How to Reinvent Yourself

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Carole Hyatt is a bestselling author, motivational speaker and an expert on career development. She now heads The Leadership Forum, which will be celebrating its eighteenth anniversary in February. Hyatt, who has taught leadership skills in many countries, has had a lifelong commitment to mentoring women. We asked her to share some career advice withThirdAge.com. (To learn more about Carole's work, visit www.carolehyatt.org.)

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You are working with a lot of women in their 50s and 60s who have lost their jobs and still need or want to work. What advice do you give them?

I don't give advice. I look at skills a person has and how we can use those skills effectively and often in a new way. We all have so many skills and the key is to combine skill one with skill two and come up with a marketable skill three. In my own career, I had a background in children's theater and knew improvisation. I also was a good sales person. I and a partner who knew research began a research company about children that used improvisation. I brought in the clients and it was very successful. You know when pathways are new we tend to look as if the glass is half empty. But even though this is a difficult period for women I think the glass is half full.

Women at this stage often say they want to reinvent themselves. What do you need for a successful reinvention?

You have to know your passion.You have to know your purpose.Forty per cent of the people who move into the next big thing base that on a hobby they have had and loved. Others use a skill set that they didn't realize was valuable. For example, one woman in one of our workshops said she didn't have any particular skills but she was very, very neat. Well, now she has built a business organizing closets. .

Many women do want to start their own businesses at this time. What do you need to be an entrepreneur?

I think the best entrepreneurs are people who can sell. And under the person who can sell, you need someone with lots of ideas. Nowadays many women who are starting businesses get together with other women with different skills and they barter for their services the way people in vegetable markets at the end of the day may trade their onions for someone else's carrots. Sometimes women don't want to barter with others because it doesn't seem ladylike, but it is a great way to help start a business when you don't have enough capital.

You are a believer in the value of competition.

Absolutely. At first I thought I hated competition but .for eighteen years, I had a partnership with a wonderful woman .and we began to pace each other. I wrote a book, then she wrote a book and so I had to write two books. I brought in a client, so she brought in two clients and I wanted to bring in even more. It helped make us successful. Women are competitive about getting a man but we tend not to be competitive about business. But I suggest you get a pacer and you will find that competition can make you more creative and smarter. It can bring out the best in you.

Sometimes a woman can lose a really big job at this stage. What is the best way to cope?

You can rebuild confidence after this experience by getting together with others who have had a similar experience and exchanging information and working together as a team. New ideas and opportunities can come out of that. But, to be honest, it is very hard to replicate the big job. But you can still get another job or build a small business. You know we work for status, for money, for ego satisfaction. If you can get two out of three things from what you are doing, you have a rich life. Acquisitions do become less important. Look instead for purpose in your life and the ego satisfaction of knowing you are getting things done.

Myrna Blyth is editor-in-chief of ThirdAge.com

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