Reinventing Yourself When You’re a) Canned or b) Not Canned

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What will I blog about if I’m canned?

I’ve been mulling this over ever since my company announced layoffs last week. I wasn’t terminated in the first sweep, but I could well be if enough people in my category don’t volunteer to vamoose.

Being booted won’t be the end of the world, I think. But I will have to reinvent myself. I’m convinced I won’t find another job as a staff writer on a magazine, as those jobs are already as rare as a hit movie starring Kate Hudson. And in this new media landscape, I’m not sure I’d even want such a job.

American workers are like an army of Madonnas: we’re brilliant at reinventing ourselves. After posting about our ongoing layoffs, I heard from readers about their own three, four or five layoffs, each leading to jobs in new industries and sometimes new towns. After being laid off by a giant banking conglomerate, my brother in law reinvented himself as an Internet entrepreneur; now he runs a giant e-mail business. After being cut by an investment brokerage, my brother–okay, he didn’t reinvent himself. He’s still a bond broker. But he makes a lot more money at it.

We’re especially adept at bounding back from public humiliation, which is what a layoff can feel like. I mean, check out K-Fed. The former Mr. Spears was only yesterday written off as Fed-Ex. Now he’s starring in a Nationwide Insurance commercial to air during the Super Bowl that features him rapping about becoming a huge star. The last scene reveals the rap-star dreams are just that, as he flips burgers at a fast-food joint.

See? That’s funny! Kevin Federline has a sense of humor! Now I want to buy insurance from him.

Layoffs don’t have to precipitate a reinvention. Me, I started out as a reporter at a trade weekly covering the advertising industry. Then, for no good reason, I became a copy editor at a women’s magazine. Then I ran a ragtag group of weekly newspapers covering Manhattan. Then I edited a magazine for financial planners. Then I was a financial writer, then a Tokyo correspondent–what’s that you say, Mr. Recruiter? You want to see my résumé? I’m flattered, but I told you–I’m still for the moment employed.

My point is that though we may stay in our professions or even our very same jobs, industry demands we workers reinvent ourselves constantly as we move forward in our careers. Each promotion may bring on added responsibilities and projects that expose us to things we previously knew nothing about. In my business and probably in yours, the Internet is the vast and still new frontier that we cowboys and cowgirls are trying to conquer. If I intend to keep working as a journalist, I have to come up with a whole new notion of what being a journalist on that frontier means. The blog is what I’ve come up with so far.

My problem is that I blog about the workplace. And I can’t very well continue to do that if I don’t have one. Unlike my colleagues Jim Poniewozik, who can keep blogging about TV so long as he owns one, and Lev Grossman, who can go on blogging about nerds so long as he is one, I can’t credibly keep writing about the office if the only one I have is in my converted attic.

Any suggestions? Keep in mind I already blog occasionally about funerals. For no good reason.

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