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May 4th, 2009
11:01 AM ET

Finding a new career amidst the recession

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="CNN Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis says the recession may be a good time to start exploring new career options."]

From CNN Personal Finance Editor Gerri Wills

If you’re working but desperate to find a new career, the recession is a good time to start exploring options.

Use your time now to determine where you'd be happy later. Even though many companies are in hiring freezes right now, the recession is a perfect time to focus on your career goals, so that when the economy does bounce back, you can be ready to apply.

The first thing you need to do is self-assess. Even if you want a new career, you might not be sure where you want to go. The web is full of great sites that can help you assess your personal skill set and find the best job for you. and both offer free online self-assessment tests and up-to-date employment information on a range of industries. is a great government-run website with tons of information about sectors that are actually growing.

Another great way for you to assess your skill set: ask the people who know you best. You might be surprised by what talents your family and friends see in you that you may be overlooking.

Find a way to do a job before you commit. Now the truth is you never know what a job is going to be like, hour-to-hour, until you've actually seen it up close. Go to to find videos of people working in specific vocations - you can watch bakers, geologists, even fashion designers doing their thing. Try to find mentors in the areas you wish to explore and ask if you can shadow them. Look for volunteer opportunities that you might be able to fit into your regular work schedule.

For those who are willing to pay for a career test-drive, check out Vocation-Vacations-dot-com, a pretty neat service that pairs job-seekers with established professionals. But be forewarned, it comes with a pretty hefty price tag: shadowing a TV producer for just 2 days will set you back nearly $1,500.

And once you've found the job you think you want, you might want to consider shortcuts to a four-year education.

To really make the most of this recession, spend your time developing the skills that will most appeal to future employers. That doesn't mean you have to commit to another 4 years of school. Try to use your current position as a launching pad: see if your employer offers training opportunities for any skills that might be transferable to another job down the road. Look at class offerings online and at local community colleges, many of which tailor programs to what local industries are looking for in job candidates.

Filed under: Gerri Willis
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. lspagnoli

    The hotel and tourism business is the number one employer in the world just behind the government. It makes sense that there must be some high paying jobs in this field, and they can't all be low paying. The good news is just about anyone that has a nice image and a pleasant personality can do well in the hospitality business.

    Forget about the front desk, housekeeping, engineering, and restaurant that so many people think about when they consider a hotel job.

    You need to apply for the hotel sales or catering positions that lead to the General Manager position. Hotel sales and catering people simply connect with people that book conferences and events. They then draw up contracts and work with the hotel team to ensure the event is a success.

    The sales and catering positions earn entry level salareis from 40-60K plus bonus each year. These positions can advance quickly to 75-100K or more for people that stick with it. A quick way to get started is with a short on-line hospitality certificate through or You can find lots of hotel sales jobs at or

    You must have some kind of experience to start in hotel sales. So either do a hotel certificate program, or the other route is to start at a hotel front desk for a year or two and then try and transfer over to the sales department. Unfortunately, hotel front desks do not pay that much, but it might work in the right situation.

    Hotel sale and catering positions can lead you to the General Manager job. Nobody transfers from another profession and becomes a Hotel General Manager. You must climb the ladder and work your way up like Herman Wiener did at the Fairmont in San Francisco. He started at the bottom and climbed his way up and ended up on dateline.

    I recommend starting as a hotel sales manager. Those are the best jobs with the best hours and you can make an incredible amount of money. Try or for the big name program.

    Good luck, hospitality is a fun job and you will look forward to going to work rather than dreading it!!!!

    July 14, 2009 at 6:05 pm |
  2. Andrea Butje

    HI Gerri,

    If anyone is interested in Aromatherapy as a new career, we have a school offering Aromatherapy certification. Our programs are professional, well written and approved by the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy and the Alliance of International Aromatherapists.

    Aromahead Institute:

    Andrea Butje

    June 20, 2009 at 1:12 pm |
  3. Brian Ellie

    The hotel business is good during these tough times. All reports show this field is growing............. I got a job as a hotel sales manager at a Doubletree starting at 52 thousand. I took an on-line hotel sales certificate program.

    I used to be in retail, but like a hotel sales career much better. There are lots of courses on-line for hotel sales careers can be found at hcareers.

    The course I took was online at aprinda. Do a yahoo seach or google search for hotel sales and you should be able to find an online course that works for you.

    June 12, 2009 at 12:16 am |
  4. Erka

    Hi Gerri,

    They say best thing to do during poor job markets is to go back to school. Are there programs, degree or not, for mid-career professionals? Any advise on these programs and how to pay for them?

    May 20, 2009 at 4:44 pm |