Ready to Reinvent Your Career? Combine Your Passions, Gifts

by Becky Gillespie 18. June 2013 08:23

A quick chat with author, speaker, lawyer and coach Julie Shifman, who shares her thoughts on career evolution, having the courage to change—and why reinvention doesn't have to mean picking a whole new profession.

Your business as a speaker, author and coach is what you’d call an Act Three: Before this, you were a professional ballet dancer, and then a lawyer. You’ve made some big changes over the years. What prompted each transition?  

Transition for me is all about growth and the opportunity to learn something new.  I seem to get to a point after many years of doing the same thing where I go, “OK, that was great, but what’s next?” 

How did Acts One and Two inform and shape your Act Three?

Ideally any sought-after transition (as compared to one that’s thrown at you, like the loss of a job), should build upon the skills and talents learned from prior life experiences. There is no question that the discipline I learned as a dancer, the intellectual curiosity I learned as a lawyer, and the organizational skills I learned as a mother have all contributed to my success today as an author, speaker and founder of my company, Act Three

Career reinvention doesn’t have to mean switching professions, though, right? How might a lawyer effectively reinvent her career without leaving the law?

I’m glad that you mentioned this because while I believe people should keep reinventing themselves so that they learn and grow, this doesn’t necessarily mean in different careers as I did.  Perhaps the reinvention can come from learning a new language and traveling to that country, or getting involved in understanding adult literacy and how that impacts economic well-being.  Anything that forces you to think and do a little differently qualifies.  

What are the biggest obstacles most women face as they manage their career evolution?

Well, the easy answer is work/life balance.  It is unbelievably hard to practice at a top level and have a family.

This seems strange to admit, but I am so happy to have empty-nested.  Selfishly, I can’t believe how much time I get to spend now on myself. But, I clearly remember those days with four boys to raise and trying to juggle my law practice. I had the luxury of having the attitude, “Buy whatever help you can,” and that allowed me to manage. I say "luxury" because I recognize that many women can’t afford to have that attitude and must manage it all on their own.

In your book, you talk about identifying one’s “gifted passions.” Tell us a bit about what these are, and how they impact success.

Everyone has something that she loves to do.  I call this your “passion.”  It could be scrapbooking or playing the violin or tutoring children or playing with dogs at the animal shelter. When you combine a passion with something you also are uniquely talented at, I call that a gifted passion—and that’s where you should hopefully be spending a lot of your time each day.

Last, what advice would you have for a  lawyer who wants to make a career change but isn’t sure where to start? 

Start making a list of all the things you enjoy doing during the day. Keep this list going for a month. 

At the end of the month go back and look for any recurring themes.

Brainstorm on ways that you could incorporate those things you enjoy into a new career. 

And, of course, buy my book and do the exercises in it.

Julie Shifman began her career as a professional ballet dancer, then went to law school and launched a successful career as an attorney in New York City and Cincinnati. A speaker and certified coach, Julie runs Act Three, working with women as they reinvent careers and return to the workforce. A mother of four grown children, she is the author of "Act Three: Create the Life You Want After Your First Career and Full Time Motherhood." 

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