Today, I spoke to Kerry Hannon, who is a nationally acclaimed personal finance contributing editor and retirement correspondent for U.S. News & World Report. Her latest book is called WHAT’S NEXT? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job.  In this interview, Kerry talks about how to find your dream job, what stops someone from finding the perfect job, tools for career reinvention, tips for finding a job, and how she’s built her own personal brand.

How does someone find their dream job? Is it “trial and error”?

No two paths are the same. Each person I interviewed for What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job faced a different set of challenges. But these success stories reveal common threads. Many of these men and women were spurred to discover what really matters to them and transform their work (and, in turn, personal) lives by a crisis or loss that starkly revealed the fleeting nature of life. No one acted impulsively. They paused. They planned. They bypassed helter-skelter approaches and pursued prudent, well-researched moves.

Each person had flexible time horizons for his or her venture to make it. If necessary, these people added the essential skills and degrees before they made the leap. They often apprenticed or volunteered beforehand. They reached out to their networks of social and professional contacts to ask for help and guidance.

They downsized and planned their financial lives in order to be able to afford a cut n pay or the cost of a start-up. Several were fortunate to have a spouse’s steady income or had some outside investments, retirement savings, and pensions in place to ease the transition to their new line of work. But what really sticks with me is that they all share a clear, confidence in the direction they have taken. They collective work longer hours, but it doesn’t matter. They only wish they had done it sooner.

Ten tips:

  1. Understand what is behind your desire to make a change.
  2. Get your life in order. Get physically and financially fit. Debt hanging over your head limits you.
  3. Be practical. If possible, make your move in stages. Take one class at a time if you need a degree or more training.
  4. Find a mentor to guide you and seek advice from people who have been successful in the field you are interested in switching into from the start.
  5. Be prepared for setbacks
  6. Volunteer or moonlight. You might try on several jobs before you find the one that’s right.
  7. Upgrade Your Skills and education
  8. Start small and give yourself time to grow and learn
  9. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  10. Check out job web sites like,,, to get a flavor for what others are doing and what jobs are out there now.

Is everyone looking for a job they love or just to pay the bills? What stops someone from finding the right one?

Money is a motivator. But, if you’ve lost your job and are dealing with a second act as a necessity, it’s crucial that you don’t act out of rashness and fear, but rather knowledge of how you can use this life-changing event to your advantage.

All of us need to work in jobs to pay the bills, but why not make that a job you love? What seems to stop people is the fear of taking a risk and the unwillingness to step back and take the time to find the right fit and prepare personally to succeed in a new field and line of work. In essence, though, it’s deep-seated fear of change and failure that are the tripping points for job changers.

In reality, if you have lost a job in the recent turmoil, this is the perfect time to move into a job that means something to you. With the cushion provided by a severance or early-retirement package, grab hold of your chance to try something new.

What tools would you recommend to someone who is looking to quit their job and start over?

  1. Evaluate your skill set and be confident. What skills do you have that are transferable to your next pursuit? You might check out a self-assessment quiz to get started, there are free ones at and Monster/com’s career advice section.
  2. Seek advice. Hunt for groups and activities that allow you to meet new people. Or consider hiring a career coach. If you know you need a change, but are unsure of what to do, a career coach can help you set goals, outline steps to take you there, and motivate you to make it happen. More details in What’s Next? about ways to go about finding someone who is qualified.
  3. Tap into your personal network. You never know who can help you. Reach out to potential contacts through alumni publications, Web sites, or regional associations if there’s a chapter near you. You can reach out and meet five or six new people at an alumni event.

Tap into supercharged alumni websites. Through college career centers, you might be able to access online Web refresher courses on résumé writing, interviewing, and post résumés and profiles, view job and internship listings with contact information, sign up for career center appointments, and get the latest news on job fairs and recruiter visits. Many schools offer free career coach meetings via their career service centers and welcome alums back at job fairs and for company informational meetings. Some schools assist alumni in scoring interviews. You can also tap into a school’s LinkedIn alumni network.

What three tips would you give someone that knows what they want to do, but can’t find the right job?

  1. Network, network, network
  2. Volunteer
  3. Be persistent. Don’t be discouraged.

How have you built your personal brand?

First, I did some soul-searching to understand what I stood for and what my purpose as a financial journalist and author is:

The answer: With over 25 years experience as a financial journalist, I make a difference in people’s lives by showing them how they can successfully manage their money and careers. I empower them and show them how they can do it themselves.

So my purpose statement:

“Journalist and author Kerry Hannon, a leading authority on careers and personal finance, shows you how to manage your money and career with confidence. Whether you’re new to saving and investing, planning for retirement, gearing up for a second act, or coping with a heavy debt load, her books and articles provide the tools you need to get started and the inspiration to do it now.”

That is now my criteria for any assignment or job I accept. While career stories are critical to my current body of work, I also cover a broad sweep of consumer and personal finance areas from health to travel to retirement planning. My books have covered women and money topics, estate planning and careers…along with profiles of Navajo weavers! At the heart of each endeavor is making a difference in people’s lives.

Second, I got my web site up and going. Still a work in progress, but it’s coming together and always evolving. It’s a place people can come and meet me and my work.

Third, I established social networking accounts at LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I joined the personal branding network on LinkedIn to learn how others are creating their brands.

With my new book arriving, I set up an author fan page on FaceBook. Today, I am getting my blog, ready to roll by the book’s official pub date, June 1! The blog will focus on careers, but passions run deep, so I suspect it will venture into many other other life issues as well. Possibly, a few words now and again about, horses…one of my passions…not a paying one, mind you.

Fourth, new business cards and stationary. Yes, I am a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, but that no longer defines me. I am Kerry Hannon–journalist, author, speaker.

Kerry Hannon is a nationally acclaimed personal finance contributing editor and retirement correspondent for U.S. News & World Report. Her latest book, WHAT’S NEXT? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job (Chronicle Books) will be in bookstores across the country April 28, 2010. She has been writing the “Second Acts” feature for U.S. News & World Report since the fall of 2006 and is a careers expert for She is the U.S. News retirement correspondent to The Nightly Business Report on PBS for the series “Get Your Finances Ready for Retirement.” She is the Money section book review columnist for USA Today. Hannon has previously served as a reporter and personal finance columnist for USA Today and as a writer and editor for U.S. News & World Report, Money, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, and Forbes. She was a regular women and money columnist for Hannon’s work has appeared in CBS, AARP Bulletin Today, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Readers Digest, Good Housekeeping, Institutional Investor and Advertising Age, among other national publications. She has appeared as a financial expert on ABC News, CBS, Fox, CNBC, and CNN and has been a guest on numerous radio programs, including National Public Radio’s “Talk of The Nation.”