Why you should care

Because we could all use some new ways to make dough.

In a year when we saw a ton of buzz about a recovering economy, many of us still hankered for more. Because despite all the seemingly good news, we heard almost as much about millennial unemployment or underemployment, we wondered about 50-somethings getting laid off, and we got concerned over robots taking our jobs.

So what can you do? One option: win the creativity game, and come up with smarter ways to reinvent yourself. It’s more than building up a résumé or making cold calls or updating your LinkedIn. Maybe the way to navigate the new employment economy is to think about new jobs and new education — both formal and informal — and to get altogether wacky about your big dreams.

Media Whiz Kids

Two careers that were once the scrum of the job world are increasingly hot — not to mention lucrative and respected. One: public relations. Guess who’s a former publicist? United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron. And Judy Smith, the real-life inspiration for Scandal’s Olivia Pope. While we’re at the TV references, think about Dee Dee Myers, who got translated into fiction as C.J. Cregg on the beloved West Wing. There are publicists turned Sundance directors, turned venture capitalist queens. What gives? PR folks say the job puts you on the front line; gives you a chance to work with words, people and the media; and teaches the art of story spinning. It all just goes to show that a job is what you make of it and what you turn it into.

Down in the Valley

In booming Silicon Valley, opportunities aren’t restricted to MIT-grad coding geeks. Executive assistants are far from their secretarial ancestors. (Remember Mad Men’s Joan Harris?) Instead, they’re highly desired professionals who are valued for their soft skills, their organizational strengths, and their ability to earn and keep a top-level CEO’s trust. Then there are executive recruiters like Jana Rich, who’s not only fantastically paid, an entrepreneur in her own right, but also works with the who’s who of the rich and powerful. Even yoga teachers have their place, as coaches teaching mindfulness and emotional control to stressed out C-suite execs. But if the heart of the Valley, computers and chips, is your cuppa tea, then you might be in luck: More and more newbies are taking six-week courses in front-end developing, a specific subset of coding, and earning six-figure salaries thereafter. Keep an eye on that market — every few months or years in the Valley, it turns out a short supply of one sort of job puts them in high demand and makes you all that more valuable as a potential hire.

Click the hyperlinks to read our full pieces about each of these pro tips.

Talkin’ ’Bout My Education

OK, we bet no one told you this real talk about your learnin’. Community college might be more valuable than you think — and not just in California, where the system is so robust that you can transfer out of a two-year college into a top-notch four-year institution. Proof: Many are trading on their education to earn salaries above $50,000, comfortably middle-class earnings or better. Or what about getting your education in an entirely different way? Some friends of OZY found out the nice way that getting good at selling your old stuff on eBay could be a hands-on — not to mention lucrative — class in trading. (Yeah, that thing that people at Goldman Sachs earn super-sweet six figures for.) And then there’s the Mormon option. Which works regardless of your faith. Going to a new country, plonking down, and deliberately getting yourself out there — meaning talking to people, making yourself interact with new folks regularly and running your own shop — is the best training on earth for not just the startup world but also simply being a top-notch salesperson.

If All Else Fails, Steal an Identity

No, not like that. At 36, occasionally bartending but mostly loving neither life nor employment, Thaddeus Kalinoski was struggling. Until one day, when someone noticed him on the street. Only, they thought he was someone else. Specifically? Zach Galifianakis … that pudgy bearded comedian whose antics lit up The Hangover, among other stoner flicks. And then he was off to the races, pulling in (rumors suggest) over $200K a year. All by pretending to be Zach on the streets. Trickery pays.

What did we miss? Tell us in the comments.

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