I went to university straight from high school and studied to become a teacher. Both my parents were teachers, and it just made sense to me that I would be a teacher too. Only, when I got to university, I discovered that there was a big wide world out there beyond “doctor, nurse, teacher or lawyer” as career options and I found myself doing an Honours year in history instead of a diploma in education.
When I left university, I ended up in public service (ironically working for the Department of Education – perhaps the world wasn’t as big and wide as I first thought), which led ultimately to recruitment and … then I fell pregnant.
This was Act One of my career.
Perhaps this story is not completely unfamiliar to you, where you enter study with one idea and leave it with another, neither of which eventuate and then you bounce about a bit like Pong until you find something that you settle into well enough.
Is it what you always wanted to do? Nope. Is it something you spend your childhood dreaming about? Definitely not. But it pays the bills and its suits relatively well.
In order to snap out of this pattern of mediocrity, of settled-in-ness, there usually needs to be a catalyst. For me, it was pregnancy. For others, it might be a redundancy, an illness, a left-field offer. Whatever the catalyst turns out to be, it brings with it an opportunity to change the trajectory of your professional life. This then becomes Act Two of your career.
Two of my closest friends have reinvented themselves in their 30s and 40s this year with one of them building a career in education and the other joining the military. It has been amazing watching their transition through learning, employment trials, fitness training and interviews to a place where determination and passion has pushed them through the challenges to navigate the period of transition.
For me, my Act Two is characterised by entrepreneurship – and for many of us (especially those of us who have forayed into full time parenthood) this is the nature of Act Two.
There is an increasing number of women in particular who are jumping on the entrepreneurship bandwagon and using their creativity to design their careers around their family life. Innovation, creativity, passion, and if we are honest, exhaustion seems to really epitomise this journey.
However, the transition to Act Two of our careers is not always clear sailing.
Change brings challenges, not least of which is justifying your desire for change when you are raising your children or when you have a secure job that is paying the bills despite it not feeding your soul.
It can be a difficult conversation to have with yourself, let alone with a partner (especially one who depends on you to bring home the bread), to acknowledge your desire for more than a roof over your head and food in the pantry.
Is it really unreasonable to want to feed the fire in your belly as well as the hunger?
We need to give ourselves permission to want more and there is honestly no harm in looking for it, even if we don’t have the catalyst of a company restructure or the second pink line on a pregnancy test.
It’s really is never too late to seek career fulfilment.
Sometimes, we don’t even know what we want until we are in our 30s or 40s. Don’t let age be a barrier.
Perhaps the best time to start on this journey was 10 years ago, but the second best time is today.