I got an email earlier this week from a reader thanking me for inspiring her to transition to a job where she could find more balance. She said, Thinking Outside the Chrysalis: A Black Woman’s Guide to Spreading Her Wings reminded her to take better care of herself spiritually, mentally, and physically. Her email made my day, and it has me thinking about career transitions.
After nearly two years working full-time as a freelance writer and coach, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve changed careers. We often hear of people reinventing themselves in retirement, but what about when you’re not retired at all. Is that a thing? Am I in good company?
Yes, it totally is a thing and the company is pretty fantastic. Here are my top 3 career-changing heroes:
1. One of my all-time favorite authors, Toni Morrison, started her career as an English professor before becoming an editor at Random House. She published her first novel, The Bluest Eye, at the age of 40 and enjoyed a long career, authoring 20 books and 2 plays. She went on to win both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature. If you haven’t seen the highly-rated 2019 documentary, The Pieces I Am, I encourage you to check it out.
2. Joy Behar was a high school English teacher until deciding to take a chance as a receptionist at Good Morning America in the hopes of moving her comedy routines from small NYC clubs to bigger roles. She got her first television role at the age of 44. In 1997, at the age of 54, she began co-hosting The View. The rest is history. And, she’s my funny auntie in my head.
3. After his second professional defeat at the age of 28, George Foreman had a spiritual awakening that led him to retire from boxing and become an ordained minister. He’s been preaching at the church he founded since 1980. Of course, he came back to win the world championship at the age of 45 in 1994. But George Foreman may be better known for his role in the development and branding of the George Foreman Grill than his boxing career. His net worth is estimated at $300M and includes revenue from many other entrepreneurial ventures. That’s plenty of blessings for The Church of The Lord Jesus Christ, which he founded.
There are many more stories like these. Martha Stewart went from model to stockbroker to lifestyle brand pioneer. Barbara “B” Smith had a similar path, as a model, restauranteur and transcultural lifestyle icon. Hip-hop moguls like Jay-Z have epitomized the journey from street hustler to billionaire businessman. Michael Jordan is nearly as well known for his shoes and for his basketball career. They are all fantastic stories of transformation, resilience and reinvention.
If any of these great stories of transition have inspired you to make a change, here are 5 tips:
1. Do your research. Changing careers can seem exciting but being broke isn’t any fun. As Lisa Nichols says in her book, Abundance Now! new businesses typically cost three times as much as you expect and don’t turn a profit until after the third year. Do your homework before making big changes.
2. Get grounded. Significant changes to employment and lifestyle can make you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster. Be clear about your overall vision and three-, five- and ten-year plans. Once you know where you want to go, make sure you are spiritually and emotionally grounded so that sudden winds don’t throw you off course.
3. Check your finances. Research and vision are great, but when it’s all done it comes down to the Benjamins, baby. Make sure you have a handle on projected income and expenses, so you don’t regret your decision to follow a new calling.
4. Tap into Your Intuition. It’s not very scientific according to traditional Western standards, but the gut knows plenty. Check your heart and spirit before making big moves. Get quiet and listen.
5. Get connected. Whether you reach out to your old alma mater, join a professional group, volunteer in your community or go to weekly Bible study, you’ll need to connect with people to keep you sane and propel you forward. Do not, I repeat, do not, try to go it alone.
Making a change just might be the best thing for you. The only way to know for sure is by taking the leap. The only responsible way to leap into uncharted territory is with planning, community and self-care.
I wish you passion, purpose and the realization of your fullest potential!
P.S. Today’s photo is from Sammie Chaffin at Unsplash. If you are trying to figure out a path forward, I can help. Click the link below to set up some time with me.