Redesigning Your Career with a Reinvention Coach

A new twist on career coaching helps people get not just the job they want but the lifestyle they want.

By Virginia Sole-Smith
Photograph: Illustration: Paul Blow

The Result

Kramer continues to teach editorial photography classes and also reviews portfolios at photography conferences while building her consulting business. "I now earn about half of my previous income," she says. "I’ve had some scary times, wondering what was going to happen, but things have worked out. Money has become a whole different thing: It’s not just a paycheck; it’s what I’m using to build my business."

Salon Owner to Interior Designer

Joy Harris, 45

Former career: Owner of an upscale hair salon in Bloomfield, New Jersey

Reinvented career: Co-owner of Edit Interiors, an interior design firm with commercial and residential clients in New York City and Atlanta

How She Did It

Harris had always wanted to design, but a couple of problems stood in the way. One was a husband who sapped her confidence. "He’d say, ‘What makes you think you can do this?’" Harris recalls. "It was soul-killing." She was also busy taking care of her elderly father. "My dad was completely supportive of my dreams, but I felt I couldn’t take a big financial risk while he needed me," she says. "Once he died, there was really no reason not to take control of my life."

Harris also remembered that her mother had pursued a new career before her death at age 52. "She had gone for it," says Harris, who decided to file for divorce, enroll in design school and call Mitchell. For nearly two years Harris balanced a full client load at the salon with a heavy class schedule. Shortly before graduating, she and Mitchell hatched a business plan.

Lessons Learned

Call on your friends. "Between dealing with the divorce and going back to school, I really needed a support network," Harris says. The women who had been her clients for years were more than ready to help and make referrals. Meanwhile, college friends introduced her to her current business partner, interior designer DaWayne Brashear. "Anyone who could offer anything did," Harris says.

Be willing to take a pay cut — at least at first. Harris had been making $110,000 a year. But to get her design business off the ground, she took a 40 percent pay cut. The key to financial survival was compromise: Instead of closing up shop, Harris kept the salon open two days a week. "We went over her bills and figured out what Joy needed to make," Mitchell says. "Then we decided how much she could scale back on her salon time and still earn enough to give her a regular cash flow." The sacrifice paid off. Edit Interiors grossed more than $600,000 last year.

In time, name your own price. To make enough money on her reduced schedule, Harris had to raise her prices at the salon. "She was mad when I suggested that," Mitchell says. But Harris came around: "I learned that you have to ask for what you’re worth. Ultimately it was cathartic to assess what I had to offer and use it to finance my transition."

The Result

Harris runs Edit Interiors full-time, although she still takes former salon clients on special occasions. "It’s my time to laugh out loud with my friends," she says. Mitchell adds, "One of the best things about a reinvention is when it brings you full circle, and you can appreciate the good things your old life brought you."

To find out more about the Reinvention Institute:

Originally published in MORE magazine, April 2008.

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