Branding Yourself in a Recession

Passion to Profit
ESSENCE.COM May, 04, 2009

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Thousands of us have been professionally displaced by the present economy and nearly as many are fearful that our present jobs are in jeopardy. Fret not; we’ve got the 411 on turning your passion into profit and reinventing yourself so that you’ll be prepared and happy.

It’s easy to get mired in the thought of being rejected, but don’t let that overtake your thoughts of pushing forward. Remember, more than likely, friends and family will be there to support you during this transition. It’s most important to keep a positive attitude and keep up your professional appearance because the first impression is a lasting one.

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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Depending on your area of expertise, you might be able to ask your previous employers if there is an opportunity to take on freelance assignments or consulting work with the company. Don’t underestimate your transferable skills. Or, ask a former boss if any of your colleagues are seeking individuals with your skills. By all means, don’t burn any bridges between you and your former employers because you never know where or how the next opportunity will present itself.

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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Once you decide how you want to pursue your passion, make everyone from your neighbors to your old college buddies aware. Now is the time to call all those friends, colleagues, former bosses and family members and let them know about your new venture. This is not the time to shy away from your support network.

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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Why not do a little reading to help turn your pasttime into something full time? Atlanta’s Melissa Dawn Johnson, CEO of Velvet Suite Marketing Consulting Group, is also the author of “Brand Me. Mark Your Mark: Turn Your Passion Into Profit” (Ambassador Press). Her diverse background has allowed her to work with clients like the NFL to Mary J. Blige.

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Johnson advises, “I encourage everyone to embrace a journey of reinvention. It is not so much about what is happening around you, but what is happening inside of you while you are going through this time of change. It is the making of the greatest mark the world has ever known. It is the making of you.”

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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Always make time for training that allows you to stretch your mind. Not only will it enable you to learn more about your new career path, but the classroom lends itself to great networking opportunities.

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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Don’t overlook sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, which can help you connect with old friends and contacts to gain leads for your new venture. “You never know who knows someone at at a company you might be interested in,” says Abby M. Locke, president of Premier Writing Solutions, a career strategy firm in Washington, D.C.

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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“Women are master multitaskers. We are able to cater to and care for everyone else. While those who are in our lives are happy and content with our presence, we may have lost perspective in our own identity. If we don’t take the time to reflect and ask ourselves the hard questions, like ‘What drives me? Am I fulfilled?’ we may find ourselves stuck. Time won’t be given to us, we have to take it,” warns Johnson.

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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Tianna Feaster feeds her passion for food and health by creating delicious meals for busy folks in the Maryland/D.C./Virginia area. Feaster became more health conscious after receiving a fibroids diagnosis and was always looking for nutritious ways to cook. In 2002 she enrolled in recreational cooking classes and in 2006 she joined the American Personal & Private Chef Association. Now the former teacher charges $300 to $400 for weekly meals and $100 to $200 for onetime services. She uses her Web site, Feastyoureyesonthis.net, to increase her business and generate exposure.

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Inspired by Feaster? You can do it too! One way to showcase your own culinary skills is by doing cooking demonstrations for local organizations like churches, sororities or even schools.

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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Lisa Logan, a New York City-based manicurist whose clients include celebs like Beyonce to stay-at-home suburban moms, is happy that she followed her instinct to pursue “doing nails” professionally 14 years ago. “I am an independent contractor so while I have been affected by the recession, I am not concerned about one particular person firing me,” explains the Harlem native. She adds, “I’ve built a solid clientele over the years through my relationships so I’m still working consistently despite the grim economy.”

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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Thinking about pursuing your lifelong dream of a career in interior design? It’s not too late. Reputable institutions such as the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC (fitnyc.edu) and the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles (fidm.edu) offer interior design courses for students at night and on the weekends.

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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Have you always had a knack for skillfully styling hair but never thought you could make a true living at it beyond working in a salon? Well, think again. High profile stylists such as Kim Kimble (kimblehaircare.com), Ted Gibson (tedgibsonsalon.com) and Dickey (hairrules.com) all have successful hair care lines that have allowed them take their tress talents from the shampoo bowl to the boardroom.

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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Those seeking to break into the world of photography can solicit their services on sites like Craigslist.com initially to assist with obtaining clients. Many potential customers turn to this and similar sites when searching for new talent at an affordable price.

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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Naomi Howard, a full-time writer based in New York City, fell in love with vintage clothes so the artsy diva decided to sell items on the side two years ago.

“Once I moved to New York, I realized there was an untapped market in vintage clothing, so as my friends continued to make compliments on my pieces, I tested the idea at my book club meeting,” says the Atlanta native. “It was a big hit and I definitely discovered a fun way to make additional money doing something I love,” reveals Howard, who typically sells her secondhand wares online.

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Check out Johnson’s 5 Top Tips to Reinvention:

1. Resolve – An end is only a beginning.

2. Reclaim – Realize that what was lost can actually become your life’s greatest leverage.

3. Rediscover – Explore who you are int his moment and create your authentic mark.

4. Reimagine – The possibilities are endless. Shape your thinking around your vision.

5. Reposition – Adjust to times of change by owning your new position.

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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Finding your passion especially after you have lost a job is not easy. It can often be uncomfortable but that is the only way growth can happen, warns Johnson. She adds, “It will take hard work, persistence and some creativity to invent a new reality. Whatever the challenge, don’t stop moving ahead.”

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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If you do receive “the call” from your boss or HR department, write down everything. Make sure you have all your vacation, personal and sick time in writing. Know that some companies do not pay severance toward all forms of paid time. And ask the boss (or a senior level colleague who you trust) for a reference letter. Even if you decide to leave the industry, that letter could prove invaluable to your next career path.

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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The thought of losing the stability of a 9 to 5 gig with health care benefits is a bit scary for many folks. Some states offer programs for people with certain income and eligibility requirements. Also, some professional associations give group rates. Explore choices at Coverageforall.org.

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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Making the leap from employee to entrepreneur is no easy feat and will force you to pay even more attention to your spending. Consider taking the following steps to head off cash flow problems:

- To save money, cut out expenses like those for entertainment and dining out.

- Visit livingonadime.com and thebudgetfashionista.com for savvy ways to save cash.

- Negotiate your services with other associates for mutually beneficial bartering. For example, offer to style your neighbor’s hair for a month if she does your taxes.

Read our exclusive interview with Reinvention Expert Melissa Johnson »

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