The necessity of reinvention

At this stage in life, it could well be time to “reinvent” myself. After all, everybody’s doing it and the people who aren’t doing it are falling by the wayside.

Those that fail to reinvent are turning into the flotsam and jetsam of the U.S. economy, nameless statistics in the annals of joblessness. I’ve felt this need for a while now, especially after discovering my former colleagues in the news business were striking out in their job search, even when they applied to places like Home Depot.

Almost 45% of the people over 55 looking for work are long-term unemployed and have been jobless for an average of 48 weeks. The good news is the unemployment rate for older workers is 4.7% compared with the national average of 6.7%.

So everybody is trying to “reinvent” themselves. Studies have shown that the typical American will have seven careers in his or her lifetime and the worst ones probably come near the end. I recently checked out CareerCast’s annual ranking of the 200 best and worst jobs and discovered nine of the 10 best jobs are in that very frightening area known as STEM, which stands for “science, technology, engineering, and math.”

STEM is where it’s at, and if I could do it over again, I’d take physics and calculus and figure out how to use the slide rule.

For 25 years, America has pushed STEM education because we’re falling behind in the race to develop better cell phones, nuclear reactors and more expensive lattes. The one area where America excels is fast food development.

Suddenly, everyone wants to pursue STEM careers, and I have to wonder what will happen to all those English literature majors. Is Pottery Barn hiring?

The all-time best job, the survey said, was mathematician. What does a professional mathematician do anyway? Balance checkbooks? Teach kids their times tables? Calculate the odds of winning at the roulette wheel in Vegas?

Whatever they do, it pays well, because the midlevel income is $101,360, which makes me think I should reinvent myself as a numbers guy. Sad to say, I forgot the times tables years ago and I get woozy around numbers, except for winning lottery numbers.

The next “best jobs” were either a tenured university professor (which comes with a lot of time off), statistician (a big hit with women at singles bars), actuary (taking odds on how long before you croak), audiologist (how did that get on the list?), dental hygienist (where the biggest occupational hazard is smelling someone’s rancid breath), software engineer (I’m tired of hearing how good these guys have it), computer systems analyst (enough with the computers), occupational therapist (a growth career as baby boomers age), and speech pathologist (they do something rewarding).

Sadly, looking at this list made it very clear that I couldn’t reinvent myself in any of the top 10 categories, so I checked out the bottom 10, where my skill set might be more applicable.

In descending order, they were corrections officer (not in this life), firefighter (my time for rushing into burning buildings has passed), garbage collector (a growth industry but the hours are grueling), flight attendant (I hate to fly), head cook (I hate to cook), broadcaster (too much competition for too little money), taxi driver (I’ll keep an open mind on that one), enlisted military personnel (I can’t take orders), and newspaper reporter (sooner or later, I knew I’d find something I enjoyed, but why is it next to last on the list?).

Unfortunately, the outlook out there is “brutal” for reporters, the survey said, because of closings, consolidations and cutbacks. It’s sad that the greatest job in the world is facing extinction.

That leaves only the very last category, lumberjack. It’s No. 200 on the list because it has a midlevel income of $24,340, poor working conditions, a dangerous environment, and industrywide cutbacks.

But I guess if I have to start reinventing somewhere, I may as well start at the bottom and work my way up. No time for whining. Where’s my chain saw? Point me toward the forest. I don’t have to climb trees, do I?

Joe Pisani may be reached at