not videos. He also had a supportive family and a deep-seated belief that he would be able to succeed with this reinvention.

Mike Merrill had a career in IT sales with powerhouses such as Intel, Dell, and NetApp. He was the victim of a recession pink slip, but Merrill had resilience. He went immediately to LinkedIn to start networking for a new position. He also educated himself on the latest social networking trends and made himself an expert.

Mae Tai O’Malley was a lawyer and dotcom exec who rode a very high wave until the wave crashed along with the rest of the dotcom industry in 2000. She was desperate to keep her job, but the offer that was given to her, a contract legal position, proved to be the beginning of a new wave. She took advantage of that opportunity combining it with creating her own advantage through innovative approaches and established a new sub-specialty in the legal industry.

Tom Murray started in HR and was director of strategic development and communication for Magnolia Audio Video until Best Buy moved the former standalone business in house. Murray was out. He leveraged his ability to analyze problems and re-branded himself by finding the intersection of his passions and his experience. His reality-based self-analysis revealed that he was best at helping people solve organizational problems using technology.

Paul Levine was a mystery writer whose career depended on Amazon. When Amazon launched the royalty-killing “Buy Used” feature in February 2010, Levine’s career took a nosedive. His professional experience and keen understanding of market trends and futures, though, helped him reinvent himself as an e-book writer, publisher, and marketer.

Each of the individuals profiled above were successful with their reinvention. You’ll have to go read the Fortune article to find out what the specific results were. The results are not the point here. HOW to reinvent yourself is the point.

What can we learn from these profiles?

  • David Kahn was humble, keenly aware of his true skills, had a supportive family, and a deep belief in his own future success.
  • Mike Merrill demonstrated resilience and persistence as he self-educated himself on an important new trend in the market.
  • Mae Tai O’Malley took advantage of opportunities while simultaneously innovating an important new segment to her industry.
  • Tom Murray was able to assess his passions and his experience to find the perfect combination uniquely fit for him.
  • Paul Levine took advantage of what he knew about his industry to make sense of important new directions and technologies.

Sometimes I wish there was a personal reinvention formula we could all use. On the other hand, that might make it too easy. Hard things produce the best results. Reinventing yourself is hard. I also do not think that all of the experiences for these five individuals will work for any one person. Nevertheless, reading the experiences of others provides insight into how you should go about your own reinvention.

I have a parting challenge for you: Don’t wait to reinvent yourself until you need to. Start now.

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