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How to Make an Audacious Career Change

 MECKY/Getty Images
MECKY/Getty Images,

by Kara Baskin

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When Joan Anderman turned 50, she turned her life upside down. After two decades as a pop music critic, most recently at The Boston Globe, she’d tired of observing music from the sidelines.

“I was quite content until I wasn’t. A period of malaise set in, followed by a stretch of anxiety that morphed into a full-on existential crisis,” Anderman recalls. She was curious about the world beyond journalism. “I realized I didn’t want to write about other people’s songs anymore. I wanted to write my own.”

So Anderman did the unthinkable: She quit her plum, steady job and became a rock musician. Now, she’s in a popular band, Field Day, a fixture on the Boston rock scene. “It makes me happier than anything I’ve ever done,” she says.  

How can you make this kind of major detour? Here’s Anderman’s hard-won advice.

1. “Ideally, work in a field where you can freelance,” she says. Anderman started a popular blog about creativity and aging called Middle Mojo, and she contributes articles about the subject to numerous publications. “Still, be willing to tighten your belt and suffer for your art.”

2. “Flip the bird to fear.” Fear is a natural response to change, but it will trap you if you let it linger. Fear is necessary, but it needn’t be debilitating. Let it wash over you, then let it go.

3.  Don’t believe what culture says about age. “If I can become a rock musician in my fifties, you can take up figure skating,” she says. Anderman doesn’t try to hide her age; instead, she uses it to her advantage with her Middle Mojo work, and it’s what makes her rare on the rock scene. It’s part of her backstory.

Surround yourself with people who have faith in you. Naysayers are boring.

4. Insulate yourself from doubters. “Surround yourself with people who have faith in you. Naysayers are boring,” she says. When you’re going after something audacious, you need supporters, not roadblocks. After all, you’ve already made your decision, haven’t you?

5. Believe that conviction is everything. “Remember what Goethe said: Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Don’t underestimate the genius, the power and the magic of your own dreams.