Career Advice from the Blue Lagoon
If you work as an advertising copywriter as long as I have, you eventually find yourself writing scripts for celebrity spokespeople. A few years ago, I spent more than a few long days on set hanging out with Brooke Shields. A fellow 50-something working mom dealing with the realities of career longevity, Brooke described her personal business plan to me in Blue Lagoon-like terms. “I swim where the water is warm,” she said. “I go where people want what I have to offer.”
If film scripts aren’t coming her way, she pivots and goes for stage or TV roles. Maybe she’ll do a one-woman show in a club. Or a commercial gig, for that matter.
Yeah, yeah, I know. We should all have such tough career navigation problems. But as a confirmed type-B personality, I love the warm water analogy. Why keep fighting the cold, raging tide when you can switch directions and float merrily down the stream? What impressed me was the way Brooke’s resilience keeps her from getting stuck in an outdated vision of herself. She’s not a child star any more. She’s in the middle of her life, doing what she can do right now, on her own terms. And enjoying it.
The more time goes by, the more friends I see ousted from their big, interesting and exciting corporate jobs. Some of them have so much trouble letting go of their previous work identities, they can’t imagine themselves in any other kind of position. They hold out for comparable high salary jobs that never seem to materialize.
Others splash around until they find some warm water, reinventing themselves as media influencers, entrepreneurs, teachers, realtors, authors and artists. One friend became a fitness trainer. One former executive took a waitressing gig while she figured out her next move. She loved the challenge of learning the technology that didn’t exist the last time she waited tables, and it was fun being surrounded by young, energetic people.
The longer I live, the more clear it becomes to me that success is simply a matter of being happy from day to day and moment to moment, while navigating the unexpected twists and turns.
In this era of technological transformation and this moment of #Time’sUp, women have the power to shape our own futures. The old boys clubs are being shut down, and in their place, women are building a new kind of work world. Let’s hope it’ll be a kinder, gentler environment that encourages lifelong growth, accommodates inevitable change, values diversity even when it comes to age, and won’t bounce a sister out at the first sign of a hot flash.
- Julie Curtis