John Tarnoff

john tarnoff, 65, career reinvention coach

Do you want to understand career reinvention? Maybe you should talk to the man who’s been fired 39 percent of the time over his more than four decades in the entertainment business.

“I’m trying to de-stigmatize the idea that it’s somehow shameful, because it isn’t anymore,” says Tarnoff.

Indeed. The last job he was fired from, he was let go in the nicest possible way by a company—DreamWorks Animation—that he loved working for and that loved him. They just moved in a different direction and, at that point, John realized he needed to as well.

After all, he had spent 40 of his now 65 years in the entertainment and tech business. He started in film school at USC and satisfied a deep desire to work in the industry by taking any job he could learn from: starting at a distribution company, then moving on to become an agent, to production executive, to producer at major studios like Orion Pictures, Columbia and MGM. “Then I hit a wall,” he told me.

Luckily, a friend needed his business sense to help start a company that operated at the intersection of animation and computer learning. But when the first dot-com bubble burst, it took their business with it. He landed at DreamWorks after working his network and eventually flourished creating programs there designed to nurture the next generation of talent. Then, in 2009, it was over—again.

“It really underscored for me the way business has changed, and my moving into a new direction: coaching and speaking and writing about the career reinvention challenges everyone over 50 are facing in this disruptive job market.”

He’s written a book called Boomer Reinvention: How To Create Your Dream Career Over 50 and I’ve included some of the actionable ideas from him below. But what’s resonated with me has been the truth Tarnoff speaks on the disruption of the way things were. Longer life means we want to contribute for longer in the work arena and stave off the arbitrariness of retirement notions crafted for our parents’ generation. And Tarnoff thinks we have more to give than ever.

“You can learn skills, but dealing with people, getting things done, getting people to work together, understanding what the goal is … this is something that comes from age and experience,” he says. “And confidence in your understanding of how life and people work. We are an invaluable resource at this age, and corporate America better wake up.”

As for Tarnoff’s ideas on how to transition into something completely different, his advice is relatively simple: “Whatever idea you’ve got about what you want to do, whether that’s something that grows out of the work you’ve done or whether it’s a hobby that you want to move front and center — is it useful?” he asks, “Is there a target audience for your product or service and will it move the needle for them? And the more niche, the better.”

sound advice:

These are the actionable points I took away from my conversation with John. For more, check out his website and book .

You can’t start a reinvention, without reframing: who you are, what you can do and how the world works.

To feedback, to former bosses, colleagues, to get an idea of what you did right, what you did wrong. You build a portfolio of ideas of where you fit into the equation.

Perhaps the most difficult step. The fact is we all have baggage along the way — the good stuff, the bad stuff, the times you’ve burned bridges … These are all lessons so it’s time to start fresh and reinvent yourself from square one.

Workshop your way to a career based on your experience, your wisdom and what your preferences are: what you’re good at, what’s going to sustain you and fire you up when you get up in the morning.

It’s not about sending resumes anymore, it’s really about using LinkedIn and developing an affinity group of people who get you who understand where you’re going, and how to get you there.

Follow us on Facebook to see John’s 2-minute Tutorial on his 5 step process.


Andreas Tzortzis
He has worked as a journalist for the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Newsweek and Monocle Magazine from Berlin and London before leading Red Bull’s mainstream-facing content platform, The Red Bulletin, from Los Angeles. He recently returned to his hometown of San Francisco with his small family. dre@agei.st


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