I'm extremely passionate about ongoing self-reinvention in all aspects but especially on the work front.
Less than two years after my five year-old son was killed in a tragic car accident in which my seven year-old daughter was severely injured, I returned to studying and read law at Cambridge University.
Despite my catastrophic personal circumstances, I had more than exceeded the necessary university entrance requirements in the two A- levels for which I studied part-time.
Shortly before my accident, in November 1987, I went on a wonderful short course called Second Chance Opportunities and Education for Women – SCOPE. This was for “women returners” to the workplace and was inspirational.
Technology May Change but the Basics of Journalism Remain the Same
By the time I was in my early forties I was generally happy with my career path. I enjoyed my job as a software engineer / sysadmin at the time working at Google as an SRE. I had great co-workers, interesting projects and except for a mortgage I was debt-free.
And then my mom started dropping tea cups.
I knew I needed to move back to Galway and as usual: job first then move. By the time the doctors had figured out that my mom had ALS my primary job became helping her.
I cut back on my tech work and ended up just doing part-time. Initially I stressed over bills and money. My mom had always been my career and finance adviser so I combined her careful planning with my tech experience: a spreadsheet! Written all down I learned my finances were fine even at part time.
It was my mom who had instilled the importance of work in me. She came from a poor, rural family in Ireland. Work was survival. It didn't bring meaning to your life, it brought food to your table and a roof over your head. And that had been true, but now it wasn't for either of us.
So instead of stressing about that, we spent time together and made the most of the time she had left. In amongst that we talked about what each of us had learned in our careers and what had mattered. Then that time came to an end.
A year on I'm still figuring out what all of that means. I still have the part-time job because not working at all is just not a thing I can wrap my head around. And I'm working through my mom's requests. But I'm talking to people, asking questions and trying things out. I'm not sure what the future holds on the career-front, but it has changed. My old course doesn't fit any more. Another one needs to be found.
Kevin Lyda, Ireland
Guy Kipp, New Jersey, USA
Iterations. That's what my life and career path have consisted of. And a lot of them.
At 75 years of age, I am from an era when people started working when they were very young and, for the most part, stayed in the same job until they died. Young people today change jobs and even careers frequently but people of my vintage recall when it was a big plus on a resume to have been "loyal" to a job for decades, unless somehow you nailed a better paying job, usually in the same field.
Not my case at all. I made lots of changes on my path. Some by design and some because I had to but all of them were stepping stones, even when they took me in a different direction or were very wet and slippery stones!
After high school, I worked in a supermarket for a few years. College was not an option at that point and I wanted money to buy my first shiny car, a 1957 DeSoto with huge fins. Sexy. Then came the yellow convertible. So cool. Then came Uncle Sam - being drafted was imminent so I joined the US Air Force instead.
How I became a Knight of Herstmonceaux
Basic training was a wakeup call into manhood. I trained in electronics (the "career of the future") and lucked out when I got stationed in France with NATO for most of my four-year stint where I learned that I really hated electronics. But I loved France and everything French! I studied hard to become fluent and wound up helping with interpreting when finally, in 1967, Charles De Gaulle asked us to leave.
Back in the USA. What to do? I had the GI Bill to help me through college so I decided to major in, what else, French language and literature. I worked nights again at a supermarket and studied full-time till I got my BA. I married my wife (of 48 years now) and went on to get my Masters in Education with specialization in Modern Language Instruction. And then I taught French in a Community College in Buffalo. Until that came to an abrupt end three years later. Campuses were in an uproar. Mostly over Vietnam. Students rewrote college curricula and languages were eliminated as a requirement for a degree. I was a young prof with no tenure. Damn. Now what?
A friend of mine encouraged me to go into pharmaceutical sales. With my language background, the terminology was an cinch and I was hired quickly. Big iteration. A whole new and different field. After years of sales, I made a quantum leap into a position of Director of European Sales Operations for a major pharma company. Great. Now I can use my languages and my pharmaceutical knowledge! And after seven years, the company moved out of Manhattan to a place I didn't want to live. Damn.
Now in my 40s, in an era when the American environmental activist Jack Weinberg said that no one over 30 should be trusted, I had to re-market myself. And so I did. I held several different Director and VP positions with various companies in pharmaceutical marketing, publishing, promotion and sales. I changed many times and learned more and more with each change. In my early 60s, with a partner, I started my own pharmaceutical promotion company and enjoyed it until I finally retired at 67.
End of story? No. Life goes on after retirement, or at least it should. I enjoyed fitness. Especially Spinning (also known as indoor cycling). So I became a Spinning Instructor. Then a personal trainer and a senior fitness trainer. Then a TRX training instructor, a flexibility coach and a group fitness instructor. And here I am, at 75, enjoying life and kicking butts of all ages in fitness!
Looking back through the retrospectoscope, the many "iterations" have been challenging. Tough and scary. But it has been a great ride and my advice to everyone as they go on in life is to step back from time to time. Focus on what you enjoy, what you know that you do well. Think about how you can combine the things you love if you go in a different direction with them. Then gather up your courage with both hands and get out there and kick butt and enjoy life!
Roger Anthony, Westwood, New Jersey, USA
Focus on what you enjoy
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How I found my second perfect job
It gave me the confidence to dare to reach for the stars after being told all my life by my father (and a female occupational psychologist who colluded with him), that I wasn't academic and should do a secretarial course because I’d only get married young anyway – which I did at 19.
The irony is that I passed all of the academic subjects on the diploma – but failed the shorthand and typing!
After university, I was invited to be on the advisory committee for SCOPE and was so sad when the course eventually folded. Studying at Cambridge was my life raft in a sea of misery after losing my son.
It also sustained me, giving me hope for a better future when my first marriage collapsed and I had to nurse my daughter through many major operations, on my own.
I’ve since been involved in several educational advisory committees, including at the Cambridge University Institute of Continuing Education. I’m an experienced group trainer and facilitator, as well as a public speaker.
I’m now part of the Cambridge University mentoring network for mature students. I love giving back and supporting others to dare to do the seemingly impossible.
It’s simply NEVER too late to make your dreams come true! I’ve continued learning and achieving since my Cambridge days, passing many other exams over the years. So much for not being “academic”!
I’ve run multiple businesses, always seizing new challenges willingly. Some initiatives have worked out brilliantly and others haven’t. Life hasn’t been a bed of roses at all times but I’ve tapped into my inner strength and carried on regardless. There’s no such thing as failure – only a new learning experience!
I’ve morphed from Cambridge-educated lawyer to becoming an international dating coach. Now aged 57 and happily married to my third husband Peter, I’m currently writing my book “From Dinner Date to Soulmate – Finding Love at Any Age”. It’s a humorous self-help book for older women who are looking for a relationship. I plan to launch dating workshops, nationally and internationally, for the same target market.
We bought an apartment in Nice two years ago, fulfilling another lifelong dream of mine. And I became a granny to Connie two and a half years ago.
I believe that nothing is impossible. But you have to make your own luck by putting in the action and doing all the hard work – it’s so worth it. If I can do it, with all of the adversity I’ve had to face, then anybody can!
Cynthia Spillman, London, UK
I got to like it even more when, after working for a number of firms, I settled on a wonderful company with a very understanding boss who gave me the flexibility to work around the needs of my family. At the time, my children were still young. I needed to be available to drive them to school and social activities. And no nights or weekend working.
Most of our clients were referred to us by architects and contractors. Suddenly, after 2008, that business fell off the cliff. Nobody was building. Nobody was remodeling. The company was forced to close.
“Now what do I do?” I asked myself.
I applied to other kitchen businesses but people just weren’t hiring at the time. As for a new career, it had been years since I last worked in an office. So many changes had taken place in the world of work, not least in technology. I just didn’t think I would be employable.
Fortunately, my husband has a very good job, and with some adjustments to our budget, we managed financially. So, I decided to enjoy the summer with my kids and do some thinking about my future.
Sadly, there was very little help or advice out there for someone in my situation and I don’t think things have improved much in the meantime. Not having worked in an office for so many years, I had no idea what that environment was like any more, other than what was portrayed in movies that I had seen.
All I knew was that things had changed dramatically, from working practices and technology to dress codes and etiquette. I just thought there’s no way I could get into that routine again. Maybe I’m not going to be able to do this.
An online community and resource center like Forwards From Fifty would have been really useful to me if it had existed at that time. Even hearing about other people’s experiences could probably give me ideas that I might not have thought of myself.
However, I had friends in similar circumstances, and we would talk about it and come up with ideas on possible career options and courses we could take.
It had a conversation with my Mom that changed everything. Summer ended, the schools were back in session, and I mentioned that I was going to start looking elsewhere at other jobs.
She immediately picked up the phone and called my sister, who’s a real estate agent. “You know Victoria’s looking for a job,” she said. “Do you need any help?” She did, and the rest is history.
I started working for my sister a little, a few hours here, a few hours there. Mostly with marketing, in which I have my degree, and other all-round help.
She then convinced me to get my real estate license. Here in the US there are laws that stipulate only licensed agents can perform certain tasks. So, I took the class, two nights a week for eight weeks, read several huge books on real estate and took two separate exams.
That was daunting. I hadn’t taken a test since college and was very nervous. Especially since I could only have two attempts at the exams before having to take the course all over again. But in the end, I passed both exams the first time.
Now with my license, in addition to helping with marketing tasks like producing brochures and writing descriptions of homes being listed for sale, I can support other agents in the office, hold open houses, attend inspections and help with showing houses (including the kitchen, which they do say is the heart of the home!).
I can even proclaim that I have a hand on the very latest technology, something unimaginable when I was looking for work. Last year, the agency purchased a 3D virtual camera. I was hired to do all the virtual tours for all the agents in the office. With just a little bit of training and practice, I was able to create amazing virtual tours that our clients marvel at.
This new job came at the perfect time for me because now that I’m an empty nester, I wanted to work more hours. Some weeks I work full-time hours and some just part-time, but it allows me to continue to help my sister with her business, and if I need a few hours off for my own personal schedule, I can do it.
I’m lucky that, once again, I found a perfect job.
Victoria Cory, Brookfield, Connecticut, USA
Personal trainer, human dynamo and man of many parts Roger Anthony on why you should kick butt and enjoy life.
Shortly after the financial crisis of 2008, I lost my perfect job. The custom kitchen company where I had worked for 17 years was forced to close its doors and my life changed forever.
Like many people and businesses at that time, I felt lost. Little did I know that, just a few years later, I’d be fortunate enough to have an entirely different career in another perfect job. This is my story.
My 25 years in kitchen designing began while I was working through college, studying marketing. On graduation, I took an office job at a major corporation but after five years decided I liked designing kitchens better.
Photo opportunity: Victoria with her 3D camera.
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I've had a job pretty much continually since I was 12. There were a few breaks but I was raised to prioritise working and saving. An example of what this means is that I've always gotten a job first and moved second. I have friends who have done it the other way and it's always worked for them, but for me it would be too stressful.
After college I started putting aside a percentage of my salary into some sort of savings account - a savings account, a 401k or a pension. The more I can't touch it, the better. When I got bonuses at work I ploughed them into paying off debt - except for when I used one to get into more debt than I'd ever had when I bought a house.
My forties were a period of great change with a divorce followed by a new relationship and a realisation that, in many ways, I had actually been asleep between the ages of 35 and 45, or at least sleep walking into a beige future.
When I hit 48 my new partner, seeing that I needed a new interest, suggested we take up archery. About 10 years previously I had done a 6 week archery course and was confident enough with a bow, so we decided to join a Longbow society in the deepest Sussex countryside, the Archers of Herstmonceux. Following a few weeks training, I bought an ash longbow and was thoroughly enjoying the Sunday afternoon shoots.
The archery group then introduced a new side, the Knights of Herstmonceux, a medieval re-enactment group. Although I fence regularly and have a love of history, this is not something I had ever considered. After all, at this point I am overweight, 49 and have a touch of asthma.
After one training session I was hooked, twice monthly training sessions for 8 months or so, then in my 50th year I take to the battlefield for the first time.
As I walk out to do battle it may be an idea to describe what I am wearing, medieval leather shoes with no heal, hose (basically black tights with a cod piece!), a padded jacket whose closest relative is a duvet, a coif - think balaclava, and of course chain-mail, metal helmet with visor, metal chest-plate, sword and a buckler. I would feel warm on a cold winter’s day, let alone the hottest day of the year. This was the August Bank Holiday of 2016, the temperature reached 30 plus degrees, the sky is a deep blue without a cloud and there is no shade.
We muster with the Kings men in the grounds of Herstmonceux Castle and we are a motley bunch of misfits; Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch Men would be proud of us. I am the second oldest, with only a retired fireman older than myself, and I know from experience during our practice sessions that he is a fierce fighter. We are office workers, teachers, IT consultants, retiree’s and students, all in varying degrees of health, our watercarrier (my endlessly supportive partner) is carrying more asthma inhalers and medicine than water I think at one point.
Given the order to exit the castle, we cross the moat via the stone bridge. Around the battleground over a thousand visitors to the Medieval Festival watch on, the 15th century castle is behind us now and our foe, the Lancastrians, in front. A hundred men or so on each side, our little group making up the left hand block. The order to advance is given, we move forward as the unit we have trained to be.
With each of the those steps towards the enemy, I think of the path over the last 10 years, a path of many obstacles, many heartaches, but here I am, 50 years old, dressed up as a Knight in nearly shining armour, doing things that at 40 I would have said I was too old to take up. I am not the fittest or richest man in the world, but out there, with adrenalin running through my veins, raising my sword to do battle, I feel alive, vibrant energy coursing through me like an electric current.
The two sides clash, blade meets blade, parry, riposte, push, strike, the noise of battle is deafening. The order is given to reform the line back into formation, I look around at the smiles across our faces, from 17 to 50+ the smiles say it all, this is battle, this is life.
The order to move forward and engage comes again, and I think grinning as I go that yes at 50, forwards, always forwards.
Since that first battle in August 2016 we have taken part in the Battle of Jack Cade at the Loxwood Joust weekends in West Sussex and again have spent the Bank Holiday at Herstmonceux Castle. This winter will be spent purchasing a medieval tent for our living history encampment, spending 3 day weekends with very little technology, some good food and the evenings around the campfire are as good as a weekend at a spa for de-stressing and much cheaper. We will be pouring over the dates for the 2018 events calendar, planning our battling weekends with a completely new lease of life in a direction that I would never have guessed.
Whatever life throws at you, it’s never too late to make your dreams come true, says writer and dating coach Cynthia Spillman.
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Reach for the stars!
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From kitchen designer to high-tech realtor: Victoria Cory on learning new skills and adapting existing ones.
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I spent 20 years covering sports at every level from local high school athletics to national major league events for the largest newspaper in New Jersey, but 10 years ago as the sports section started a long, slow slog toward downsizing, I was faced with the prospect of shifting gears and accruing new skills.
I spent about a year editing copy for Dow Jones Newswires before returning to The Star-Ledger in an entirely new role as an editor and writer for the Special Sections department responsible for supplying advertising support content. But as print media continued to hemorrhage readership, revenue and advertisers, the paper continued on its inexorable path to downsizing even more.
Four years ago I made the inevitable transition to digital media and have been there ever since. But, in addition, I have developed freelance clients that have mandated that I continue to hone my skills writing and creating advertising content, I realm I never imagined I would be involved in just a decade earlier.
The media world has undergone a radical shift over the last couple of decades. Social media now dominates the landscape, and, as much as the Internet changed the way media works when it reached critical mass in the mid-1990s, the Internet now is nothing like it was in 1995. The dissemination of information, and reaction to that information, has become much more immediate and how occurs in real time.
But as the demands of the world change and the kids get older and closer to college, you do what you have to do to remain relevant in the marketplace.
I parlayed my old world experience in print media and applied many of the time-honored principles to digital media, and to training people to properly report news digitally, because, while the type of media from which audiences receive their news has changed, the fundamentals--"who, what, when, where and why"--never have, and never will.
Paul Brand, Shoreham by Sea, UK