Crisis can be the best thing for a career. That is, if you don't panic and know how to leverage that bottom to your advantage.
Take U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Former girlfriend Lillian McEwen portrays him as a binge drinker and excessive consumer of pornography. Thomas can frame that attack as just another test for a human being to endure. Guess who will come out better in the court of public opinion?
Author Christopher Hitchens, battling a grim form of cancer, has turned that into copy for his monthly column in Vanity Fair and additional book sales.
News anchor Katie Couric, whose contract may not be renewed, has become proactive, fleeing the studio in search of the real people.
So how can you use the worst of times to get an edge?
1. Remember how many have been in similar pickles.
In fact so many -- especially in this turbulent economy -- that Wired published a special issue on how productive big trouble is in a career.
2. It's not what happens, it's what you do with it.
Hitchens could have surrendered to self pity. Instead he transformed it into a marketing machine. Thomas could hide for the rest of his career or he could display strength of character and courage in the face of adversity.
3. Tell your story, once you're on the other side of the horror.
Doing just that has meant new career paths for those who endured what they never expected to have to go through. Take Amy Jaffe Barzach, whose son's death led to her founding Boundless Playgrounds, which builds recreation sites accessible to disabled children.
When Michael Gates Gill lost his 'Mad Men' kind of job, he found his way to a new career on the lecture circuit. Gill recounts how a menial job at Starbucks saved his life. At what he assumed was the top of his career, magazine writer Mark Matousek was diagnosed as HIV positive. He topped that with his new career publishing best-selling spiritual books.
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