Did you know that Vera Wang was a competitive figure skater before launching her fashion and bridal brand? And that Julia Child was a spy in the CIA before becoming a chef? They had some pretty robust First Acts before entering what you might call their Second Act.
Thinking about those massively successful women, it’s interesting to think that your current career might not be what you’re ultimately known for. That what you’re doing now is just a stepping stone into what you truly want to be doing with your life, or even a path to the next stepping stone. I’m guessing this is true for many of us at ModernWell.
I’m currently in my second act, and – surprisingly to me – about the enter my third. My first act was in advertising, bouncing from agencies in New York, London, Minneapolis and San Francisco before realizing I needed a change. Now, I work for myself as a full-time illustrator and designer, running a small creative studio called Senn & Sons and I’m co-founding a start-up, where we’re on a mission to clean up bath time.
Spending nearly a decade developing a career in advertising and then leaving it to start something fresh felt almost “wasteful” when I initially considered it, but I realized all my experience, in whatever form it took, and each person I’ve met along the way, was incredibly valuable.
At the same time, I had to consider the timing of my transition – is there ever a good time to flip your career on its head?
I’ve talked to so many other women who’ve experienced major catalysts for a life change — pregnancy, lay-offs, boredom, burn-out, near death experiences (seriously), and stay-at-home moms who have sent their last little one off to Kindergarten and have earned some time back for themselves and want to do something big with it. Mine was being pregnant with my first baby and feeling the need for a significant shift in my work.
The good news is you don’t have to wait for a major life moment like these to make a change – you can create your own catalyst and just take the first step to entering your second act.
The biggest challenge comes when you know you want to change paths, but aren’t quite certain about your new path.
- Ask yourself some big, important, scary questions. What do I LOVE doing? What am I, you know, GOOD at? What would be worth sacrificing my free time or family time for?
- Start doing the work. Just start. You don’t need a fancy business plan or formal education, you need a willingness to learn what you don’t know and guts to take opportunities that feel scary, but will force you to learn and grow.
- Talk about your new endeavor, however new, however small, however half-baked, to anyone who will listen. They might have ideas, criticisms, encouragement, doubts, or connections that will propel you further along your path.
Now that I’ve got you excited, let’s talk about the hard part: making sacrifices. I’ll focus on the big ones: TIME and MONEY.
Oh, time, you scarce and delicious resource. As a full-time entrepreneur and working mom of two, this is the one thing that continues to be a challenge for me. I learned recently that Sara Blakely, the inventor and founder of Spanx, worked in a sales job for three years while building her business on the side. THREE YEARS where Spanx was her side hustle. Your second act might start this way, too – it might be the gig you pursue on nights and weekends or in small pockets of time you create throughout the day.
Money is also a huge consideration when pursuing a second act. In order for me to leave advertising (and full-time, consistent income), my husband and I had to adjust our lifestyle. We moved into a smaller, less expensive apartment, and generally scaled back on all our expenses during this time. It was a choice we made in order for me to have a more flexible schedule to both build my new business and raise our kiddos. For us, it was a worthwhile sacrifice.
Remember, people and companies are rarely “overnight successes,” and every founder will tell you they had been grinding for years, if not decades, before they found success (a highly subjective term). Start small, freelance, add a side hustle, spend time with women at ModernWell to start making connections and gain some traction – this will keep you moving in the right direction.
You’ll know the moment it’s time to hit refresh and take control of your own life. When it’s time to create something that will open up new doorways for professional partnerships, new friendships, new communities, and a chance to become personally fulfilled.
Sure, the comfort zone of staying where you currently are is nice. There’s a lot of fear that comes with entering uncharted territory. But if you do a little planning, a lot of hard work, and add in a bit of luck (you know, the kind you make by doing the work), starting your Second Act might be so worth it.