Presto chango! Reinventing yourself to transition to a new career

Plan A - Plan B - Plan CBy Mark G. Auerbach

No doubt, the pandemic caused many people to re-think their objectives and life plans, and many people in the workforce decided not to go back to their old jobs. Quality of life has become more important, and people, feeling stuck in a rut, have reinvented themselves. A career makeover is possible with planning. Here are stories of people who reinvented themselves, albeit before the pandemic. Their examples hold wisdom no matter what motivates your desire for a career change.

Patrick Berry: From behind the scenes to in front of the camera

Patrick Berry has made a couple of career transitions. After a fast track in television media sales and advertising, he bought his hometown newspaper and turned it into a respected media group. But, when community news media was struggling, and a buyer approached him, he sold his newspaper, and shortly thereafter, was hired as host of Mass Appeal, the morning magazine program on the NBC affiliate in Springfield, MA.

Patrick Berry

Berry says the transition was “fairly quick and easy, as I had previously hosted a weekly radio show. The role of interviewer comes naturally to me. I’m an inquisitive person. However, the change of format, from long-form interviews (an hour or more per guest) to short form (4-6 minutes per guest, with multiple guests per hour), was the biggest adjustment.” Berry added that generally some training would be required in his transition, but his radio experience established his credentials as a bona fide interviewer.

Berry’s advice to others considering a transition, “Accept the change and embrace it. Look back on your past experiences to see how those can aid in making the change easier. I never thought I’d be a daily TV talk show host, but, unbeknownst to me, the skills I learned throughout my career pointed me to this new role. I received the same advice from many people. Self-doubt about my abilities was the hardest thing to overcome, but good, honest feedback from friends, family, and business associates provided me with enough confidence to pursue the role.”

When asked if he’d have done his makeover earlier, Berry said, “Absolutely. I am so glad I took this position and regret that I didn’t pursue this career path earlier in life.”

Brenda Garton-Sjoberg: From TV anchor to professor

Brenda Garton-Sjoberg was a highly rated news anchor and reporter for the same television station, where Patrick Berry now works. She loved her career, but she was married with two young boys at home, and her work hours conflicted with raising a family. So, she accepted a teaching position in communications at Western New England University.

Brenda Garton-Sjoberg

“It took weeks of adjusting, if not months, to go from working in a fast-paced, unpredictable newsroom to teaching in a calm, scheduled classroom,” said Garton-Sjoberg. “When I was hired, I served as an administrator overseeing community relations for the university. I was asked to be an adjunct professor, which later turned into my current full-time teaching position. And I went back to school to obtain my master’s degree in Journalism, even though I’d been working in the field for more than 20 years. That degree made me a better professor.”

“While it may take some adjustment, embrace and welcome the new you. It’s exciting to reinvent yourself,” said Garton-Sjoberg. “The past two years have taught us to not wait if we want to make major changes in our life. My brother always gave me good advice, especially when it came to my career in higher education. He’s a long-time professor at Columbia. Brad says, ‘Never underestimate the fundamental randomness of life.’ We can always plan for our future, but  be ready to adjust when life takes you on a brand new path, whether you initiated it or it’s outside your control.”

Garton-Sjoberg enjoyed her television career and her current academic career, and she has no regrets. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Barbara Newman: From advertising to author

Barbara Newman is an author, film producer and girls leadership advocate. “I had a long and storied career as a creative director in the New York advertising world, where I wrote and produced campaigns for iconic global brands,” she said. “I worked on everything from perfume to peanut butter. I loved the intersection of art, commerce, and psychology. My storytelling skills grew when I began to develop longer format pieces across all platforms. It prepared me for my next.”

Barbara Newman

Newman’s career change wasn’t planned. “The career change chose me. I heard an interview on NPR about the American cowgirl and was so inspired by the bold and courageous spirit of these unstoppable women that I left New York, and found myself in Montana, Texas and Wyoming to film a documentary about their lives.” It didn’t take her long to transition. “It took three months to trade high heels for boots. I was on fire.  I continued to freelance with select clients while immersing myself in research, production, and fundraising. I wore many hats. I also learned how to drive cattle. Definitely something that wasn’t in my tool box!”

She did not need to train or certify in her new profession. “I learned as I went and surrounded myself with a stellar team of cinematographers, editors, etc. I knew how to tell a story. I knew what would be visually interesting. I spent a lot of years on film sets, in casting, music, and editing sessions. I understood production. It all prepared me to take that leap and say “YES” to something new.”

Her advice to someone considering changing roles mid-career or mid-life: “As a lover of good advertising, nobody said it better than Nike. ‘Just do it.’ We only live once. If something lights you up, if you feel a fire in the belly, it’s telling you something. And the best advice I received was my own. I listened to what lit me up, and I didn’t listen to negative self talk, or “you can’t do this,” from others. When a major funding source was put on hold for the film, I transitioned again. I wrote a young adult novel called The Dreamcatcher Codes. It’s a story about four fearless girls blazing new paths for themselves and Mother Earth. The book takes two of the things I’m most passionate about, girl power and the environment and puts them into one epic eco-fantasy. Of course, there are horses in it.”

All three of these people took risks, but all three are thrilled with how things turned out for them. Their stories prove that a career change can be done if you’re motivated and have the courage to accept change.


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and on TV and radio on WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB. He also produces the TV and radio series On The Mark and Athenaeum Spotlight with Guy McLain.


  1. Brenda Garton-Sjoberg says:

    Thanks for this great article!, Mark! You could have focused on yourself, too! You’ve worn many hats throughout your successful careers over the years and have been excellent in all your professional roles! -Brenda

    • Mark G. Auerbach says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Brenda. My role as a journalist has always been to tell other peoples’ stories. I’m glad I had the opportunity to share yours along with Patrick Berry’s and Barbara. Neeman’s.

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