Ask the Mentor: Should I reinvent myself in my 50s?

Media Mentor Esther Coleman-Hawkins answers your career questions with brisk no-nonsense advice for screen professionals.
Ask the Mentor: Should I reinvent myself in my 50s? Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash. 

Esther Coleman-Hawkins

Tuesday 11 August, 2020

The Question

Tracey writes: 'I’m 50-something and have been working for bosses since I was 13. In the last year, downsizing has negated my mortgage and almost doubled my super, which was not much to start with. I’ve been in my current job for 10 years and while it’s a very comfortable job, the sooner I can retire the better. In 2018 I made a 13-part YouTube series. It was the most satisfying thing I have done in my life. I wonder if I’d started being so confident earlier in life how different my working life may have been. My dilemma is that now it’s very hard to be content in my same-same job. What freelance jobs are out there for someone like me? And how can I transition to doing something more satisfying? I still need an income for another 5-6 years.

The Answer

Ah, the dreaded 'What if I had?' question. There’s no answer to that so let’s focus on the 'What now?' question instead.

Yes, there are freelance jobs for everybody, regardless of age. But – and here’s the big but – complete reinvention comes with a cost, physically, emotionally and economically.

I love that you made a YouTube series! But I’m sure you’ve discovered there really isn’t a lot of cash to be made online. And that’s true for most of the creative industries, particularly at the moment.

Read: Ask the Mentor: How do I find and hire more diverse writers?

I’ve asked Denise Eriksen, Media Mentors Co-Founder, who has been there, done that and got the t-shirt when it comes to reinvention, to share her experience: 

'I’ve done a fair few career deviations in my time. Working as a Production Runner at the London Olympics after being Head of Current Affairs at the ABC.  And catering for TV productions – why not!

Well, money’s why not!  What I realised, as a happily single woman, was I needed to make sure I had adequate superannuation for when I needed it and I’m very happy I have that.'

Complete reinvention comes with a cost, physically, emotionally and economically.

It's tough when you’ve got to balance your needs with your wants. Freelancing is hard and, particularly now, offers no financial comfort. 

Rather than use your newfound confidence to leap into the unsecure unknown, could you leap into a new full-time job? One that satisfies some creative urges and maybe even pays better?

Get  support, either professionally or from a smart friend, and apply for new things. Apply even if you don’t quite meet all the criteria. Stretch yourself. Imagine how good you’ll in the future if you’re brave now. The worst that happens is you don’t get an interview. So what? I guarantee that you’ve survived much harder things.

At the same time put time and energy into another creative personal project. Fill your bucket in this area of your life, and you might find that your 9-to-5 suddenly doesn’t seem that bad – more like a comfortable pair of slippers.

Your next few working years will flash by, and sometimes we have to make a big-kid choice in the short term, to give us what we want in the long term.

Following our passions is always important, but chasing them doesn’t always mean committing 100 per cent of our time to them, just 100 per cent of our heart. 

Got a question for the mentor? Send it to us at editor@screenhub.com.au with the subject line 'Media Mentor Question' and we'll pass it onto Esther.

Media Mentors are currently partnering with ACMI to produce the free twice-weekly Running Free online skills workshops for screen industry professionals and enthusiasts. Check them out on ACMI's YouTube channel.

About the author

Co-founder of Media Mentors, Esther Coleman-Hawkins, is an experienced TV producer, conference organiser and career mentor. She’s made factual series for public service broadcasters around the world. She has also had the dubious honour of developing or producing 13 series about obesity… She’s developed numerous ideas for Australian production companies including 'Secrets of Our Streets' for SBS and 'Luke Warm Sex' for ABC1; she has an electric google search history. With Media Mentors she is building on her passion for helping people to develop their careers in the creative field.