Your book focuses on professional reinvention. When thinking about my audience of women in midlife, what challenges do you see them struggling with midway through their careers?
I think the biggest struggle is that many mid-career professionals assume – erroneously – that it’s too late for them to reinvent. As I discovered in the course of researching my book Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, it’s entirely possible to reinvent yourself professionally at any age. Of course, there are important factors to be considered; if you need to keep earning a robust salary, you can’t turn on a dime and jump into an entirely new career right away. But you can certainly begin to position yourself for a positive change.
On the flip side, what opportunities do you find these women can leverage in midlife?
The great news for mid-career professionals is that reinvention may actually be easier for them because, in many cases, they’ve developed robust social and professional networks they can tap. Wharton professor Adam Grant talks about the importance of rekindling ‘dormant ties,’ or people that you used to know whom you haven’t spoken with in a while, such as college friends or colleagues from past jobs. These people will likely be excited to hear from you, will remember you fondly, and may well want to help you with your next chapter.
How do you suggest women in midlife explore and find the unique strengths and passions they can use in their reinvention?
By the time you’ve reached midlife, you probably have a good sense of what’s interesting to you and what isn’t. The question is, could this actually be a viable second career? It’s worth taking time to explore the reality, rather than just the shiny surface vision, of your dream career. Services like PivotPlanet enable you to talk directly to career mentors and take ‘working vacations’ where you can job shadow someone in your ideal field, so you can see if it really lives up to expectations.
What is the importance of personal branding for these women?
Fundamentally, your personal brand is your reputation – how people think of you. In some cases, your personal brand may be holding you back, because even if you’ve developed a great brand in your current industry, it may constrain people’s impressions of you. “Oh, she’s a great accountant, but would I really hire her as a wedding photographer?” You have to start slowly and strategically altering people’s perceptions of you, through things like blogging or creating content to show you’re knowledgeable in your new field, taking on leadership roles in professional associations, and making yourself visible in your new identity, so that others will start to think of you in the new way.
What resources do you recommend for women in midlife who are contemplating a career reinvention?
Encore.org has a lot of interesting resources for people looking for socially conscious second careers. And my good friend Dr. Ben Michaelis has a book called Your Next Big Thing: Ten Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy that might be helpful for those in professional transition.
Contact Dorie Link via her contact page
Dorie Clark is an Adjunct Professor of Business Administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future and Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It, which was named the #1 Leadership Book of 2015 by Inc. magazine. A former presidential campaign spokeswoman, the New York Times described her as an “expert at self-reinvention and helping others make changes in their lives.” She is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, TIME, and Entrepreneur. Recognized as a “branding expert” by the Associated Press, Inc., and Fortune, Clark is a marketing strategy consultant and speaker for clients including Google, Microsoft, Yale University, Fidelity, the U.S. State Department, and the World Bank. You can download her free 42-page Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook and learn more at dorieclark.com.