Robin Lawler greets Ashland YMCA members, one of the many facets of her new job as membership services director. Lawler left her previous job in June as manager of Ashland’s historic Peerless Hotel. - Photo by Denise Baratta

Career change: Works for them

If you're one of the thousands of Jackson County residents who've been laid off or fired in this sluggish economy, take heart: Now's the time to reassess your skills, revisit your dreams and "repackage" yourself to make employers want you, career counselors say.

"It's about shaking the tree, analyzing your talents, identifying your skill set, asking if you need to add a tool to your tool box, maybe freshening up your degree," says Linda K. Rolie of Ashland, author of a new book "Catch Me When I Fall: Smooth Landings for Job Seekers."

Rolie, who's been helping clients change careers since 1979, was the consultant for Southern Oregon University staffers who received layoff notices in spring 2007 as part of a reorganization to shore up a $4 million budget shortfall.

Between the current economic downturn and the flow of people relocating here, Rolie says she's seen a steady increase in clients needing help relaunching their careers.

Clients who've just lost a job may need to work through emotions of shock, anger, unworthiness and feelings of being at sea in a job-lean time, she says. Later, though, as they engage in job-seeking, clients realize their strengths and get a handle on the game.

"It's a death, and you go through the stages of loss and healing," Rolie says.

As they heal and stabilize, many laid-off workers realize they were ill-suited to their old work and were putting up with it for the money — or were afraid to risk change and the unknown, Rolie says.

Getting laid off can nudge people into seeking the work they do best and love the most, she says. Rolie has her clients list what they've most liked and disliked about their jobs.

Dislikes might include micromanaging bosses, fluorescent lights or commuting. Then she asks them to fashion a job scenario that incorporates the most positives.

Rolie's book contains many such exercises, and includes "power words and jargon updates," helpful ways to list skills employers desire on a resume — such as "excellent skills in interdepartmental integration," "adept at crisis management," "dealing effectively with incisive analysis and appropriate action," and "effective at fostering a service-oriented work environment."

Rolie helps her clients not only with the basics — resume, cover letter, references — but also with strategies such as networking (telling lots of people face-to-face what you're looking for).

Client Robin Lawler, 55, spent a year reshaping her career trajectory after a lengthy stint in the hospitality industry. She decided that she "absolutely" had to make sure the next career was right for her and "be as rewarding, or even more so, than the money coming in."

Lawler researched her target, the Ashland YMCA, came prepared, focused on her positive attributes and was ready to be very open about them, she says. She got the job as membership services coordinator.

"Linda helped me over the months to keep a positive attitude and helped me rewrite my resume to take in current technology, language and values," says Lawler.

"A person with my experience has to realize there are so many things you can do and you have to ask yourself, 'Where am I going to get the most satisfaction?' When I was younger, it was fun to go to college and be a waitress, but now I look at service as being very important and, where I used to help people have fun in the hospitality industry, now I help people care for themselves."

Another client, Kevin Wallace, 55, who landed a spot at Harry & David, says Rolie helped him "repack my resume" and reset his sights from earlier jobs in insurance and investment into what he loves, being a corporate sales executive.

"I knew for some time I enjoyed sales and had the skills, and that was the area I wanted to stay in," says Wallace. "Linda was a great example of what I wanted, to be someone really passionate and caring about what he does."

Job-seekers are encouraged to make a list of friends and colleagues they can contact with "60-second elevator networking " — a spiel you can tell a friend in a one-minute elevator ride — starting with the words, "I'm in career transition and I'm looking for"¦"

Research shows most people find work by word of mouth. Only 17 percent of jobs are filled from classified ads, 10 percent from the state Employment Department and 7 percent from the Internet, says Rolie.

"Changing careers is usually not that drastic," says Rolie. "What makes it successful is if you stay within your skills and your heart's passion, then you're still in the same ocean, just pointing the boat to a different shoreline."

Jill Wilson of the Job Council in Medford says the number of applicants for her services — counseling and job-search classes — has ticked up steadily in this economy. She encourages people to move quickly to freshen and focus their resumes, activate networks and participate in mock job interviews to turn any negatives into positives.

"There will be a negative reaction to losing your job, but people go through it, and it's a good time to look at this as an opportunity to do something different and realize goals and dreams," says Wilson.

Most people who are laid off get a severance package or unemployment benefits, says Trisha Stubbs of Asante Health System's Human Resources Department.

"My advice is to breathe," she says. "As hard as it is to do it, push the pause button and think about what gives a job passion for you.

"Too often we jump into a new job because of pay and too often it's not a good fit," she says.

In the job interview, Stubbs says, remember that you are qualified or they wouldn't have called you in to talk.

"So remember you are interviewing them, too. Be true to yourself and take the time to choose that organization, as they are choosing you. Research what they stand for and ask yourself if they're aligned with your values and what you stand for."

Rolie's book is available at Bloomsbury Books in Ashland. For more information, see or call Rolie at 482-2337.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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