When I left a career in academia to pursue humor writing, there were plenty of outspoken and silent skeptics questioning my motives. Why would a 40-something woman with a Ph.D. (and a clinical psychologist at that) walk away from a steady paycheck? What kind of woman, after years of training and building a résumé in science, would shift gears and pursue a future in comedy? The answers were simple. I had a burning desire to accomplish something different. I had family support to help me through the transition. And I wasn't getting any younger.
Decades ago, our stability was judged by a consistent employment history. Those who stayed the longest were deemed competent and valuable. I was able to dodge that belief, but it wasn't easy. Thankfully, today's corporate mindset acknowledges that shifts can reflect positively on employees. Now with over a decade of creativity under my belt, I've come to learn that, for some people, a rich life is based on more than one career. It doesn't mean that we can't make up our minds, it's just that we are intrigued by one more avenue. But shifting gears isn't always easy. The change can be financially, psychologically, and socially risky. So, what should you do as you prepare for a second or third act? Below are six tips to help you maximize success.
Do your research.
Second acts can be hugely rewarding, but don't jump in without doing your homework. Read everything you can get your hands on. Quiz insiders. Observe. Take notes. Consider an internship because what looks intriguing from the sidelines may be unappealing when you get in the trenches. The best way to determine your dream job is to get up close and personal with a related opportunity. Consider shadowing someone in the field. PS: Internships aren't just for 20-somethings anymore. Opportunities for baby boomers have been on the rise. Check out Internsush.com for a fascinating glimpse into the world of internships.
Analyze the numbers.
Don't ditch your day job before you look at the bottom line. Career happiness is important, but the stress of financial problems can also undermine your quality of life and that of other family members. Examine the pros and cons and the cost of your new career (e.g., expenses, training). Don't forget hidden costs such as potential relationship stress, time away from home, and decreased flexibility.
Rally your social support network.
Surround yourself with those who value your happiness. Rally the troops and make sure they include those who understand your vision but aren't afraid to give you an honest opinion. Ignore mean people. They seem to pop up a lot when you're enjoying a new adventure. Recognize that some people aren't comfortable watching others pursue their dreams and find success, so they weigh in with negative comments. Move forward and don't lose momentum worrying about them.
Create your own unique brand.
Second acts may mean you're getting into the game a little later, but those first acts have given us an arsenal of skills that make us valuable players. I used to sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I had done my second act first. Would I have been more successful if I had started earlier and not had the first career? I now believe that there are pieces in every career experience that make us stronger for the next choice and make us stand out from the competition. When I do stand-up, there are traces of a past that included endless hours of lecturing to large audiences (no stage fright or microphone phobias). And my writing and interviews, like my psychology research in the past, always involve precision, sensitivity, and take away messages.
Some of my biggest breaks have come from people under the age of 30. Get over the fact that your boss is the same age as your daughter. We all have the ability to mentor. The more we work together toward a common goal, the more quickly everyone recognizes that age really is just a number.
Work better and faster than everyone else.
There's plenty of talent in the world and many who would love to be where you are or where you hope to be. Work better and faster than everyone else and you'll likely see success happen. And it, like you, will be fabulous.