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The Monica Lewinsky Challenge: career change for the high profile professional

Before Linda Tripp and Ken Starr entered her world, Monica Lewinsky was headed for a public relations job at Revlon. She would have been one among many attractuve young women climbing the corporate ladder, anonymously.

Nowadays, Monica can't just show up in an employment agency as an ordinary job applicant. Corporate jobs are closed to her. She lends her name to diet products, talks to the media, and pitches her line of handbags on the internet.

You -- and Monica?!

You probably have nothing in common with Monica Lewinsky, but you may find parallels with her career dilemma. If your job brings you money, visibility and status, you will face unique challenges if you are displaced and forced to start over.

Rick called six months after he had been fired from a high-profile, high-status, high-paying job, after twenty years of non-stop success.

For the first six months he had alternated between heavy introspection ("What do I want to be when I grow up?") and frantic bursts of activity (hiring a resume-mailing service).

"I'm ready to move!" Rick said.

"Keep your power"

When you find yourself in Rick's position -- or Monica's -- you need to use your power. You probably can't walk through the corporate door with a resume, like most people. You'll need a creative strategy that might include starting a b usiness, an extensive networking campaign, or a totally creative, off-the-wall approach.

Can you get a "real" job?

Rick wanted a high-paying job with benefits and autonomy. He had no idea where to begin and was astounded to learn that his job hunt might take a lot longer than the six months he had budgeted.
Working with Cathy, he decided to start a business to create a cover story -- and then he got hooked.

Guiding Principle: Keep Your Power

Rick's business may take off. He may decide he really likes being his own boss and can't go back to corporate life. Or a job may appear. Regardless, Rick regained ownership of his career by proactively taking charge, not waiting for a magic phone call to make everything all right again.

Employers want to hire people who fit their mold. The challenge will be especially great for high-profile, high-visibility professionals who have been displaced by forces beyond their control.

Even if you are not high profile, you may have an easier time getting clients than getting a job. You may be competing for increasingly rare senior or specialized positions in your field. You may be a maverick. You may have made choices that get you labeled as unstable or unmotivated.

When you don't fit the mold, you need to think like a free spirit. The old rules won't hold. You can't be "just like everybody else," no matter how hard you try.

Monica Lewinsky caught on fast. She's now hosting a television program. Sure, she's taking pot shots from the media and from ordinary people. And, wisely, she ignores them. They're not walking a block, let alone a mile, in her moccasins...well, stylish sandals.

Bottom line: Avoid jumping ship into an icy sea. Stay on board as long as possible while you build your own boat. But if you are thrown overboard, don't wait to be rescued by an ocean liner. Build a raft, stay afloat and realize you are embarking on the adventure of a lifetime.

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast move to career freedom. Visit her site http://www.movinglady.com or call 505-534-4294.


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Career and life transition