Episode 54 – Marc interviews career pivoter and co-author Susan Lahey about her life and work, including a pivot from journalist to freelance writer and author.
Susan Lahey is Marc’s co-author of both Repurpose Your Career books. This is one of the best of the 25-plus interviews Marc has recorded in the last year. Susan is a freelance writer who is driven to take on new challenges, whether that’s writing about the nature of meaning, the scary adventure of changing your career, or truly death-defying acts like jumping out of airplanes and parenting. Marc was Susan’s first real Austin client.
Listen in for thoughts on enduring hardship with bravery and purpose.
[1:14] Marc announces his first audience survey on what demographic listens to the podcast, what you like, and what you would like to hear about in the future. Please take the survey at CareerPivot.com/PodcastSurvey. This will redirect you to a Survey Monkey page. Marc will keep the survey going through 2017 to hear from you.
[1:55] Marc reviews the series format of this podcast for new listeners. The previous episode was an expert interview. This episode is a career pivot interview. The next episode will be Marc’s story of moving abroad and taking the job with him. The fourth episode of the month is a Q&A episode with Elizabeth Rabaey.
[3:43] Marc introduces Susan Lahey and welcomes Susan to the podcast.
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[3:52] Susan is always tempted to stay home with her adult children and watch Netflix, paint, and hide out from everyone. So she makes herself go do stuff, instead. She just got a tattoo that says “Life is Short.”
[5:12] Susan was a newspaper reporter for the beginning of her career, at the Kansas City Star, from age 17 until college and as her first job out of school. After several years she got a job as an associate editor at the business lifestyle magazine in KC. She left there to raise a family, freelancing from home.
[5:54] At age 42, Susan was divorced, took the children and moved off the grid to New Mexico, taking what work she could get. The Taos News wanted her as a freelancer but didn’t move on it.
[6:55] She started working as a community liaison for an EPA technical assistance group for a Superfund project. That was tough since she did not speak Spanish and was new to the community. She also did substitute teaching. She was broke.
[7:26] Susan and her children volunteered at a food pantry for the food. Finally, she got on as a freelancer with the Taos News, for maybe $100 an article.
[8:16] Taos was challenging in being far behind the times. Susan was out of touch with the times as a freelancer. She wanted to give her children a better opportunity.
[9:38] After a trip to Europe they were motivated to change their lives. Austin had “a similar vibe” to Taos, a University, and a lot of intellectual capital. Susan rented an apartment and drove the family to Austin to start over.
[10:43] Susan finally sold the Taos house for “five dollars.” At first, she wrote eHow articles, but that was unsatisfying for her. She attended networking events and learned how to market herself online with blogs and web content. She pushed herself, using EMDR psychotherapy to help her overcome fear and stress of networking.
[15:33] Creatives are typically introverted and selling yourself as a creative is really hard for them. Confidence is essential for approaching clients.
[17:26] Marc was Susan’s first major client. Then she got some blogs. Through a contact who was recommended by Marc, she started writing tech news articles for a tech startup publication and finally got paid reasonably. She has covered SXSW for six years and went to Thailand and Norway to see their technologies.
[19:36] Susan got an article in Wired and is hoping to write more for them. She had also written a profile for bootstrap guru Bijoy Goswami, who works people through the psychological risks and fears of starting your own business.
[20:10] Bijoy introduced Susan to his best friend, Danny Gutknecht, and Susan worked with him on one book and other writings. They will write more. Most of her work is with Danny. When Susan has ‘bandwidth,’ she looks for freelance work online and networks.
[21:15] Susan mentors and one woman she mentored hooked her up with a gig. She still does journalism.
[21:40] Susan was an old-school journalism person. Her idea of journalism came from All the President’s Men. Her sister was a journalist. She never imagined journalism wouldn’t be there for her. Most of her friends who were journalists are out of jobs. Journalism is dying. It can’t find a business model that works today.
[22:36] Susan never imagined she would be a tech writer or a business writer, and she is so glad she pursued both of those because that’s the direction the world is going.
[23:29] When Susan was asked to find her ‘why’ she had never thought about it. She realized that she liked writing about people who were doing scary, brave things. She uses Marc as an example. When he started his business, it was scary new for him, but also, scary new for job pivoters he is helping.
[24:41] For the most part, Susan’s career pivot has turned out amazingly. She’s definitely not rich, but she’s supporting herself, doing what she loves. It fuels her as well as paying her.
[25:09] Marc is proud of Susan. In spite of her hard times, she survived. Her three great children have gone to college on full scholarships, and are doing well. Her oldest is teaching English in Tangier, as Susan continues to enjoy her career.
[25:49] People tell Susan she’s brave, but they have no idea how hard she has to work to be brave. She’s sometimes afraid, but she just makes herself do things. She recommends people examine why they act a certain way, or go in a certain direction. People need to steer their own ship. Susan hopes to move to Morocco next year.
[28:57] Marc has been working with Susan since 2012, when she went through an early version of Marc’s career pivot evaluation. If you would like to know more about this process, listen to episodes 48 through 51 — a series called, “Can Tim Repurpose His Career?”
[31:27] Next week’s episode will be all about the process of the Miller’s move to Ajijic, Mexico in 2018. Marc is moving, but not retiring. He will run everything from Mexico.
Mentioned in This Episode:
CareerPivot.com/review, and read the detailed instructions there.
CareerPivot.com/Episode-48 “Can Tim Repurpose His Career? Part 1”
CareerPivot.com/Episode-49 “Can Tim Repurpose His Career? Part 2”
CareerPivot.com/Episode-50 “Can Tim Repurpose His Career? Part 3”
CareerPivot.com/Episode-51 “Can Tim Repurpose His Career? Part 4”
Please pick up a copy of Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide for the 2nd Half of Life, by Marc Miller and Susan Lahey The paperback and ebook formats are available now. When you have completed reading the book, Marc would very much appreciate your leaving an honest review on Amazon.com. Marc has completed recording the audio version of the book and will be editing it the week of Thanksgiving. He hopes to have it available before the end of November 2017.
Marc has a prototype running of the paid membership community of the CareerPivot.com website. Marc has an initial cohort of members helping him. Marc is opening a wait list if you want to participate.Sign up at CareerPivot.com/Community.
CareerPivot.com/Episode-54 Show Notes for this episode.
You can find Show Notes at Careerpivot.com/repurpose-career-podcast.
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