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6 April

New York -  business menImage by Marionzetta via Flickr

Is it ever too late to begin a new career?

That's what I will find out over the coming months as I go through my job search. Since leaving college over twenty years ago, I've had four career changes. I started off in New York with a Japanese investment bank. I left there after eight years and had a period of hiatus that consisted of helping my brother to launch his business, working part-time in a bookstore, and then pursing a writing career. From there, I went overseas and taught in an international school for four years, then came home and began a career in commercial real estate where I have worked for the past three years, during which time I also completed a MBA.

As I plan my next step, I believe it's useful to look back at each of these careers and to figure out what I liked about each one and what kept each from being the ONE. Today I'm going to consider what I liked about each career. Tomorrow, we'll consider what I learned was not for me.

Career #1 Investment Banking: This was my first job out of university. I fell in love with Wall Street as a high school student in my AP History class. My dream was to one day work on Wall Street, I dreamed at one point of being a foreign exchange trader (that was before I really understood what they did!). What I loved about the Street was that every day brought something new, something exciting, and the unpredictability of the market was a great leveler. Anyone could come downtown and make money. From the trading floor to plush offices of corporate finance you met people from every walk of life from the most humble beginnings to the poshest prep schools, the common denominator was hard work.

Career # 2 The Interim: When I left New York I planned to move to Orcas Island, Washington (part of the San Juan Islands and one of the most beautiful places in the world). Instead, I ended up in Tampa, Florida where I helped my brother begin his business and worked part-time in a local bookstore. The impetus behind the bookstore was that I wanted a career that involved books, and contemplated opening a bookstore (in fact, while I was still in New York and working on Wall Street, I took evening classes on the publishing industry at The New School). What I discovered is that books are merchandise and as much as I love them, shoppers were not coming in the store to chat with me about my latest favorite read, they wanted to buy or browse and leave. It was not Suzanne's salon. But I learned two things from this period, I loved working with books and with entrepreneurs.

From there, I moved to Fort Lauderdale, and then to Lake Tahoe for a year. During this period I started my writing career. As I struggled to work through the untimely death of my father, I was inspired to write. I wrote a novel on the meaning of life and our ability to transcend the sorrow of death. Unfortunately, the novel did not sell. What I learned from this experience was that I loved working from home, working independently and for myself. But most of all, I relished creating something I loved (books) and attempt to be something that I had admired since childhood (an artist).

Career #3 Teaching Overseas: I moved to Baku, Azerbaijan and worked as a teacher in an international school for four years. There I taught grades six through twelve and courses in English, History, Economics and Creative Writing. I founded a literary journal and helped to publish the yearbook. I loved my students. They came from around the world and were eager and fun and lively and taught me as much as I taught them. I also loved the large chunks of time off allowed with a school schedule which allowed me to take advantage of living overseas by traveling extensively.

Career #4 Commercial Real Estate Sales: I returned to my hometown in South Florida to care for Mom after her open heart surgery. I was blessed to re-connect with my childhood friends who also own a commercial real estate firm. Although I originally considered returning to the financial industry, I believed commercial real estate provided an opportunity to learn something new and to try working strictly on commission. I also enjoyed the independence of being self-employed as well as ability to set my own schedule and take vacations when I wanted.

Tomorrow...the downside.


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