40 is the new 20: how changing careers made my dream job come to life!

This time last year I had just started Busy Bookworms.

I was stressing about enrolments, marketing, curriculum, and whether I was completely crazy to start this new venture. I had been nurturing the idea for many years, my kids were becoming more independent, and my 40th birthday was fast approaching. The beginning of 2017 was the time to stop making excuses and start making things happen. So I did it...but that was just the first step.

The confidence boost of starting my own business (plus being surrounded all day by fabulous picture books and wonderful children!) inspired me to undertake an internship…later that year I began pursuing my dream of writing for children, and I haven’t looked back!

Look Amy, that’s fine for YOU...but what about ME?

Seriously – it’s about one thing: just do it (to steal an over-used marketing phrase). Find inspiring people to push you – this has been invaluable to my confidence. There are lots of great groups online too – email me if you’d like some ideas.

Over the past year, many of my friends have been on similar journeys. One childhood friend who had a career which was firmly grounded in the corporate world before having children has retrained as an educational assistant. Now she's happier than ever, helping special needs children in a primary school setting. Several family friends have become successful artists after taking up a new art form in their 40s, including one high level executive whose sculptures are currently in demand around the world. Indeed, many children’s authors were not published until they were over 40, including prolific Australian writer and recent Children’s Laureate Leigh Hobbs, the creator of classic characters including Old Tom, Mr. Chicken and Horrible Harriet.

In our 40s, we clearly have a better understanding of ourselves – our strengths, our weaknesses, our passions – and are better placed to choose a career that plays to all of these. Our parents' generation were expected to be on their final path by the time their teenage years were over, but how many of them had jobs about which they were truly passionate? For our generation, as clichéd as it sounds, 40 might be the new 20.

The times they are a changin'

So what is it about hitting middle age that triggers a desire for career change in so many people? The latest census figures showed that 134,000 Australians in their 40s are engaging in study, indicating that we no longer assume the career we chose in our teenage years is necessarily our career choice for life. With the availability of flexible study options such as online learning, it’s much easier to fit further study into our increasingly hectic lifestyles. Online offerings have enabled me to undertake a postgraduate certificate with UNSW and a writing course with the Australian Writers Centre, both of which I loved, and would never have logistically been able to attend face-to-face. Watching a lecture about gifted education on a laptop while breastfeeding a baby in the middle of the night is quite a unique experience!

Aside from age, there is also the gender factor to consider. In recent years, the term ‘mumpreneur’ has appeared in the media, referring to the increasing number of women juggling motherhood with running their own businesses (hey, I just realised that I’m one too!). According to the Huffington Post, “Over a third of all Australian business operators are women (34 percent) and there has been a 46 percent increase in the number of women business operators over the past two decades.” This is a staggering statistic which, aside from anything else, demonstrates what a great example these women are setting for their kids, who are being shown that following our passions, while certainly challenging, is such a rewarding process.

Fighting the good fight

I think we need to be clear that that it’s important to find joy and fulfillment in the journey – not all new ventures will necessarily become multi-million dollar enterprises, but the process of finding and pursuing what you love tends to be as exciting for most people as it has been for me. The thrill of each small achievement – inquiries from new students, watching the social media following grow, receiving positive feedback from parents, and the satisfaction of a class that’s gone really well – renews my energy and resolve to continue the uphill battle.

Last night, I was terrified. In my children’s writing course it was my turn to workshop - I read aloud a story I’ve written recently, and the group and teacher discussed my work and gave detailed feedback. I came home buzzing – it was so daunting, but so exciting to be reassured that I’m on the right track, that all the drafting and redrafting is paying off. I’m always on a high after my writing course, but last night took it to another level. And I think that experience mirrored the journey of the past year – many small, daunting steps towards a bigger goal, each one generating the confidence to keep going. I’m outside of my comfort zone, and it’s not easy, but it’s brilliant!

Have you been thinking about a career change but not quite sure where to start? These steps might help…