Career Makeovers & Inspiration

Do You Need an Innovation Coach?

July 12th, 2010

Written by Pamela Skillings

Could a coach help you tap into your inner genius? Check out my recent post on futurethinktank about the value of innovation coaching.

The futurethinktank blog is brought to you by futurethink, an innovation research and training firm that helps companies put the principles of innovation into practice on a daily basis.

futurethink has also been a partner and client of mine for more than five years now. I highly recommend their innovation research and tools (many are free).

Independence Day and the 9 to 5 Jail

July 6th, 2010

Written by Pamela Skillings

Macy's July 4th fireworksHere in New York, it’s a 100-degree Tuesday after the three-day July 4th weekend. It’s the kind of day that makes many a sweaty corporate commuter long for a different way of life.

If you’re thinking about declaring your independence from Corporate America, check out my new interview with Devesh Dwivedi over at Breaking the 9 to 5 Jail for some advice and inspiration. Devesh is a man very passionate about helping entrepreneurs find the resources and information that they need and his site features lots of great interviews with entrepreneurs and experts.

Today, I’m working from the air-conditioned comfort of my home office. However, I spent my July 4th fighting my way through angry, overheated crowds of New Yorkers to view the spectacular Macy’s fireworks from the Circle Line pier. It was totally worth the struggle. Check out our photos.

Corporate Escape Story — From BP Exec to Renewable Energy Leader

June 22nd, 2010

Written by Pamela Skillings

This is a fascinating corporate escape story from Fast Company.

Cynthia Warner was the head of global refining for British Petroleum and a 28-year oil industry veteran. She left BP in 2008 to become president of Sapphire Energy, a company working  to produce renewable “green crude” from algae grown in open pools in the New Mexico desert.

Read Cynthia Warner’s career change story.

From CEO to Part-Time Teacher

May 9th, 2010

Written by Pamela Skillings

Everybody loves a good rags to riches story, but you don’t often see a riches to rags tale with a happy ending.

That’s why a recent article by CNN Money contributor Josh Hyatt caught my eye last week. The piece is about Gary Buslik, who left his successful alarm company to go back to school at age 50 to become a literature professor.

Today, Buslik makes just $13,500 per year as a part-time teacher and author, but says, “I’ve never regretted my decision.”  The man loves literature more than loot.

How can you follow a similar path to pursue your passion? Well, it helps if you can build and sell a multimillion dollar company before switching to that lower-paying job. Buslik also offers some other tips to career changers — he recommends conservative investments and frugal living.

So, yeah, Buslik obviously had some advantages. Most of us don’t have a seven-figure safety net when we switch careers. However, Buslik took risks just the same. He risked leaving his comfort zone as a 50-year-old company CEO and long-time rich guy to become a student again in a classroom full of 23-year-olds.  And I’m sure all of the other big alarm biz players made jokes about ol’ Gary not being able to hack the high-pressure life.

You often hear wealthy people pontificate about how money isn’t important. But you don’t see many of them selling their companies to live on less than $15K/year for love of Shakespeare.

For this, Gary Buslik, I salute you.

Attention Career Changers: Free Makeover and 15 Minutes of TV Fame

November 10th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

makeoversalonA major women’s magazine is working on a TV special and looking for a career changer who could use a makeover to update your look, boost your confidence, and wow them at your next interview or meeting.

If you’re a woman between the ages of 25 and 45 and currently searching for work, you could get a makeover from a dream team including a top NYC stylist and colorist, professional  makeup artist, and fashion stylist.

If you’re interested in this makeover opportunity,  send an e-mail to by November 15th, 2009 with your name, address, e-mail, phone number, age, and dress size. Please also include two photos (one full-length and one head shot) in your e-mail. Candidates need to live in the New York City area or be willing to travel to NYC at their own expense.

The makeovers will take place in late January and be featured in a spring 2010 TV special.

Time for a Career Break? Your Sabbatical Guide

November 3rd, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

stepssabbaticalperuHave you ever fantasized about quitting your job to travel the world? Maybe you don’t have to wait until retirement to experience the joys of the wanderer’s life.

I wrote about the benefits of career breaks in Escape from Corporate America and I recently had the opportunity to meet some experts on the subject of how to take a successful sabbatical.

Corporate escape artist Sherry Ott and her partners run a fantastic web site called Briefcase to Backpack — it includes valuable advice on asking for and planning a sabbatical and inspiring stories from people who have taken career breaks.

Before trekking off to Nepal on her latest jaunt, Sherry asked me to provide some advice for corporate types who are thinking about taking a career break. Check out the articles on how to know when it’s time for a career break and the very real benefits of taking a break before changing jobs.

You should also check out the Briefcase to Backpack tips on planning your career break — you’ll find everything from destination advice to packing guidelines and more.

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Career Advice from The Rachel Zoe Project

October 13th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

taylorrachelzoeshowOkay, so I have been known to watch The Rachel Zoe Project. Don’t judge me. I can’t really tell you why I find it fascinating as I am pretty much a fashion idiot and most of the “characters” on the show are really annoying.

Maybe it’s because the show has proven to be a fount of fabulous and cutting-edge career advice in action.

For example, let’s look at Taylor’s genius strategy for getting promoted from her role as Rachel’s assistant to become the head of “branding” for Rachel Zoe Inc. (I’m not convinced Taylor knows exactly what branding means, but the girl had a goal and she went for it).

Here’s Tay-Tay’s  step-by-step process that is sure to help you score a promotion too:

1) Get a job working for a boss who has her own reality show.

2) Complain constantly about how hard you’re working and how mistreated you are (you are ABOVE unpacking boxes, damnit).

3) Belittle your boss and her clients (you are ABOVE photo shoots and fashion shows, damnit).

4) When summoned to a company meeting, refuse to remove your sunglasses and smirk and giggle when the new CEO speaks (you are above your boss’ husband and his weird haircut, damnit).

5) Accept promotion!

You see how easy that was? Ba-na-nas.

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Career Advice from Walt Disney

September 21st, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

Mickey Mouse
Image by J.E.S. via Flickr

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

“If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.”

– Walt Disney

The young Walt Disney’s first business went bankrupt, but he didn’t give up on his dreams.

After returning to Kansas City after a stint as an ambulance driver during World War 1, Disney worked as a draftsman and inker in commercial art studios before starting his own small studio with a partner. The two made short advertising films for local businesses with a second-hand camera while working on their animation passion projects on the side.

Unfortunately, the company ran out of money after  a deal with a New York film distributor went sour and Walt was forced to declare bankruptcy  in 1923.

Despite this blow to the ego, Walt packed up his latest unfinished animation project and moved to California to mooch $250 from his brother Roy and set up shop with him in their uncle’s garage. Soon they were generating some  cash flow from producing short animated featurettes for Hollywood.

In 1928, Walt came up with the idea for Mickey Mouse. Mickey’s first film appearance in Steamboat Willie (1928) was a sensation. However, due to the costs of producing animated films, the business was “continuously in peril” for years.

Eventually, the money started rolling in. However, Disney went on to risk it all several times over the course of his career. He credited his early failure with giving him the strength to take big risks, which paid off in big rewards over the course of Disney’s very big career.

So if you have big talent and a big dream, but have been kicked in the teeth by the current economy, remember Disney’s advice. That kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you and if you can dream it, you can do it.

Read more about the life and career of Walt Disney.

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Daring Tales of Corporate Escape — Sherry Ott, World Traveler

August 10th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

sheryottboatHave you ever dreamed about ditching the daily grind to start a new life on the other side of the planet? Sherry Ott was living the Sex in the City lifestyle as an IT executive in New York, but gave it all up to travel the globe and pursue her passions.

Sherry took a career break to re-evaluate her life and see the world. Today, three years later, she’s a teacher, photographer, and writer based in Vietnam. She’s also a blogger who  started a website to help other corporate casualties plan career breaks to recharge their batteries and/or explore new directions.

If you’re a nomad at heart or just feeling stuck in a rut, Sherry’s story might just inspire you to start packing your bags.

1) Tell us a little bit about your corporate career path.
I worked in IT Management positions for 14 years.  It was a career that I kind of  fell into thanks to timing and a few good breaks.  I studied accounting and business (MBA), then took an accounting job when I graduated in 1992 (yes, I’m old) .  Thanks to timing, I ended up doing computer training work since I was the only person at my company who had any familiarity with PC’s, networks, and Windows 3.1 (remember – it was 1992).  Hence, my IT career was launched.

I moved from job to job, state to state; always climbing the corporate ladder.  More responsibility, better titles, more money…more headaches.  Soon I was a in a senior leadership position at a large international retailer in New York City, running a department of project managers, analysts, and developers.  Everything a fashionista career girl would ever want — right?  I had the Sex in the City lifestyle; career, social life, free samples, money, a great apartment, and no one to think about but myself.

2) What made you decide to change careers?
As my career responsibilities grew, so did my stress and unhappiness.  I looked back at my career and wondered “How did I end up here? “   I enjoyed using technology, but I didn’t LOVE bits and bytes.  At the same time, the IT world was changing so fast that I never felt I could keep up with it, which left me feeling completely insecure in my own abilities.  No one wants to go to work in a high-powered job feeling insecure — it’s a recipe for disaster.

Looking back, I realize that I  was investing all of my emotions and time in my job because I really had no where else to put it.  It’s not that I ever wanted to be married or have kids.  However, like many single people, I developed a disproportionate attachment to my job as I didn’t have any other place to put my passion.  The problem is that a job never loves you back — it’s an unhealthy relationship.

So I was 36 years old, living a life most people would want, and I was completely burned out.  The stress was no longer worth the salary. read more…

Scott Jordan — SeV Founder on Escaping from Corporate America

June 30th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

Scott Jordan is the founder and CEO of SCOTTEVEST/SeV, the company behind the gadget-friendly clothing line that has earned rave reviews from everyone from The New York Times to Matthew McConaughey. SeV’s vests, jackets, and pants include hidden pockets to hold all of your technology devices and conceal and manage the wires — perfect for tech geeks on the go (including Steve Wozniak, who is on SeV’s advisory board).

But back in the 1990’s, Scott Jordan was a miserable corporate lawyer with a wild idea and no experience in clothing design or manufacturing. He took a a risk and walked away from a lucrative and predictable career path to start SeV and pursue his dream.

In this clip from a 2000 episode of Radical Sabbatical (the late and lamented program that ran briefly on the Fine Living Network), Scott shares his escape story and offers a glimpse into his life as a new entrepreneur.

read more…