Life can surprise in countless ways and gives us moments to test our thinking of who we are. What does it mean for our identities when we deviate from a long-standing career track and start new plans for ourselves? When is it time to return to full-time work or start a new career? Can we begin again in midlife? These are some questions I recently faced.
Almost a decade ago, I decided to leave my full-time work at Fox Business for a chance at something different in San Diego, CA. While seemingly glamorous to outsiders, the daily primping, bright lights and nightly removal of studio make-up were no longer fulfilling. With 2 kids under 3 years-old, I found managing a high profile career in New York City while being the type of mother and balanced person I wanted to be were at odds.
That last day at Fox, I remember closing the door to my office, one overlooking the bustling streets of Times Square. My name was on the exterior wall of this space housing a giant clothing rack that once held a colorful assortment of clothing and shoes next to my desk. I had framed photos on my wall of my magazine covers and articles. I walked into that office a novice and walked out a news anchor almost 7 years later. I felt sadness in closing the door to what I had built but a happiness in choosing a new California adventure with my family.
When I walked out of HQ that day, I had believed that I would return to a full-time role on TV, effortlessly transition to part-time work as a mother of 3 and, of course, remain married.
None of those things transpired. I was unaware of the inner foundation that my career provided- in identity, income and my daily routine – that I could not easily recreate.
My transition out of a career-centered life to a part-time career woman and mother of three kids was not an easy one. As I have shared before, in the span of one cross-country flight, my life became a series of past tenses: I used to work on TV. I lived in New York City. I had a pretty exciting life. Overnight I felt like I became a mundane housewife in the suburbs with my hard work and achievements vanishing.
I rebelled hard against this loss. I launched a blog months before my third child was born. Shortly after his delivery, I took a temporary anchor position in NYC, relocating the family for the summer so that my resume wouldn’t gap too wide. I never stopped working. Instead I built a career to suit my family life and my internal drive. One different days, I succeed at one but rarely both. I built a business working with the biggest brands and broadcasters while also being room parent and at pick up.
It was working, until recently.
Increasingly, I have been growing weary of the daily hustle of running an independent business – social media posts, outreach, promotional appearances. Practicalities like wanting affordable health insurance and financial predictability were also gaining in importance. I had a budding desire for more camaraderie and teamwork, too. My kids, while still young, were growing in self-sufficiency, making room for more of my career. It felt time for a change.
I sat with these feelings for months until inspiration encouraged me to act. It came on spontaneously on day 5 of a shoot for a client. As I stood under the bright lights of the set waiting for my interview guest to get microphoned, I received final touches of hair spray and gloss. Through the haze and heat, I closed my eyes to the dozens on set. As I waited for the producer to cue me, a thought broadcasted: “I can do more.”
It was this combination: personal inspiration, right family timing, desire for financial stability, stable child-care and willingness to start something new that brought me back to the job market.
My process for returning back to work:
After my first bit of inspiration, I then began my exploration. I contacted a career coach (for MBAs free coaching is often available through your school’s career services department) and got advice on where to begin. One helpful piece of advice given: figure out your non-negotiables for work first. That could mean willingness to travel, permission to keep your side hustle going (one of my terms), commuting distance, etc. With these ready, you’ll know quickly if an opportunity is a fit.
Once I did this exercise, it was time to look at job listings. The best way to figure out what you’re willing to do is by seeing what openings are available. I searched widely across platforms. I explored a number of career options and conducted informational interviews to learn about them. I tapped into my network. From my early conversations, I gained a sense for what options excited me. I learned that I also had to be the right fit for the job, too, in order to advance in interviews.
I took my time with this process and let it simmer. I spent the summer with my kids, traveled and journaled. I gathered the feedback of friends. What do you think I’m good at? What is my brand, in your eyes? Do you think this is the right time for me? By reflecting, exploring and acting on repeat (along with some kismet) I found my way to a role at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Returning to work has been exciting – and a major adjustment – I cannot lie. My youngest child keeps asking me when I am going to quit. I showed up late on my second day, unaware of how brutal freeway traffic was at 830am. I have to wake at 5am to have the chance to exercise. While I am no longer there for pick ups, I do drop offs instead and block out times in my calendar to attend class parties. My ego has even had to recalibrate. There is no office with wardrobe racks. I have people I report to again. I do not have full control over my calendar. These are real compromises one has to be willing to make.
In return, I get to do mission-aligned work, continue my brand and TV projects, interact with peers who invigorate me and be part of one of the most prestigious institutions in the world. I’m starting over in many ways and shifting to service-oriented work, no magazine covers will come from it. That’s new, too.
On my drive to work, I often reflect on how the pieces of my past fit with the present. I still can’t explain what I do for a living easily because I haven’t stopped working on my book and still appear on stages. People still describe me as someone who “used to work at Fox” and maybe they always will. Who I am today is more than my past. I am here – living, growing and taking my first steps of a new chapter for myself. I don’t know where the future will lead. I’m in the middle of my career journey, not sure where it will take me. Sometimes in order to go from A to Z, you have to move through letters L, M, N, O and P. We have to trust that – one day – we’ll arrive at exactly where we’re meant to be.