Second Acts

While it’s a scary time to lose a job or leave a job, it could be the perfect opportunity to reinvent yourself and do what you love for the rest of your life.



Mortgage manager to baker: Christoper Williams went from managing dough to making dough.

Photo by Martha Rial

(page 1 of 5)

There are two ways to remove a Band-Aid: a quick tug, a jolt of pain and then it’s off—the skin free to breathe. The other way is to peel it off by lifting a corner, little by little, uncovering the wound with tentative tenacity.

Some folks feel that jolt when sideswiped by a job loss trigged by layoff, reorganization or outright firing. Such a life-altering experience can be humiliating, frustrating and panic-inducing.

I wouldn’t wish these feelings on anyone, but there is a silver lining. When I lost an executive position, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Not realizing that at first, I mourned during my last few weeks at the job while I handed over projects.

My first job-free day was the first day of the month. With a resolution to “leave my baggage back in the month of January,” I dived into my new life. I’d long wanted to be home with my three daughters. And my freelance writing came to a halt because of my executive demands.

Within a week, I was doing yoga for the first time. I signed up for everything I could at my daughters’ school. I secured some writing assignments and blew the dust off of a novel. Our family hasn’t been this happy and organized in years. I acknowledge that, financially, we had to make adjustments, but it’s worth every penny.

Although it seemed like my Band-Aid was ripped off, I now realize I had been peeling it back for months. I knew I wasn’t happy and dreamed of a change, but I was chicken.

Movies, newspapers, columns and countless blogs around the world have covered the issue of job change and unemployment. Many are tinged with panic or depression—at best, gallows humor.

During the December 2010 Second City performance of In the End We All Die in Chicago, there was an improvisational piece that illustrated a wildly uncomfortable scene between a woman being fired and the man tasked with relaying the news. To avoid confrontation, he employed ironic euphemisms for “You’re fired”—“transitioning” or “reorganization”—that are an unfortunate addition to modern cultural vernacular.

The not-so-absurd performance clearly hit a nerve; the audience knowingly howled. The mere fact that one of the country’s most famous theaters would include a skit about the dry world of human resources is a sign of the times.

But you also can act as your own HR person by shucking entire professions and starting over. Maybe you gaze out your office window wishing you could sew instead of attending meetings. Perhaps you don’t know what you want to do, but you surely know you don’t want to do “this” any more. You’re not alone.

Patrick Ferraro, employer-relations coordinator for the Career Development Center (CDC) of Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS) of Pittsburgh, says that “the average American adult will have three to five careers in his or her lifetime.” That’s a long way from generations of steel workers or life-long employees who clocked in and out of, say, Nabisco for 30 years before retiring with a pension and gold watch.

Of the newly employed adults in our country, nearly 33 percent did not land in the same profession they left. Maybe it’s because they saw the writing on the wall and proactively jumped ship. For some, a layoff was the kick in the pants they needed to pursue another dream.

“There’s no real consistency regarding who’s switching: men, women, younger, older,” says Ferraro. “People are switching careers across the board. People switching careers essentially aren’t challenged anymore. Sometimes it’s that their career is consuming their life. Work-life balance is a major consideration as people look at their values and other factors.”

Search “job change” on the Internet, and you’ll find generations of disciples of Dick Bolles’s What Color Is Your Parachute?. The career-changers guide has been the bestseller in its genre for more than three decades, according to Amazon.com.

For those of you who have read it, you know that it’s the perfect place to start dreaming of something new. In 2011, it appears that the book’s dreamer quality of What if … has morphed into When ... .

Once I launched my second act, I set out to find other Pittsburghers who lost or quit jobs to start entirely new careers. It turns out that there are legions of us who either made lemons into lemonade or leapt out of careers with faith in our parachutes.

If I could make the change from nonprofit executive to writer, then surely anyone could land on his or her much-happier feet. Meet some who did just that. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to turn your situation into the life change you need.

Every time Christopher Williams, 44, pulls a perfect cake out of the oven, he feels a sense of accomplishment that he never felt when he was a mortgage broker. A mother of two young sons, Devon George, 46, invited her family members to her nursing-school graduation this year after making the jump from marketer to nurse. Both professionals took control of their vocational turn of events, taking job loss as a sign that they needed to pursue their dreams.

On the flip side are Frederick Thieman, 59, and Julie Lynn Lizotte, 35, who willingly left careers that weren’t as satisfying as they knew work could be. They’ve never looked back.

When these Pittsburghers lost their jobs or chose to leave their desks for new challenges, they all had a nervous tickle in their gut. But it’s their boldness to handle the bumps of transition with focus and determination that makes them noteworthy examples of what can be done when people take control of their destinies.
 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Is PUC Going Overboard With Its Punishment of Uber

Is PUC Going Overboard With Its Punishment of Uber

Governor Tom Wolf, Mayor Bill Peduto, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald say the PUC went too far when it fined the ride-sharing company $11.3 million.
The Story Behind This Epic Picture of Lightning Over Pittsburgh

The Story Behind This Epic Picture of Lightning Over Pittsburgh

Most people crawl deeper under the covers during a nighttime thunderstorm, photographer Dave DiCello does just the opposite.
Not Surprising: 'Burgh Among the Best for New College Grads

Not Surprising: 'Burgh Among the Best for New College Grads

According to a financial advising site, Pittsburgh is both affordable and a good place to find a job for those fresh out of college.
Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Hayes leaves KDKA TV after nearly 37 years with his legacy as one of the city's most respected, fair and accurate reporters – and his priceless sense of humor – firmly intact.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
The Eaglets Have Landed

The Eaglets Have Landed

The bald eagles nesting in Hays once again have given birth to a new generation. We take you into the nest to see how quickly the two chicks are growing.
Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Severino's follow-up to Cure is already winning national accolades.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Is PUC Going Overboard With Its Punishment of Uber

Is PUC Going Overboard With Its Punishment of Uber

Governor Tom Wolf, Mayor Bill Peduto, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald say the PUC went too far when it fined the ride-sharing company $11.3 million.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Umami Izakaya (Finally) Open in Lawrenceville

Umami Izakaya (Finally) Open in Lawrenceville

The much-anticipated Japanese pub from Tamari's Roger Li and Round Corner Cantina's Derek Burnell will serve food and drink deep into the night.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Digital Jukeboxes are Evil, Bar-Ruining Monsters

Digital Jukeboxes are Evil, Bar-Ruining Monsters

The case against TouchTunes, the streaming music loudspeaker that can't stop screwing up the vibe at local bars.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
A By-The-Numbers Draft Has Its Advantages For Steelers This Time

A By-The-Numbers Draft Has Its Advantages For Steelers This Time

For the Steelers, this is a draft that’s long on need but short on intrigue.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Off to the Races

Off to the Races

Want to shade yourself in style at Derby Day and the PNC Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Spring Hat Luncheon? Look no further.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Your Mother Deserves Better than This Awful Mother's Day Movie

Your Mother Deserves Better than This Awful Mother's Day Movie

Reviews of "Mother's Day," "Keanu," "Green Room" and local film news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Finding Sunshine on a Rainy Wedding Day in Pittsburgh

Finding Sunshine on a Rainy Wedding Day in Pittsburgh

You don’t always need blue skies and sunshine to have a beautiful and memorable wedding. One couple shares their advice on making the most of a rainy wedding day and what to do when the forecast is less than ideal.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
A Far From Ordinary House Tour in Wilkinsburg This Weekend

A Far From Ordinary House Tour in Wilkinsburg This Weekend

The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation hosts a one-of-a-kind house tour on May 7.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
STEM Event for Girls Planned at La Roche College

STEM Event for Girls Planned at La Roche College

The Tech Savvy program from the American Association of University Women aims to interest middle school girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Comments