You can reinvent your work or career at any age. I know this because I relaunched my consulting practice at 60.
Career books tell you that to reinvent yourself, you’ll need a clear sense of purpose and passion for what you’re doing. Check that! You’ll also need more time than you expect, and, if you’re lucky, a teenager at home or a millennial you can tap for technical support.
My purpose came to me quickly—after a mere four years of soul searching. I knew that my working days were numbered, so I gave myself three months to succeed with my new focus. My coaching friend Jeff counseled me that five years was probably more realistic. Dang him for being right!
My big challenges began with the technical aspects of marketing my refocused practice. I was a modern Rip Van Winkle waking up to the Internet age, with its requirements for websites, blogging, social media, and more. During my 30 years of consulting, I’d never needed a website. Those days were over.
Some months and thousands of dollars later, I had a beautiful website, a regular blog, and a “presence” on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Then, a friend who remains nameless—thanks again, Jeff—suggested I try podcasting, a way to record interviews with fascinating guests from around the world, while sipping green tea in my Vashon Island office. Podcasting would help me build more online presence by allowing anyone on the planet to find my show on iTunes (along with, it seems, a billion other shows). He tempted me by saying that I had a good voice and inquiring mind (possibly true), and that recording technology was easy to master.
It probably would be easy, if you’re a 16-year-old. I’m not, but I launched the Vital Presence podcast anyway.
I soon discovered three key lessons about recording:
- Cats intuitively know to meow when you’re recording.
- It’s risky to record a guest in Florida during hurricane season.
- Pushing the record button does not guarantee that you’re recording.
My early recording bloopers forced me to learn audio editing. Soon, I could recognize waveforms and edit out “um’s.” I felt proud, until my editing software crashed. Clearly, I needed technical support, someone who could help me troubleshoot and understand audio lingo, like equalizing and compression.
A friend referred me to a local tech expert, whom I immediately hired. His conversational skills seemed a bit shaky. When he declined to drive to my place I discovered the truth: He was 13! I decided to upgrade to a millennial.
Age may bring wisdom, but my reinvention process has taught me humility. Colleagues in my podcasting support groups are half my age and know twice as much as I. I credit podcasting with keeping me young. (Forget “Brain Gym.” Try audio production.)
I wanted to become a great interviewer overnight and assiduously studied NPR stars like Krista Tippett and her relaxed, conversational interviews. Then I heard her admit that it took her five years to master sounding “natural” on air.
Another learning curve!
I’m now 65 and the time it’s taken to build my new practice has grown from months into years. I love my new work, treasure every client, and have learned that a passion for work is the secret fuel that reinvention requires.
I even get a thrill each time I upload an interview or post a new blog and get a “high five” from the online monkeys at MailChimp, my blog distribution service.
To reinvent yourself, you need purpose, passion, and—to keep you going—a good story about what you’re doing. Mine is that it’s possible to start again at 60, master technology, have fun, and discover the pleasure of working at my creative peak.
And, even if I don’t have a teenager at home to offer technical support, I now know where to hire one!
Sally Fox is a coach, consultant, speaker, and podcaster who’s helping individuals and organizations to bring their best stories forward. She lives on Vashon Island with her horse, husband, and the inimitable Barry- the-cat. Read about her work and find her blog at engagingpresence.com. You can also listen to her podcasts at 3rdActMagazine.com.