4 Inspirations to Recreate Your Career After a Serious Setback

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Getty ImagesActress Teri Hatcher bounced back from the career doldrums to become one of TV's highest-paid actresses.

When it comes to fighting age discrimination and creating second acts in careers, consider role models from the arena of aging actresses and female news anchors. As the rest of us face discrimination and age issues in other fields, we can learn some real lessons from the celebrities who encounter the same obstacles on a more public playing field. In the last century, women broke the mold in these fields and as a result, faced some of the harshest age and sex discrimination issues in their storied careers.

Recently, the Biography channel, Time magazine and Parade featured stories, respectively, on Teri Hatcher, Vanessa Williams, Jane Pauley, and Meredith Vieira. After watching or reading each of these inspiring tales, there are similarities between their career paths.

In addition, here are a few tips for how the rest of us can choose to create bigger and sometimes better second acts in our own careers.1. Look at the time ahead, not the time behind. Much attention continues to be focused on Facebook's top female executive, Sheryl Sandberg, 45, for her book "Lean In," encouraging women to take leadership roles. Unfortunately, far less media attention has been focused on Jane Pauley's book, "Your Life Calling." Perhaps it's because Sandberg is still in her first act, and Pauley is in her second act. Pauley's subtitle says it all -- "Reimagining the Rest of Your LIfe."

Pauley, 63, said to Time that "50 is now the era of the second wind." We've all been in situations where we had to stop and get our second wind. However, few of us consider a layoff just that – a career opportunity to get a second wind. Instead, many choose to look at a layoff from a victim's position, putting themselves at an immediate disadvantage.

2. Keep in the game. If you like your career and want to continue in it, you need to stay committed. Teri Hatcher, 49, continued to go to auditions after the entertainment industry labelled her a "has been." She was typecast as a young actress from her work in "Lois and Clark" when she was 29, but found much broader fame when she landed a starring role at 42 in "Desperate Housewives." No one came calling for her. She continued to go on auditions and put forth her case as a relevant talent. By 2006, she was reputed to be the highest paid actresses on TV, proving that second acts and reinvention can sometimes amazingly result in higher, not lower, paychecks.

3. Care for your appearance. All four women are in the spotlight, so they color their hair, watch their weight, wear trendy clothes, and put on their best faces whenever interviewed. Some, like Vanessa Williams, have admitted to using Botox. You can choose to look at appearance costs as vain luxuries, or you can find bargains in hair salons, discount stores, and TV fitness classes to make sure that you look relevant on your next interview. The cynics among us might comment that this is the basis of age discrimination, but realists would argue that taking action means we are doing our best to level the playing field and show that we have fight left in us that can work to a hiring manager's advantage.

4. Know your priorities. Meredith Vieira, 60, made her career in TV journalism as an anchor on the "TODAY" show and "The View." Nevertheless, many know her more for her 11 seasons and 1,800 episodes as the host of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" For some, Vieira's move to host a game show might be seen as a step down in her career as serious reporter. But for Vieira the choice was clear. She was quoted in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette saying:

Once I realized I was a reporter who didn't want to report because it required a tremendous amount of travel, nobody was too interested in having me work for them. I had to reinvent myself.

Now, in the new fall 2014 TV season, she is reappearing as host of her own daytime talk show named after her! In Parade magazine she noted:

"I've taken all these curves because of my family. I've always had enough faith in myself that I'd find something, and I had some tough years."

The tough years included bringing up a family as part of a dual-career couple with journalist husband Richard Cohen, learning to juggle career with family medical issues (Cohen has multiple sclerosis), and fighting sexism as a working mother on the set of CBS' "60 Minutes." Throughout it all, she was clear on her priorities and managed her career accordingly. While she may have taken hits along the way, she has managed to come out on top.

5. Be great. No one has come back from a potentially larger public shaming than Vanessa Williams, 50, who was the first crowned African-American Miss America in September 1983, but was asked to step down after the unveiling of several unauthorized nude photos taken earlier in her career. Others may have used that very public downfall as a bona fide reason to shun public life, but Williams used her amazing talent to become a sought after singer and actress. Williams, who ironically also appeared in Desperate Housewives with Teri Hatcher, is inspiring in not letting her talent be stifled due to controversy or setbacks.

6. Find role models. There are many other role models to study and many whom you might consider far more worthy than public entertainers and news personalities. These are just four who have been in the news recently, and got me to consider the value of second acts. Don't feel that you need to be inspired by them. Find others who, for whatever reason, give you hope that there are second acts in your future as well, and use their stories to build the best version of your own.

It is easy to be discouraged, hurt, victimized, and downtrodden by the curveballs life throws us. It is not pleasant to be unemployed, be part of a Reduction in Force (RIF), or just plain lose a job. These four women may have had bigger cushions to soften their falls, but they fell and got right back up again. Regardless of your situation, there is always hope for a robust second act where you can play a starring role.
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