Considering a Second Career Choice? 3 Lessons from an Octogenarian

Second Career Choice

In today’s post, I’ll be sharing some insights and wisdom around contemplating your “second act,” or making that second career choice, with the belief that there are more than just two acts during our lifelong journey on stage.

I decided to interview an octogenarian (88 years to be precise) I know and admire to hear her stories around the many “acts” she’s performed in over the years and to seek out some pearls of wisdom.

Let me tell you something about Jean: she’s a college graduate; she married soon after graduation; and she’s a mother of five boys. Jean has outlived her two wonderful husbands, and has resided in a small town in Ohio for most of her life. I often wondered how she could even contemplate doing anything other than raising five children, and I was curious as to how she made that leap.

Her first “second act” began as her eldest was entering college. Jean decided to take some classes at the local university to prepare her for teaching. What started out as a part time position soon blossomed into a full time job teaching English at the local high school. That second act lasted 20 years!

After retiring from teaching, she followed her love of collecting beautiful things to become an antique dealer, enjoying guided buying trips to England and many antique fairs throughout Ohio. Along the way, she continued to write and publish both on the antique collecting she loved and other topics of interest.

The Three Lessons 

Through all of these transitions, a story emerged about what to consider when making and succeeding with second career choices:

Follow your Joy
This is something I admire the most about Jean, and it’s evident in all the choices she made. While she didn’t imagine herself as a teacher while in college (she envisioned a career as a writer or journalist), her teaching position allowed her to share her love of literature, writing, and travel. It was something she could fit into her life as a mother of five.

Be Bold
“If you have the talent, then go out and fight for it. If you have the ability, then go out and work for it. Do what you can to develop your talent and pursue your dreams, no matter what your situation in life is.” Consider this: at the time Jean made her career choice, it was a bold decision. It was still uncommon for women to work and none of her friends had full-time jobs. The sentiment at the time was that, for a woman, following your interests was selfish – especially if you were a mother. Keep in mind, she is a mother of five!

Get Help
Before taking on the job – and with her husband’s support and encouragement – Jean hired household help to allow her to thrive as a teacher and have time for her friends and family. It’s common for women to try and do it all on their own and not seek help. Realizing it’s okay is perhaps one of the most important lessons.

Thank you, Jean, for your constant inspiration and for sharing your wisdom.

For additional practical tips when considering a second career choice, reference this PRiME article on career transitions and choices.


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