Bec Fisher was about to turn 40 and she didn’t know what she was going to do with her life. She’d always been a teacher but she wanted a career change. How could she know what else she might like to do in this next chapter of her life though, if she had no idea what else was out there?
This is how the 40 40 Experience came about.
She would try 40 jobs in a year. And she would write about it.
Mamamia: How on earth did you come up with this extraordinary idea?
Bec: It all started when I dropped my son to school one morning the week before my 40th birthday in May. As I drove off, I started thinking about life (as you do in those quiet moments) and wondered what I wanted to do with the rest of mine.
"I started to question what I wanted to do with my life." Image via Facebook.
I’d been contemplating a career change from teaching, but wasn’t sure exactly which direction to take or where to start. There are so many options. Would I go back to uni? Or do a short course? Or maybe even go down the path of starting my own business?
All I knew is that whatever career path I choose to take, I’d want to be certain about from the start. But how could I possibly be certain when I’ve only ever been a teacher? That’s when I came up with the idea of doing work experience. Lots of it.
My 40 40 Experience is about doing 40 work experience jobs at the age of 40, across a wide range of occupations, to help me decide on my next career.
I’ve decided to blog about my work experiences as a way of sharing what I’ve done and learnt along the way with other people that may be in a similar position to me.
When my husband came home from work that night I couldn’t wait to tell him about my idea. It seemed like such a crazy idea even to me, but over the next few days I couldn’t shake it. Yes, it was crazy, but I decided I had nothing to lose in following through with it. Right from the start I knew it was going to be a unique and exciting adventure.
MM: You’ve been a farm hand with camels, graphic designer, author, furniture refinisher, and real estate agent, so far - what have they taught you? What are you enjoying the most so far?
Bec: That I can do more than I thought I could.
Also, there are many people that are happy to offer help, advice, knowledge or perspective if you ask.
Scroll through to see what Bec Fisher has done so far. Image via Instagram. (Post continues after gallery.)
I’m loving getting a glimpse into other people’s lives and careers. It’s so interesting! Talking to people and finding out what it is they do, why they do it, what they’ve done before and what they’re planning to do next gives me a lot of valuable insight. It makes you feel that anything is possible.
An extra benefit is meeting a whole bunch of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. It’s so much fun.
MM: What have you learned about yourself during the experience?
Bec: I’ve learnt to think about what I’m good at and focus on those things, rather than worrying so much about what I’m not so good at and letting those things hold me back.
I’m still really interested and capable of learning new things. I’ve improved my computer skills already. If you asked me three months ago if I thought I’d be able to create and manage a website I would’ve laughed!
I’ve learnt that I’m very flexible and adaptable, and that being motivated gives me energy.
MM: What do you tell yourself if you doubt your decision? How do you get yourself out of moments of self-doubt?
Bec: My greatest doubts crept in just before I shared my website with my Facebook friends. I was so nervous about it I lost a couple of night’s sleep. I’d had the opportunity to tell many of my family and friends what I was up to, but taking the step to put myself out there to others was really scary. I’d been working so hard to set everything up that I didn’t really have time for any doubts to creep in up until that point.
Listen to our chat with three different women whose life only started after 40. (Post continues after audio.)
The most important piece of advice I’ve been giving myself from the start is to be brave! And to realise that no one I care about is going to judge me badly for giving this a go. Plus, when I had those last-minute doubts I had one or two very awesome people telling me to shut up and just do it! I only get one life, we all do, and I’m planning to live it. I actually don’t have doubts about my 40 40 Experience idea at all now that it’s underway. It feels right.
MM: There is definitely a movement for women over 40 about embracing a career change or a new lifestyle. Why do you think that is?
Bec: I actually think there’s a movement in general from generations before us. It’s not uncommon for people to make a career change any more, or perhaps even change careers more than once. I don’t think it’s about a lack of dedication or commitment. Instead, it’s because people are seeking fulfilment in their jobs, especially as we spend such a big part of our lives at work.
Also, priorities can change as people get older and have more life experience. It may have a lot to do with striking the right balance between work and family.
In my case, after having an extended amount of time off from teaching when my children were born, I lost a huge amount of confidence. There have been big changes in curriculum and the use of technology within classrooms, and I’ve felt a bit like I’ve been left behind with all of that. I know I could retrain in those areas and continue with teaching, but at the same time thought, “Why not try something new?”
MM: What advice do you have to women who are considering such a big change in their lives?
Bec: I’ve only just started on my career change journey, but my advice would be to make a plan and go for it! I’ve spoken to many women (and men) who have changed careers and not looked back. Think about what you’re good at, research, talk to people, and if you have the opportunity perhaps pursue some work experience. It’s amazing how one week or even one day of work experience can give you such incredible insight.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I couldn’t have done any of this without reaching out to people, both friends and strangers.
Don’t wait around for an epiphany or for your passion to fall into your lap, go out and find it!
I’m also a big believer in Plan Bs. Throughout this year I’ll continue to do some supply teaching days here and there. It’s possible I’ll decide that teaching is the best career for me after all, in which case I’m still keeping my foot in the door.
MM: Okay, let’s do some quick questions. How much sleep do you get every night and what your non-negotiables?
Bec: Eight hours of sleep every night and I’m happy.
For my non-negotiables, I need light! I love to be able to see the sky out of the window if I’m indoors.
I need to be connected to my network of people, especially my family. I wouldn’t like to work in a job that took me away from my family for extended periods, or where I didn’t get to interact with any people on a day-to-day basis. Other than that, I think I’m quite easy going!
MM: How can we or our readers help you? What do you need?
Bec: If your readers are in the Brisbane area and can offer me some work experience that’d be brilliant.
It’s harder than you’d think to lock in 40 jobs. I’m open to suggestions! I’d love to try a wide range of jobs, across different fields: Arts, Health, Media, Travel and Tourism, Business, Retail, Advertising and Marketing, Sport and Fitness, Food, Event Management, Photography, Aged Care, Interior Design, Zoology etc. I’d be happy to give most things a go. I’m also keen to work in a couple of not-for-profit organisations. And I’d love for Mamamia readers to join me on my 40 40 Experience journey to read my weekly job summaries and gain insight into a range of jobs.
What are your career change stories? Bec would love to hear from you!