Five years ago, while waiting for yet another high powered client, my boss turned around and asked me, “ Where do you want to be in three years, Linda?” I startled him when I replied, “ I want to sleep under a banyan tree, Mike. That’s the sum total of my ambition.” I think that was the moment when we both realized that I had reached the end of my road. After 18 years with the organization, I formally retired from the insurance industry in March 2019. I thought I would stay at home and chill for the rest of my life. Little did I know that there was a new adventure right around the corner, just waiting for me.
I took a baking course and the family had to suffer through my enthusiasm and my not so successful experiments. I binge-watched Madam Secretary and Mentalist. I unearthed an old copy of Alex Hailey’s Roots and found it as profound as it had been when I read it in my teens. I laughed through Anuja Chauhan’s novels and became enthused over a series of romantic novels. I re-acquainted myself with Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series and still, time-stretched endlessly in front of me.
It’s when I started painting murals on one wall after the other that my children intervened. “Amma, we know you’ve retired, but maybe you can find a light and breezy career to occupy your time,” they said. I think the family had a secret conference to the tune of:
How do you solve a problem like Linda?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Linda?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o’-the wisp! A clown!
The children were always fond of The Sound of Music!
So, I started looking out for options. One thing was for sure, I did not want a management position where I would continue doing what I was doing before. I had started writing short posts on Facebook (purely to alleviate my boredom) and one of my uncles suggested that I should pursue writing. Since he was someone I respected, I thought perhaps that was something I could do.
I started searching for content writing jobs and realised that folks run for the hills when I introduce myself as a retired Executive Director looking for an entry-level position in content writing. Luckily for me, the Clearly Blue team decided to give me a chance and I embarked on my new and exciting journey.
These two years with CB have been a rollicking ride with new learnings around every corner. I feel this career move has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. So here are some of the lessons I learned on this journey. They might help you make some exciting decisions of your own.
It’s never too late to follow your heart
When I decided to retire from my well-established career, I was besieged with a plethora of doubts. The job had become my identity and my safety net, both financially and socially. You should call it quits if your job is just a safety net for those awkward moments in a dinner party when a stranger walks up to you and asks you, “So, what do you do?”.
You might be like me with no clear plans but a definite sense that your current job no longer fits you. You might be one of the lucky ones who really know what they want to do. Whichever category you fall under, follow your heart and take the plunge.
You might have accumulated a wealth of knowledge in your previous career, but make sure to cleanse yourself from all your previous baggage and preconceptions. What worked well before might not work in the new scenario. It’s always good to wait and watch and volunteer an opinion only when you are sure that it will make a positive impact.
Let your inner child loose
A new career is a perfect opportunity to awaken your inner child. Since you are a novice, you are free of great expectations—from yourself and others. You are free to experiment and improvise. Embrace every new experience with the curiosity and enthusiasm of a kitten. If you approach each situation with a positive attitude and the willingness to make it work, anything is possible.
Be ready to learn
Focus on what you don’t know, rather than what you know. Some of us feel that we have to incorporate what we already know into every situation we encounter. You really don’t need to. If you go with an open mind and with the mindset of a learner, every new challenge becomes an opportunity. When I opened my mind to learn new skills, I realised that my brain gained back its old vigour. Being a beginner in the team was a cleansing and empowering experience. I felt as if I suddenly sprouted wings.
Play to your strengths
If you are like me and have switched from a well-established career, the change can be disconcerting. A new environment where your earlier status means nothing is a lesson in humility. It also helps you dig deep and find your core strengths. You’ll realise that your attitude and values are more important than your skills and experience. Take it from me—that’s a liberating moment. It’s a reaffirmation of who you really are.
I know people who have distinct goals and a vision they work towards. I’ve always felt that they are the lucky ones. If you are one of those, grab your dream now and start your adventure. If you are like me and have a tendency to serendipitously fall into interesting careers, here are a few nuggets of truth. It’s your will to work and do the best you can that really matters. The rest will fall in place. If you search deep within, you will find long-forgotten skills that will suit your new role. Those moments of discovery are the most gratifying.
Editor’s note: Linda is a brilliant writer whose vivid stories are lighting up many client deliverables. A tiger can’t hide its stripes forever, however, and she’s shining as our Chief Content Officer as well.