[RENAY] Hey welcome to That’s When You Get a Dog, the podcast BOWFOW by old women for old women.
Happy New Year! I entered 2018 with a nice Apple Podcasts flowcase feature and on 2 of podcasts in colour podcasts of 2017 lists. Very exiting. Last week was a shorter episode but I clearly did underestimate who would be listening over the holiday period. Welcome to all the new listeners, if you like what you hear why not leave a review on apple podcasts or comment on the castbox web player, also don’t be afraid to tweet that you are listening to the show. All these things help the show get discovered.
But i know what you really want, a Ronnie fact, so today’s fact is that Ronnie is often complimented on his eyes, he has dark lines around his eyes like he is wearing eyeliner. Sometimes I joke that he is wearing makeup just to shock people but I can confirm he is not wearing any makeup.
And now, anchor time…Is it too late to chase our dreams?
Yes, the career episode. It’s 2018, a lot of us will be saying New Year New Me, we’ll have resolutions, affirmations and goals that we want to achieve. Being a woman over 30 you’re often told that you should have achieved certain things by a certain age or that it’s too late for you to make a dramatic change. We’re too old for all the 30 under 30 lists and there are significantly less career and entrepreneurial initiatives aimed at us which suggests society believes we should be settled by now.
According to research by Vodafone people ages 31-35 are the most unhappy at work, they feel undervalued, unfulfilled and unmotivated. If you have a 9-5, a regular paycheck can help make you feel secure but also scares you into thinking you don’t have many options available to you. Talentculture.com published 5 ugly myths about changing career in your 30s, they were; You’re too old, you’ll have no way back, you should know your perfect job before you get it, change is for those who know what they’re doing in life, it’s embarrassing to start a new career over 35.
I’ve definitely heard some of those. There’s definitely a stigma attached to starting a new career over 30 but there are many people we’ve heard of, know, respect and admire who have done just that. Fashion designer Vera Wang left her editorial career to create an independent bridal wear brand at 40, Julia Childs didn’t even learn to cook until she was 36, Patricia Fields career as a stylist didn’t start to take off until she was in her late 50s and Robin Chase co-founded Zipcar at 42. Basically ladies we have time to build that life changing idea or create the career and lifestyle we want.
April Reign, founded #OscarsSoWhite in her 40s and her life has changed in ways she couldn’t have imagined. I spoke to April about how she started out.
[APRIL] I went straight through school so high school college and then law school. I graduated law school when I was twenty four and I began work immediately I graduated in May and I began I think in October after I got married and so the thought was that this was the beginning of my career you know and the hope was that I would hopefully make partner at the firm at which I started, eight or nine years into my practice and so that would have been in my early 30s. Practicing law at a firm was not going to be the right path for me. And so at age 27 I quit the firm and began working elsewhere. Still as an attorney but in a different setting where I thought it would be a bit more congenial and more to my liking. And so even then at twenty seven the thought was that I was going to be a lawyer for the rest of my life and do the type of law that I was practicing.
[RENAY] So April was on a path that she thought was for her, what changed?
[APRIL] I made a significant shift in my career almost three years ago now in January of 2015 when I created the Oscars so white hashtag, it was right around that time that I left my law practice. So I practiced law for just under 20 years I guess and what I had already discovered in my law practice was that it was not speaking to me creatively. So there was no passion in my work. You know it was a very comfortable job, very stable, very lucrative job but there was no creative outlet. It felt as if I was not using all of my talents you know using the law degree but I was still paying for student loans at that time. And so I made the leap. After consulting with my husband and decided that for my self care, for happiness that I would make less money and travel more often which is definitely not the traditional way that you want to go but that I'd be happier by choosing a different profession you know relatively late into my career
After I began OscarsSoWhite which began really as a sarcastic tweet. You know the very first tweet came that morning as I was preparing for work and I was watching the Oscar nominees presented on TV on a morning show here in the States. And over and over again the groups that were being nominated the individuals as well were so homogenous you know not just the actors and the actresses but those behind the camera you know a director and an editor and producers and so on. So I said one tweet #Oscarssowhite they asked to touch my hair. And that was it. It was a sarcastic tweet and I put my phone down, finished getting ready for work and went on and it wasn't until I checked in on Twitter around lunchtime that I saw that the hashtag was trending internationally based on one tweet. Initially the responses to that tweet were incredibly sarcastic as I had intended them to be but the conversation soon shifted into one that was much more interesting about the lack of diversity and inclusion initially with respect to the Oscars but more broadly now for the entire entertainment industry.
[RENAY] So this one tweet was about to change April’s life for the better
[APRIL] I had no background no connections to the entertainment industry at that time and so it was imperative on me to decide whether I was going to be the face of whatever this was that it was becoming, you know now I guess folks call it a movement or campaign or what have you. But I had no idea at the time that it was going to be. And so I think I was looking for a creative outlet but didn't realize it was going to come so quickly organically on social media. And so then I had to very quickly become an expert on issues of diversity and inclusion and entertainment because I was a moviegoer just as everyone else I had no specialized knowledge or training or anything like that at that time. And so. I realized that this was something that I was very very interested in and that I had a passion about it which I had not felt in the previous 15 years of my career. And then I also realized that with some work there would be a way for me to monetize this so I could actually help contribute to the mortgage and the kids college funds and all the rest of that stuff. And I was able to walk away from my law practice. But I recognized my privilege in doing so. Not everyone has the opportunity to do that.
It was hard to know how things were going to turn out to be honest. My kids at that time were, well let's see, this was three years ago. So my kids would have been 11 and 15 just about, right so it was much easier for me to travel. And you know when I received requests for speaking engagements and that kind of thing and where I need to travel somewhere for an interview I could do that knowing that you know I didn't have toddlers at home. My kids were relatively independent and are even more so now. I don't think that I could have done this if my kids had been you know 3 and 7 or something like that. I also know that I had a very supportive partner. My husband said go ahead and take a leap, see how it goes. So even when I was making significantly less money we were still able to pay our bills because he still had his full time income. Eventually between the speaking engagements and people. Asking me to come and consult with them on various diversity and inclusion branding issues entertainment issues. It became my new vocation but it took time to do that.
And so I would caution anyone who is considering making the leap. You know ensure that you have enough money saved so that you can still pay your bills while you're making this tweak and that you have the support of your immediate family members so that if it does mean you know you're going to be traveling much more than you used to or you know you're going to be working out of your home. When you didn't used to do that and so that might be you know a different format for your household.
It's definitely a conversation that you have to have with the folks that are in your life because it's a significant change.
[RENAY] That’s great advice, the people around you who play a big role in your life will be the ones you turn too when things are tough. It’s definitely worth having them on board when considering big life changes.
I couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask April about the OscarsSoWhite movement and what changes she’s seen since pushing the issue to the forefront.
[APRIL] I think that we have seen some incremental changes within the entertainment industry since I created this in 201 5. For example the last two years now the Academy has invited its largest and most diverse groups to become members of the academy than ever before and so we're seeing a slight uptick in the percentages of women and people of colour in the academy. The academy also through past President Cheryl Boone Isaacs committed to doubling the number of women and people of colour in the academy and that's important. It is only academy members who vote on the awards night. And so if people are having discussions within the academy about diversity and inclusion and if you get younger and fresher eyes and perhaps those who have diversity and inclusion on their minds when they're voting it really means that there may be some changes with respect to who becomes members of the academy who gets nominated for awards and who wins awards.
So what we know about the Academy itself is that the voting process is not a meritocracy which I believe it should be. Many people do not realise that Academy members are not required to view the films or the performances before they vote. So then you say well you know because the pushback that I get is oh you're just trying to make the Oscars a quota system and you just want all of the marginalised communities to win as opposed to the best performances. Well that's not true at all. If they're not viewing the performances before they vote what are they basing their vote on, right. It can't be merit because they haven't seen the film. That's why it's important to have more diverse frames of reference within the academy. In addition the BAFTA Awards which has been the British equivalent of our Oscars have two new categories which did not exist before Oscars So White which required diversity among the nominees. So that's very new. We also have various studios and networks which are specifically looking for more diversity and inclusion on their sets. And that's both in front of the camera which is important but also equally important are who is telling the story behind the camera. Right. The directors, the editors, the cinematographers those roles are just as important as the actors and actresses that we moviegoers see and show it the fact that we are still having the conversations about diversity and inclusion. Three years after I created a hashtag I think speaks to its shelf life and the efficacy of this movement.
[RENAY] April’s new career is really taking off and creating change in a very established industry, I wondered what she wanted to achieve next.
[APRIL] There are specific things that I want to achieve and I'm still working that out. You know I'm 47 years old I created oscarssowhite when I was 44 and my entire professional life changed that year in ways that I never could have imagined. I again have the privilege of being able to take the time to figure out what it is that I want to do because so many doors have opened up to me. In the past three years that I never could have imagined that I really want to be smart about what my next choices and positions will be and I have that option now I should be able to work things through relatively slowly without saying you know I've got to be at this position you know in the next six months or you know calamity will strike.
There are things that I want to accomplish but I don't know that there's a particular goal in mind that I have that I am seeking and then it may sound a little precarious but is actually very comfortable to me you know but I don't feel like I need to be the vice president of X Y Z or what have you. You know Now I have my own consulting company and I can choose you know with whom I work. I can choose the hours that I work which is lovely and it's so much more comfortable for me because I am now in control and you know not a lot of people can say that.
[RENAY] I asked April what she thought about the stigma surrounded women’s careers and making changes over certain ages and what advice she has for people unhappy in their current roles.
[APRIL] there is this ongoing myth that people and especially women have to have everything figured out by a certain age whether that's 30 or 35 or what have you. But it's a lie. And I am proof of that. You know I started a brand new career at age 44 and I have never been happier. So the advice I would give is to figure out where your passion lies. Early I chose to be a lawyer because in the late 80s and early 90s you know when I was finishing high school and going through college if you wanted to be a professional woman it really meant that you were either going to be an engineer, a lawyer or a doctor you know and there may have been a few other professions. But that was really it and now you know watching millennials and slightly older folks create their own careers. There was no such thing as a digital media consultant 20 years ago. Right, because the internet didn't exist or barely existed and so now people are able to create entire careers out of whole cloth and I think that's wonderful. So the advice I would give is figure out where your passion lies early. I didn't do that. I thought that you know being a lawyer is what I had to do. I'm not even sure that I started being the right type of lawyer or based on you know where my passions and convictions lie. But figure out what it is that you love to do. Figure out what it is that you would do for free and find a way to make that your career. Every day you see so many people complaining oh my goodness. on Sunday that you have to get up and go to work on Monday and start another week. and I think that is the case for the majority of people in this world. But if you find something that speaks to your passion and you're also able to make a living at it you are not dreading Mondays. I don't dread Mondays anymore I look forward to that. It also means that I am probably working over the weekend at least a little bit but I'm enjoying it I'm enjoying every single day that I am working and I'm also making money from it and that I think needs to be the goal. So if you figure out what it is that you truly want to do what speaks to your passion what you would do for free what gets you up early in the morning and has you working late at night happily. Then follow that path and make your own career out of that because I think people today have so much more ability to chart their own path than we did 20 years ago.
So even if you're in your 30s and you haven't figured it out. That's fine because that number is completely arbitrary, you know, who's to say it's 30 as opposed to 32 right. But oh my goodness what a difference two years can make. You know I am living proof of that. So who's to say you know what as for the rest of my career I am going to be absolutely happy in what I do. And it took me 20 years to get there. And that's unfortunate but it also means that I am incredibly prepared. I have the skills from being an attorney. You know the legal skills, the writing skills, the analytical skills, the public speaking skills all those things so I don't think that my being an attorney for 20 years nearly was a waste by any means because it prepared me for where I am now. But I also have the gravitas, I think of having this career you know having the additional letters behind my name that gets me into rooms that I might not otherwise if I was a person half my age that if I am a 22 or 24 year old woman you know I may not be able to take a meeting with the head of the studio as easily as I can now as a 47 year old woman.
So all this has led me up to the point to this point. But I think it's wonderful if you were able you figure out what it is that you want to do early on and turn it your career around it.
[RENAY] The amazing April Reign showing us that your career prospects can change overnight with the power of social media and not being afraid to speak up for what you believe in.
April’s story is incredibly unique. I wanted to speak with someone who is still climbing the career ladder and killing it.
[MEL] I am a handbag designer as well as creative head for a fashion brand, footwear and accessories. The design team is in London but we mainly sell in India and Asia.
[RENAY] This is Mel Wong from London
[MEL] I studied fashion, ladieswear was put into a class which did accessories and ladieswear and such to kind of push me into designing handbags and for my final year I ended up doing handbags and my tutor said this is what you should be doing, this is where you should be. It's not ladieswear you should be doing these accessories. And from there I did a showcase for my final year, got headhunted and got an interview with a company which is the biggest handbag company in the UK got up practically soon enough and she was kind of watch my way up from being junior designer to where I am now probably of about 10 years so it's taken a while.
[RENAY] So Mel has been working her way up the fashion accessory ladder for the last 10 years. I asked whether during this time she has ever chased money and regretted it.
[MEL] You work in jobs and you want to get higher. You want to do the best you can, obviously we're live in London and it's quite, it's not cheap a city and yes some to go I had quite a lot in offices. Money is a thing that kind of entitles you to take a job. But I have before I've taken a job and I took a role in Manchester and Singapore because there were big roles, big money but I kind of realised later in life that money isn't everything and it's about your working balance of being happy. And money comes into it and obviously I've got a mortgage to pay. So I do need to work. You know everyone always asked me Do you ever want to be freelance. And I think it's not the kind of thing I want to do because I was quite happy like working 9 to 5 and having the money and having security and it's just so much pressure especially being a designer to have your own design starting from scratch and I think you have to have money to fund. And it's not something that I've always wanted to chase. When I was younger I thought you know I want to work for the Celine's I want to work for you know the TV crews I want to work for the Chloes and that's Choire even though it's a high I spent habits. It's not the kind of things that kind of happens in normal day life.
[RENAY] Fashion always appears to be an industry dominated by the young and powerful men, I asked Mel if she feels pressure to compete.
[MEL] Where I am now already settled and you know they believe in me and give me more than just design. I worked my way up and because it's such a big role and because obviously I do things like go to India and China, in the factories and doing like photo shoots. It's my role not just to become a designer. So I mean I know a lot more than someone who's come up you know them I have this amazing portfolio. When you go to uni they tell you all you need to be the new Alexander McQueen but that's not that's that's a small minority of people that's going to do that. So I don't really feel I have to compete now because I think I'm so happy with my role and I assume the role and I think anyone young which it wouldn't really work. So design wise no. You know I'll make sure I'm on the board make sure I know what's going on in the industry and also make sure what is going on in the catwalks. I don't know if got a lot of countries. I'm quite happy where I am and I think I've achieved quite a lot because obviously when I came to the small company basic just took over the back row so I can free myself in the last year and a half to make this for my own. I've gone from designers creative director. So I've kind of push myself to get where I actually want to be. Obviously my achievements would be to bring the brand to a level that I am hiring designers to look after and precise and actually managing a team which is probably why I won't be next for four years but still stay in the same company.
[RENAY] Some of you may have seen Mel in the Dr Martens Worn Different campaign, I wondered whether these new opportunities were something Mel would seek out in the future.
[MEL] Work is quite full on and you know I am the one that looks as you know I am in charge of the whole department. But you know I could take one or two days off to do a campaign or so I mean I think I did talk once campaign and they've asked me, well they haven't asked me but the agency said I should join. I think the way I look you know being Asian with a lot of tattoos, they want me to join an agency just to do right street modeling. It's not really something I for one dream because I've been focusing on this career but you know it could be possible in future I mean when I did talk twice in that campaign those models from all you know different lives different ages you know there was model there who were 65 models there who were like kids. So it's something they are probably going to get more more covers than the older I get the more look you obey. So yeah it's the opportunities in the future I think just last couple years has been focusing on making myself coming back to London really I'm kind of focusing on where I want to be in the future. And the scene is as you know as I said a series of got a team to look at the department and that is something I would definitely think about the future.
[RENAY] Mel spoke about moving out of London for a better paying job, I wanted to know why she chose to came home and not necessarily take jobs just for the big wages.
[MEL] I know I had to work for a company in Singapore that was to be the head of handbags similar to an Asian ASOS. So it's quite big online company of their you know multi million pound company. They head hunted me from London, shipped me over put me up in a fly in Singapore. And it was great. Beginning on A4 I wanted to work for a big company and you know have this lucrative like company where there's only 100 people in the company and by working realising sometimes it's not what you think it's going to be a big company for you've got less freedom even though you've got more money. It's not about money it's about keeping myself happy or just to be honest I just missed london so much. Now I took a job in Manchester just be back Close's in London. My family and friends I did Afri and half an hour. So miserable. And now I took a pay cut to come to London because I just for I can be going in and having things that I use combat's on the weekend thinking I don't want anxiety like this isn't my life. This is awful you know. I don’t want to be unhappy every day and kind of missing friends and family and even small things like you can't really have a relationship with someone when your back and forth from another city and you know get into a again. You know I don't want to be alone. I'm happy enough alone but it's it's quite hard to meet someone where you can see up and down all the time. Being in London since I was 17 and I obviously have a family here. It's always been my home my family. My friends are here. I've already had a life for Singapore and I think it's an opportunity to try some I think thinking well I've been in London for so long you know nothing's really changed me so it's if someone kind of talks in your lap and just like you do this you know I did have a partner at the time but it's just like I don't have that many ties didn't have a family. I was 13 never lived anywhere else. You know it's time to try something new and let you try. You never know I could have gone there. Laughter And you know starting a family there I someone there and decided Asia was for me but I think me going over there and living in Manchester. I never have any regrets or never have any what ifs what if I didn't try it. So I've done it. I know it wasn't to be. I just think you've got to you've got to listen to your heart. You've got you know if you're waking up everyday thinking why am I doing this. You're just taking your life why it's just you know it's just there's so much more you could work in the corner shop and be happy if that makes you happier than the job that you actually have to go up when you're reading you know.
I mean obviously I would like to not get up in the mornings where you know I'm a thousand times happier than now than I was two years ago. And you know I my friends and family say and I think it's something you've got to do you can't make yourself happy and I wouldn't want to turn 40 and be like I've just wasted six years doing something that I hated and just feel like just because it was good money is good job and I can't go on without a job I quit without having anything back in London. And that was probably the scariest thing I've ever done because I've always worked. You know I've got a mortgage I've always worked. I've always had income and it was the best thing I ever did.
[RENAY] There’s something quite liberating about leaving a job with no plan in place, obviously as April said it’s a lot harder when kids are involved but if you’re pretty free. Losing or leaving a job you’re not entirely happy in with no plan in place although initially very scary can leave you open to opportunities you would never have thought to pursue had you stayed in the job.
[MEL] For anyone that is in the same situation just you have to try and if it's not worth it. If you don't try you'll never know. I think because you're happy in yourself and you know you can take the time to live somewhere and you're not rushing and you know been in jobs so I hate it and I'll just be concentrating recriminations from you will find you're so desperate for it. But when you do it and you're just like okay you know I've just freed yeah as you said freedom your mind freed up how you think about how you're going to approach it is completely different as well like your scared Bob your approach is you've got more time to actually think about it because if you know it's sort of sneaking off during work and all of a couple of hours to go to an interview you've OK well I've got two days to mentally prepare for it.
Specially been designing have to work out I always have to do a project. You actually can take your time and do it whereas you know you are an average lot and you want to go home and do projects even though you do. I feel like it was always rushed it's when you free your mind and you actually to something to make you happy. It kind of shows in your work and shows in your attitude towards when you go for an interview because you're not so desperate for it. I think anyone that wants to rewind history. There's so many great part time courses you know if you're too scared to quit your job to do something you love say design ham by making the simony Croff you know anything to do with any fashions your craft.
There's so many great part time courses the fashion. If during the evening footy's guides quit your job you can do anything cost save you a lot. You know what the joke was is completely different and you've got no background in it. You know she's really got that passion I think passion always drives everyone. So if if that helps you to stick to it. I think obviously mind history I am a firefighter or people coming out of universities with fresh ideas but you've got to be true to yourself. And for my industry even though it's design you still have to have a business head on. You still need to know what makes money. It's not all about great design. You can have a great design by actually on paper but actually you know the answer is it can make you money.
You know you still got to be quite commercial. So just have a finger on the bow you know follow fashion just do what you love doing follow your dreams the. I'm quite lucky because I've got a job that I love and I know me as a person if I was working in something I didn't love I would change it. Weirdly I was thinking of getting into tattooing because if I didn't get a job when I quit my job I was thinking I'm going to work in a time just as a receptionist kind of worked my way up and that you know that was I was lucky enough to get a job but that was the path I was thinking in my head completely different career change at 35. So you know everyone has them everyone has eyes for.
[RENAY] Mel Wong, who has found with age she feels more confident in taking risks.
There is a lot of advice out there available to us but sometimes it’s just nice to hear from women who are going through what you’re going through and living their dreams. I’ve always been a quitter as in I have never been afraid to walk away from a job. I may quit jobs but I never quit on myself, I always have the self belief that I can do anything and I think having that instilled in me from my first job at Pizza Hut to my last I always believe the job needs me more than I need it.
Since turning 30 I definitely am way more vocal about work environments I’m not happy in, I am outspoken about diversity issues within the workplace and I am outspoken about working with people from different backgrounds. Most companies I work for don’t appreciate this but I don’t let that change me, if anything it makes me work harder to create a working environment I’m happy in. Leaving a job, even if it's redundancy or something can be a benefit if you’re willing to learn from the experience and open yourself up to the opportunities you’re now ready to receive. I am privileged that I don't have a family yet so can take more risks with my paycheck but for those of you with families don’t feel restricted, there are options for you. If you are in the UK and have wanted to start your own business there are companies like startup loan company who pair you with a mentor to help you write a business plan and apply for a business loan to start a company.
There are podcasts to listen to like Joblogues, Myleik Teele’s Podcast , Side Hustle Pro, Dreams in Drive and My Career Crisis to be inspired, learn tips and hear great advice and on that note My Career Crisis is my podcast shout out of the week and I will end the show with it’s trailer.
Thank you to the amazing April Reign and Mel Wong for speaking with me. That’s When You Get a Dog is produced by me Renay Richardson, original music by Aaron Williams and artwork by Adam Cohen. The show is available on all good podcast apps and please do rate, review and comment where possible. Share that you are listening to the show online by tweeting @GetADogPod or @RenayRich or using our hashtag #GetADogPod. Full audio and transcripts are also available over at GetADogPod.com
I’ll leave you with the My Career Crisis trailer, Happy New Year.