Kerry Hannon, author of the Amazon best-seller "What’s Next?" joins my SIRIUSXM career talk show today to share inspiring stories from real people who have changed careers mid-life. Here’s more from Kerry re: the roadmap that continues to lead her to her dream job…
Q: What do you want your life/work to stand for?
I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. I read every book I could get my hands on, egged on by an older sister, Patty, who loved to read just as much. I wrote my first book when I was ten—all about kids and ponies. (It hasn’t been published yet).
No surprise since that was exactly what my life was all about. We had a five-stall stable, dogs, horses, cats and four of us kids racing around. Mom refers to it as “a zoo”. She never knew who would be at the table for dinner with us. Who wouldn’t want to hang out at our house?
The question was how to make money as a writer. I knew I didn’t want a desk job-too boring and claustrophobic. I wanted to find a job where I would always be learning, meeting new people and traveling.
I began by interviewing professional horseman at the horse shows I went to as a competitor on the “A” circuit when I was around eighteen. I sold the profiles to horse magazines for a whopping $100 a piece at first, but it felt like a thousand. And so it goes. Today, I am still writing profiles of people in What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job.
After graduating from Duke University, I built-out my portfolio as a freelance writer in my hometown of Pittsburgh– stringing for Business Week, working as the regional correspondent for Advertising Age, covering nightlife for Pittsburgh magazine, where I profiled local musicians. I wrote a dance column for an alternative newspaper, covered school board meetings and more for the Pittsburgh Press.
When I was 25, I landed the big job at Forbes, after persistently calling for an interview and assuring the hiring editor that Forbes was my father’s favorite magazine, in fact, the only one that he had delivered to our home. All true. It was magic.
I got the job. I moved to New York and off my career went as I headed up th masthead moving from Forbes to Money to U.S. News & World Report and USA Today. I have written six books along the way, and it has been fantastic. My dream was to one day have a column in a national newspaper with my picture. (I wrote the Your Money column for USA Today) and write books. Check.
Best news: Ten years ago, I went off on my own again to be an independent freelancer with several clients, including Forbes, U.S. News, USA Today. Lesson here: never burn bridges. The new ones, like AARP and CBS MoneyWatch, come along the old-fashioned way, through continuous networking, a habit I started back in my 20s and have always made the effort to maintain.
Q: What gets you out of bed every morning?
Here’s the real secret to my success as a writer and journalist: When I was young, I learned to write about my passion–horses– and share that with others, and it was sweet. Today, I’m fortunate to write about other people’s passion and pass that inspiration on to readers to help them follow their dream.
But I also write about personal finance and money and work issues that touch people’s lives in a more direct fashion. I try to make sense of a topic that makes people panic and freeze. I lay it out in simple, “news you can use” fashion that both my 81-year-old mom and my teenage nephew can understand. And I believe in my heart it makes people’s lives better.
That gets me out of bed in the morning. Well, actually, my yellow Labrador Retriever, Zena, is truly responsible for that, but you get my drift. I have been able to translate my love for writing and meeting people into meaningful work that helps others.
Q: What’s the one piece of career advice you wish you’d known sooner in your career?
The one piece of advice I wish I’d known sooner in my career is that it pays richly to work hard and to communicate with the people you report to regularly.
That sounds obvious, but when I was young I had a certain sense of entitlement I think and felt I didn’t need to ask for help. I was afraid to show that I didn’t understand something or even make sure my editor and I were in synch. I wanted to do things my way. And frankly, I didn’t always respect what a difference it makes when you file your work early. Surprise. Everyone’s job is easier, and you get hired again and again.
Today, I work harder than I ever did when I was in a staff job. I care about my product deeply. I get up at 5:30 every morning and go to it. I work every day, but I love what I do, so it doesn’t matter. And I make sure I find time to walk Zena and ride my horse regularly. That’s living the dream.
Kerry Hannon, a career reinvention and transition expert, is a nationally acclaimed personal finance contributing editor and retirement correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and a featured blogger on second careers at Forbes.com. Kerry is also is the Great Jobs for Retirees columnist for AARP.com. For more, go to: http://www.kerryhannon.com.