I went from fashion designer to an MBA in my late 30's

Reinventing Yourself at 40

Karmelgraham
4 min readDec 25, 2020

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First let me say, YES you can pivot your relationship, career or any aspect of your life at 40. The person we believed ourselves to be at 20 — and the subsequent life we created based on that — is rarely who we continue to be as we evolve into middle age. Some of us are taught, however, that we must remain these consistent monoliths that we built up in our early adult years. We might also find ourselves with partners or around friends who don’t support and advocate for our change. They are either too comfortable with who we are and what we’re currently bringing to the table, or they believe they know us better than we know ourselves and project their opinions of our limitations on us in a way that discourages our transformation. One of the first lessons in recreating who you are is shutting out these voices and being firm in pursuing your new path. In this blog I will focus on career.

Lesson #1 — Clearly understand why you want to reinvent yourself. You’ll need to remind yourself of this endgame frequently. There will be days that are overwhelming and you’ll want to give up. There will be days in the middle of your journey that are lonely and you’ll want to throw in the towel and rejoin your previous life. It will become the path of least resistance, but resist the temptation.

Lesson #2 — Block out the voices that dissuade your from change and growth. Very few will understand anyone’s decision to make a life pivot if nothing’s “wrong.” Even fewer will understand the desire to do this in middle age when society dictates we should be stable and settled into whatever it is we chose to pursue at 18–21 years old.

Lesson #3— Jump into change with swiftness and enthusiasm. Do not wait for perfect timing or outside validation. Life, in general, will rarely send you either. Send out the school applications in Sept-Dec if you want to pursue another degree and get enrolled for the next school year. If you want to pursue a certificate then find the next available course in an extension program. Start networking TODAY on sites like LinkedIn for recruiters in the new career space you want to explore.

Lesson #4— Do not discuss your age. It’s no one’s business. In a very rare case it might assist as a qualifier of experience, but in most cases people will believe you’re incapable of opening an email. Ageism is a very real thing and best to avoid.

Lesson #5— Understand that the path of transformation is lonely. I went back to school as a 30-something-year-old single mother. There were not too many people I could identify with and vise-versa. Making new friends is challenging as there is limited time for engagement outside of campus due to mommy and work duties. My new acquaintances were often faculty members.

Lesson #6— Don’t cave under the pressure to perform like a superhero. You’re human and will have limitations. You might be balancing any combination of motherhood, a full-time job and a spouse. Once those around you see how well you’re handling it they will take your hard work for granted and might lump even more responsibilities onto your plate. Direct your own focus and keep your plate lean. Juggling half a dozen things will be required at times, but flex those muscles only when it’s necessary, otherwise you’ll burn out.

Lesson #7 — Take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally during this transitional period. You’re adding a temporary stress to your life, even if that stress feels invigorating. This stress can take a toll on your hair (thinning), skin (aging), nails (breakage) and weight (cortisol likes to store itself in our abdomen giving us that pudge), so balance it in positive ways. This is a great time to pamper yourself and even modify your appearance. Make time for self care whether that’s massages, hiking, relaxing with a podcast or discovering new wines. You might even want to update your hairstyle or wardrobe to match what you feel is changing inside of you.

Lesson #8 — Excuse your mess because there will be one. Your house is going to get messy. As you forge through your process of change there are going to be other things that take priority, like homework or creating a new resume or going to a networking event. The dishes are going to pile up. You might not get to vacuum the cat hair from the floor everyday. You probably will let the playdoh sit on the table until it gets hard instead of putting it back into the containers. You might not even shower for a day or two if you’re in intense grind mode. Guess what? It’s okay. Your focus is most important. Allow the mess. Allow the temporary restructuring of priorities. Remind yourself that the mess is not who you are.

Lesson #9 — Get with the times. I’m not suggesting you mimic ticktok influencers or download a bunch of beauty filtering apps, but you should be very familiar with the newer social media apps like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and lifestyle apps like Instacart and Uber Eats, as well as legacy apps like Instagram.

Lesson #10 — Own the new you, Sis! Be confident. It’s easy to question ourselves or say it’s too late. Look in the mirror and remind yourself that you are a boss. You are a Queen and only a badass and do what you are doing.

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Karmelgraham
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Business woman. Writer. Mother. Advocate.