The excitement and energy were palpable as she circulated throughout the room, embraced by and embracing grateful fans of her work at the magnificent MORE Magazine, and now at her start-up, CoveyClub, an online/offline club for lifelong learners who want to continue connecting, reinventing and impacting the world.
What is it like to reinvent our careers and lives after 40, 50, 60? Lesley Jane Seymour would know. Having first built an enviable C-suite career, she took an unexpected turn into full-time parenting, returning to work after her daughter told her, “Mom, you need to get a job. We’re going to the mall.”
Which Seymour then did. Soon reestablishing herself (and a healthy ad revenue stream) in a power position in the publishing world, only to be fired from Marie Claire, and shut down at MORE Magazine with 1.5 million readers left languishing!
If you spend eight years, talking with women who have to reinvent themselves, then you know what to do. – Lesley Jane Seymour, [email protected]orbes
When one gets a chance to learn from a legend like Lesley, it’s just not fair to keep it to one’s self, so here are some takeaways from Lesley Jane Seymour in discussion with ReBoot Accel’s Diane Flynn.
Get Schooled: Lesley is a big believer in preparing for your next act while you’re still in your current one. How did she do this? She went back to school at Columbia to study sustainability management and discovered she was a pretty good science student the second time around.
During my first quiz, I needed an airline vomit bag. Putting yourself back into that environment is tough, but worth it. You are never too old. It’s all in there (pointing to her brain). If you’re saying things like ‘I’m too old,’ someone else has rented your brain. Throw out the tenant. – Lesley Jane Seymour
And getting schooled could be in anything and everywhere. Adult education online or in person. At universities and community colleges, in art studios and maker labs, or on vacation. Learning something, anything, new will open you up to new people, ideas, and could connect the dots for you in a different way.
Get GRITTY: Yes, reinvention is hard. Particularly for women of prime age in a world where it “feels like we get shoved out a little earlier than men in corporate. That sucks,” Seymour says.
Women are valuable resources, but there’s lots of ageism and discrimination. Tough to get over those humps. We gotta fix that. – Lesley Jane Seymour
Seymour acknowledged that some things are out of our control, so we need to get intentional and get some GRIT, persevering despite the difficulties, if we want to achieve our next goal. We also need to check in with ourselves and others, asking, “Is this path still the one that’s worth taking?” Can we honestly say along the way…
I have no idea where I’m going. I’m having the best time. I love it. – Lesley Jane Seymour
Lesley Jane also recommends women put away 1-2 years of salary, when possible, to maximize reinvention options and minimize stress levels. You must prepare for your second career ahead of time, Seymour says. “You may not use it, ” she says, “but it’s like the folded parachute that you have under your [airplane] seat just in case.” – [email protected]
Get a Tribe: Reinvention is more sustainable, successful, and FUN when your tribe has your back, front, and sides. Naysayers can drag even the most powerful person down and research has shown women deal with the confidence gap differently than men. Reinventors will need people in their lives who will help them reframe, reset, and keep going. And real reinventors pay it backward and forward by investing their time and heart in someone else too.
During some of Seymour’s darkest career hours, a friend told her, “Let’s hear it for endurance and hanging in there.” Seymour says, “That is the hard part. This is what they didn’t tell us.”
Grow Your Brand. NOW. Part of reinvention preparation is building a personal brand. Now. Not when you think you’ll need it, but two-three years before. Seymour noted that times have changed from our early careers, when corporate identity ruled, to now, when “the individual has become more important than ever.”
When my name comes up to people around me, what do people think? – Lesley Jane Seymour
Seymour also observed that millennials have to be someone, have to stand out. “They understand this; we don’t.” And challenged everyone to get over their own baggage and seize the social media opportunity to proactively craft and communicate to the world, “What makes me unique? How can I stand out in this whole sea of humanity?”
This can be through what you wear, what and how you write about something, the color palette you choose for your business cards and social profile banners, whatever; in the digital and visual age, the options are endless.
How to get started? One of Seymour’s friends sends out a simple survey, polling her pals about their perceptions of her. Diane Flynn has coffee meetings with colleagues who have her best interests at heart and will give her honest feedback. One of those insightful individuals was instrumental in guiding Diane to found ReBoot Accel based on her obvious (to them) love of learning and teaching technology.
Give Back. The highlight of Lesley Jane Seymour’s career was working with FLOTUS Michelle Obama, as Guest Editor-in-Chief, on the June/July 2015 issue of MORE Magazine entitled “More Impact”. The only time MORE ever welcomed a guest editor. As a result, Seymour got to accompany Obama around the world as she launched her girls’ education initiative, Let Girls Learn.
To us, this is a shining example of the creative collaborative power of women and the give-and-get economy we prefer. It seems to be Seymour’s personal operating system too.
Give the shit out of everything that you can. The boomerang is true. The more you give, the more you get. – Lesley Jane Seymour
In closing, we celebrate these two reinventive women by reprising this excerpt of Obama’s impact-full essay, “What Women Owe One Another,” from the June/July 2015 issue of MORE Magazine:
“The truth is that too often, as women, we simply refuse to acknowledge the complexity of one another’s lives. Even worse, we assign layers of meaning to other women’s choices that may or may not have anything to do with what they’re actually thinking or feeling: ‘She’s underutilizing her professional skills and selling herself short’ or ‘She’s furthering her career at the expense of her family.’ But all those judgments and accusations are nothing but stories we impose on each other.”
Obama continues, “The real story is what happens as we struggle, agonize, compromise and make the best decisions we can with the information and resources we have. And it’s time that we all stepped back, took a deep breath and started really listening to one another rather than viewing one another through the layers of our own judgment, insecurity, and anxiety. When we do that, we can finally start to understand the challenges other women are facing and the doubts they’re wrestling with. Only then can we respond appropriately: with compassion, support, and respect.”
What else are we loving from Lesley Jane?
- The Humbling Truth About Starting Over at 60
- Lesley Jane Seymour Explains How to Prepare For Your Second Career
- I Lost My Job Twice — Here’s How I Bounced Back
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