It’s true that some people have a hard time getting off a certain career track. If you’ve been in marketing for 20 years and you want to reinvent yourself toward public health, it can be hard to get employers to connect the dots.
But it can be done. Transferring your skills to an entirely new industry takes energy, enthusiasm, determination, initiative and an ego that can stay out of the way. That’s how Barbara Scala of Westbrook, Connecticut has reinvented herself over and over again.
When I first met Barbara about a decade ago, she was a disenchanted attorney who was dabbling in her family real estate business and itching for something a lot more. I helped her think and move outside of her attorney box by finding her an internship at a small television production company.
In a matter of days Barbara transformed herself from staid attorney tied to a desk to a creative stylist running in many directions to find props for shoots on home organization and decor.
Since the TV stint, Barbara has held many other titles that have nothing to do with the legal profession and jump from one industry to another. This is the timeline of how her resume twists and turns:
- Residential real estate broker
- Assistant to prominent psychologist, television personality and author
- Co-author of book focused on helping women lead balanced lives
- Founder of large networking community promoting women’s empowerment
- Certified life coach
- Sales for a luxury travel company
- Business development manager for conference and retreat center
Each step of the way, Barbara could have been stopped by “Well, you have no experience in television”—or psychology, or writing a book, or building a networking community or helping people plan vacations, or booking events for a busy conference center. But she never let potential employers put up a blockade—and instead convinced them that she has the energy and enthusiasm to dive in, learn and add value from Day One.
When I asked Barbara how she really pulled this all off, she said it’s all about inner strength and confidence. In most cases she had at least 75 or 80% of what a potential employer needed and she knew she could professionally wing the rest. She was always very clear about her multi-faceted skill set and did a good job of conveying:
“These are the skills that make me who I am, and I actually can be many different things.”
There’s no doubt that creative thinkers like Barbara have an easier time with reinvention. She landed her current role at the Mercy Center in Madison, CT because she has inexhaustible ideas about how to expand the type of meetings the center attracts. Long a popular place on the water for spiritual retreats, Barbara is moving the center toward more corporate, wedding and wellness clients—as well as devising events the center can sponsor on its own.
Though Barbara has had many successful reinventions, she has no trouble admitting that it has not always been easy. Looking back, she says that her need to be 101% in love with a job often meant giving up some of the compensation that would have assured a more comfortable life. In retrospect, she thinks she could have kept her hand in legal or real estate work as she was building new careers and compensation levels. She points out that moonlighting in a core career area can help you fund your next step:
“Don’t let go of your dream or your passion for reinvention, but know when you have to hang on to your bread and butter, too.” —KAS
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