Does success have an expiry date? It can seem like it sometimes. In our youth-obsessed culture, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking if we haven’t got a well-established, rewarding career by the age of 35 (or whatever arbitrary benchmark we set), then we never will.
It’s just not true, of course. For every Justin Bieber (13 years old when he was discovered) there’s a JK Rowling (33, unemployed and on benefits when the first Harry Potter book was published); and for every Daniel Radcliffe (11 when he was cast as the aforementioned Harry Potter), there’s a Vivienne Westwood (who was 41 when she held her first runway show).
Here’s how to get started:
• Don’t stick to something just because it’s familiar. ‘Women in particular can end up doing things they’ve been told they are good at and can take longer to tap into what they really love doing,’ says Rachel Short, who re-trained as an organisational psychologist just after her 40th birthday. ‘You might be outwardly successful, but if you don’t have a passion for what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like you’re blooming.’
• Keep an open mind. Maybe you’ll take a detour on the path to what you want to do; maybe you’ll change fields entirely; perhaps you won’t find your real vocation until you’re 60. ‘Get rid of your assumptions about what life is supposed to look like,’ advises Juliet Landau-Pope, who left a career in academia to become a professional decluttering coach, ‘and don’t worry what anyone else thinks. It’s not about them.’
• Value your experience. Whether you’ve been writing unpublished poems for 10 years or investing in a career that you eventually abandon, don’t berate yourself for wasting time. Sometimes, being in the ‘wrong’ job can help you identify what you really want to do, and you will often have developed skills that end up giving you an edge over others.
• Don’t give up. It sounds trite, but sometimes success really is about perseverance. What you do may not be in fashion at the moment. Maybe you can’t afford to retrain right now. You might not be good enough yet. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, just that you get there eventually.
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