There’s nothing like a recession that rips more than seven million jobs out of the economy to get you focused on your career. The road back to full employment will be a years-long slog during which survivors will learn this important lesson: The key to success in the 21st-century job market is to reinvent yourself. Think of the U.S. workforce on a timeline, says Pamela Mitchell, author of The 10 Laws of Career Reinvention (Dutton, $25.95). The 1950s spawned the era of the Company Man, who stayed loyal to one employer for his entire career in exchange for retirement security. In the 1980s, we became Free Agents, porting our 401(k)s and our expertise to the employer with the best deal.

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