Jane Pauley, AARP's "Your Life Calling" Ambassador
Elizabeth Craig, master career development professional
Robert Rudolph, church choir director and former mortgage broker
Online visitors to AARP.org/Jane
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Jane Pauley: Hello everyone! Thanks for joining us. I hope you were inspired by our TODAY Show segment this morning featuring Robert Rudolph. Robert’s been passionate about music since he was very young, but when it came time to choose a career, he felt the pressure – from both his family and society at large – to make money the deciding factor in this choice.
Later in his life, he decided his passion was so strong that he’d give up his financial luxuries in order to pursue it. Many of us have similar artistic passions, but it’s daunting to figure out how to reconcile them with the economic realities of everyday life.
My guest this afternoon, Elizabeth Craig, is a Master Career Development Professional who has a lot of experience talking to people about this subject. She’s here today to discuss the practicalities of following your artistic dreams and how you can find fulfillment by getting in touch with your creative side. Welcome, Elizabeth! Thanks for joining us.
And we’ve also got Robert Rudolph himself with us this afternoon. Hello, Robert! Great to have you here. Let's get started!
Elizabeth Craig: Hi Jane. Thank you for the terrific segment with Robert on the TODAY Show! I am happy to join you as you host this valuable live web chat discussion for those interested in reinventing themselves to find personal and career fulfillment in their own lives.
Jane Pauley: Let’s take some questions!
Comment from Becky: I just saw the segment on TODAY. I'm a Chief Communications Officer in higher ed and just got laid off. I'm considering going to what I love doing, rather than just going for the money. I'm reading a great book, Thank You For Firing Me! Are there tips about taking that path?
Elizabeth Craig: Robert made choices to bridge to his future and do what he had always wanted to do. Reinventing yourself to find personal and career fulfillment in your life often involves doing a variety of things. The following can help: look at your natural abilities, skills, gifts, and talents; values; passions; utilize assessments; volunteer, partner with a career transition adviser; and form a personal group of positive committed listeners.
Some or all of these activities can assist to narrow choices, set goals and put together an action plan to make the fulfilling changes a person desires in their life. Many have found the classic national bestselling book Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William Bridges very helpful. Looking at each of the areas of your life can make the entire process easier and like Robert, move you forward in creating the reinvented life and career you desire.
Jane Pauley: Jackie, I thought it was interesting on two levels that Robert so quickly found himself pursuing business after he got three degrees in music and seminary. #1: he is member of a family that seems to have had an affinity for business. All of us come with a variety of skills and interest so Robert may well have been following his own interest in business having claimed it his own. #2: had he not had that business interlude he would of not been as successful as his current role of music director at a church. The combination of his musical background and business expertise is what made his current success and contentment possible. Just a thought.
Elizabeth Craig: If he’d gone right into music Robert would likely not have had the skills such as marketing, fundraising, and overall business acumen that have allowed him to have the fulfilling personal and professional success he has today. Also, specialization is key and is particularly important especially as you age. No matter how unique or valuable individuals think their capabilities are; it is how the market views them that counts. Like Robert did, you must design your own path and take charge no matter what your age or situation. It is always wonderful to hear the words Robert said, “I’m really just content!”
What are employers looking for? In today’s economy, employers require highly talented individuals who can work in multidisciplinary teams. They are looking for well-qualified employees like Robert who have exceptional talents, gifts and skills and can transfer those capabilities in unique ways. Employers also desire well-developed skills such as writing and speaking, problem solving, adaptability, and the ability to learn independently to meet constant technological change. Many in the second half of life who are reinventing themselves have always been lifelong learners who have these employer-desired capabilities.
Comment from John: Robert, when you were making career choices based on pleasing your parents, were those conscious or unconscious choices?
Robert Rudolph: I was always torn between what I wanted to do and what I was expected to do. For ever business adventure I undertook, I constantly questioned the decision and often regretted not pursuing my desires.
Comment from Judith Z.: Historically there are many well known people who did not realize creative success until they were older adults. I wrote about this in an article "When Creative Success Comes Later in Life," which just received an award from the National Mature Media association.
Comment from Anna: Jane, did you always know what you wanted to do with your life?
Jane Pauley: Anna, good question. Short answer: no. I was lucky to have a talent for public speaking and a strong interest in current events. I discovered this in high school. You could draw a direct line between high school speech & debate and my career in television news, but the fact is that I kind of fell into the business and was successful. But it was not a lifelong dream. I still keep my antennae up for the clues to undiscovered interests. For instance, I get tremendous satisfaction from advocacy work I am able to do in various fields. But I wouldn't have had the opportunities to discover that had I not had my career in television. One more thought – headline in a newspaper: “Inspiration is everywhere but you have to be looking.”
Elizabeth Craig: Referencing what Jim L. said: Robert obviously had a longtime passion for music; it was just on hold. One way to get at your passions is to do a quick inventory of the activities and events you enjoyed the most from childhood (ages 6-12), then teen years (ages 13-19), then as a young adult (ages 20-29), then thirties, forties, and so on. In each period you are likely to have specific examples. Then create a short list of your top 10, and then top 5 most enjoyable activities. Identify those times that personally gave you an intrinsic sense of pleasure and satisfaction, where the rewards were more internal than external.
Comment from Guest: Make a list of what you enjoy doing and start from there!
Jane Pauley: Alternative suggestion. Talk with friends, colleagues and family about what they think you most love doing and do very well, because often times the things we love doing and do well come naturally. This may sound counterintuitive, but because they come naturally we don't notice. So getting some outside input on yourself can be quite illuminating.
Comment from Claire: While I'm a few years early for AARP (I'm 48), this topic is close to my heart as I've been working on a documentary for 8 years about creativity and reinvention in later life. The three characters I've followed (74, 87, 94 years old) continue to find ways to express themselves creatively and contribute - that seems to be a key, to realize how much you have to give, and that the creativity can flow from unexpected sources. Just finding a way to be engaged in a way that has meaning for you, and if it feels too overwhelming to find an entirely new career path at first, try volunteering one day a week/month and get those vibes going and test the waters.
I was so inspired by Robert's story (thank you for sharing it), and as I'm both a nurse and a filmmaker, transferable skills are something I think about often - great point that we sometimes find our true calling only after we've gone on other paths. I just hope I can find the funding to finish the film - we need these inspiring stories about the second half of life!
Elizabeth Craig: As Claire mentions, creativity is often a big part of this stage. Also, people in the second half of life often show compassion and contribution by volunteering and giving back. The wide range of opportunities is endless. Studies report that hiring managers do value volunteer work with 63% reporting that volunteer work is relevant experience when it comes to evaluating a candidate. A study in the UK indicates, 73% of employers would employ a candidate with volunteering experience over one without.
AARP has always been a wonderful supporter of volunteering. You can find out about all the opportunities to volunteer, and more about your capabilities, personal passion and purpose right where you live by going to: Create the Good.
Jane Pauley: I would just like to say that the look on the faces of Robert's choir members is enough to say that people don't have to be looking for some big second career. Staying engaged in neighborhood activities or church music programs is not only personally fulfilling, but supportive of a community, and there is purpose to be found in that. So join a choir, or a book club- and not everyone is outgoing, but in one of Robert's choirs, you don't have to be a soloist to be inspiring.
Comment from John: Jane.......wonderful comment, so true!!!
Craig: The new buzzword: travel volunteerism. Do you want to experience a vacation with real meaning? Volunteer vacations with a purpose have become so popular there are now some 150 organizations offering trips. The key to a great experience is the research work you do prior to the volunteerism trip. Since there is an overwhelming number of options, start with the following three essential questions: 1. What kind of work do you want to do? 2. Where do you want to do it? 3. How long do you want to stay? Learn more with AARP Travel Expert Peter Greenberg.
Comment from Pauline: Does Robert have kids? Could he understand his Dad's side of the story? I am glad he paid for himself to do the stuff he wanted.
Robert Rudolph: After 50 years, I did begin to realize my dad’s side of the story. Parents often operate within their comfort levels of advice, knowledge and personal experience. There is much fear in what we don’t know. For my dad, a career in church music was referenced to the $25 a month fee that we paid our church organist. His experience dictated that 14 hour work day at a business was the way to survive in life. Promise, living in the DC area and being self-supporting, I make more than $25 a month. It is also fair to say that surviving life and being happy in life did not cross paths.
Comment from Yul: Ditto to Claire's points, I heard once that retirement is a fairly new and American concept and not widely known in other cultures.
Comment from Gary A.: I believe that young people can have an especially difficult time making a positive career choice early in life not only because of parental pressure and influence as happened to Robert. Peer pressure is powerful and can lead to poor personal choices as well as the strong influence of both money and prestige that won't satisfy for the long run. The key is to focus on interests first and then find education and training to compliment your interests. If money and status are important, they will follow. You need to live with yourself 24/7 so find a career that reflects the 'real you.’
Jane Pauley: Gary, as a former young person who was clueless, and a mother of three who range from very focused to still experimenting, I would urge young people not to get too stuck on finding perfection. Just get started. Because sometimes a great way to figure out what you want to do in life is to have a job which makes it crystal clear what you don’t want to do; or a job where you learn how to get along with colleagues, how to solve problems. Just building a resume is the ticket to that later in life job, you really, really want. As someone put it, I don’t remember who “don’t make a whole soul search out of it – just get something going.”
Elizabeth Craig: To comment on Gary's question, understanding your values helps you clarify your purpose and passion. John Maxwell, in his book The Maxwell Daily Reader, encourages us to ask ourselves the question, “Are the tasks on today’s agenda worthy of your life?” What we spend our time on is what we value.
I consider knowing your top 5 values, and especially your top #1 most important value to be the critical component in finding personal and career fulfillment. You can read more about the importance of determining your values.
To determine your top values the University of Minnesota, College of Continuing Education provides a complimentary Value Sort (online deck of cards) as an outreach to the community for personal, pro bono and non-profit use.
A sense of purpose gives meaning to life! MetLife Mature Market Institute released groundbreaking research in early 2009 confirming this. With just enough money and good health meaning is the key. How do you define “the good life?” My friend, executive life coach and best-selling author Richard Leider puts it simply in this formula: The good life is “living in the place you belong, with the People You Love, doing the right work, on purpose.” Check out Discovering What Matters: Your Guide to the Good Life Workbook & DVD. And the Discovering What Matters: Balancing Money, Medicine and Meaning Study.
Comment from Ralph R.: Thanks for your feature story on Robert Rudolph this morning! As one of the pastors at Messiah United Methodist Church, let me just say how grateful we are for Robert's leadership and passion in leading our music ministry. He is truly a blessing to our church. We also want to thank Jane and her crew for their professionalism during their visits to our church.
Jane Pauley: Thank you, I think our very talented crew was able to do justice to your beautiful church. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Comment from Terry: It is hard to say to yourself "I will do what makes me happy.” We are all so worried about the consequences. Do what you want, then everything and everyone will fall into place. Like the song "If mama ain't happy, then nobody happy". Remember, like it or dislike it, parents can only do the best they can in the situation presented before them. Glad Robert is doing what he always wanted to do. I would think in the end all parents just want their kids to be happy and healthy.
Comment from Jackie: Often the skills learned in jobs we have not loved prove valuable later as with Robert. Once people had one job most of their careers, but now job switching almost an advantage to broaden skills, so more options available. I have retired more than once and keep discovering skills I had all along that I took for granted, and are more valuable to me now.
Elizabeth Craig: Yes, Jackie, you are exactly right.
Comment from Becky: Jane and Elizabeth; I agree about the volunteerism. I've volunteered for years in a Yucatan community, which started out as a travel volunteer opportunity. I also now volunteer in my community in search and rescue. Those opportunities have been incredible experiences.
Jane Pauley: Robert, I have a question for you: Do you feel that your years in business were wasted, were a mistake? Or do you think they were valuable and taught you things about yourself, or skills that make you a better music director?
Robert Rudolph: To answer your question, Jane, I have come to learn of all life experience as valuable. There are absolutely ways that my experience in business influences my direction and management of a music program that handles 14 ensembles, countless rehearsals, budget management and fundraising for ongoing programs. Although the business experience may have not have been the happiest of times, it still was a valuable time.
Comment from Georgine B.: I'm close to retirement and I'm thinking about how I'm going to spend my time. I like to travel, but I would like to either work part time or volunteer part time. How do I go about finding information on how to start?
Elizabeth Craig: To answer Georgine's question: You will find some assistance by checking back to my three earlier responses about how to volunteer and even take travel vacations where you are volunteering.
Comment from Lisa: What about the challenge of pursuing artistic interests while earning a living? Many people would have to go back to college -- expensive -- then enter a job that may pay much less than they're used to. Since most of us won't have pensions, money is a concern.
Jane Pauley: Lisa, you need to know something about Robert that we did not have time to explain in our segment on the TODAY Show this morning, and that is that all the while he was a mortgage broker, he was always working as a part-time church musician. So his artistic side wasn’t paying the bills, the business was, but it was certainly nurturing his spirit. Would you say that’s right, Robert?
Robert Rudolph: Jane, that is absolutely correct.
Comment from Salley S.: How did Robert write his resume so that those reading it would want to interview him when he had little experience in the church music field?
Robert Rudolph: The resume was crafted upon experiences (not so much on hard data) that contributed to a successful career in music. The real drawback in the initial phase of transition was not having held a full-time position in the field. It became clear that the change in career would more than likely happen fairly quickly, but that it would be necessary to travel the career path step by step.
Comment from NJ: After a company downsizing, I was laid off after 14 years. I reinvented myself and found a new job. Six months later, I was laid off again. I don't know how to re-reinvent myself. .... now what?
Elizabeth Craig: Yes, company reorganization will continue. Obviously you were able to reinvent yourself previously. What types of things did you do previously that worked? Continue doing those and remember the importance of getting inside company referrals.
Comment from Lynne: To Elizabeth's earlier comments about all that Robert has done has brought him to his current place, there is a great book I've read by Mary Catherine Bateson, Composing A Life, that speaks to how A leads to and is part of B, etc. - Not sure the book is in print any longer but if you can find it, it's worth it.
Comment from Gary A.: Jane and Elizabeth, this has been a wonderful exchange today. Thanks to Robert, too, for sharing his personal story. You have helped many people with your candor and insight. Also, this is so good that I think you have something with this 'process' that could be used in high schools across the nation. It is really needed! Many thanks for your time and effort.
Elizabeth Craig: This also references back to NJ. Evidence is clear that networking is crucial to job search success and remains the most effective way to land a new job. If you can think of networking as having a group of friends assisting you with your job search it becomes a lot more fun to network everywhere you go. Networking is not just going to a specific networking event. It is speaking with people as you go through your day and having conversations with them. Job seekers need to consider looking for unpublicized jobs as yet another tool in their job-search kit. The wisest strategy is to pursue both avenues concurrently: respond to actively advertised positions and what has often been called the hidden job market too.
Rather than spending time online, network. The effectiveness of networking is indisputable and frequently backed up by research. For example, ExecuNet’s annual Executive Job Market Intelligence Report, which in 2009 reported that 73 percent of survey respondents found career options through networking, compared with just 14 percent for the next most effective method.
Robert Rudolph: There were no short cuts in changing careers and life’s direction. The driving force was to finally do in life what I actually wanted to do and knew I could do successfully. What became clear in the process was that I needed to prove to the church music industry (and to myself) that I was capable of doing what I was saying I could do. I had always known that I could be successful as a church musician, but that claim had to have substance. As I looked to establish my new career I simply needed to find a position where I could make the biggest impact. I need to say I even surprised myself at what I was able to accomplish. Most importantly, after struggling to find a church position, I found a church that was right for me and I was right for them.
Comment from Yul: This has been truly inspiring, from the TODAY Show segment on. Thank you Jane, the TODAY Show staff, Robert, Elizabeth, and audience. :-)
Jane Pauley: Looks like we have reached the end of our chat time.
Elizabeth Craig: Thank you to everyone for the terrific questions and comments! Cheers! Enjoy the process!
Robert Rudolph: I would like to add the gratitude of myself and this congregation for the professional filming crews respect to the Messiah U.M.C. as a place of worship and this opportunity. In has been inspiring to all that it touched.
Jane Pauley: Thank you so much for participating in this chat as a part of our “Your Life Calling” series on the TODAY Show and here on aarp.org. Elizabeth and Robert – thanks for being with us!
I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. Catch me again on August 17 on the TODAY Show where I’ll be bringing you another great story about someone who is hearing their life calling in a new and different way.
Stay tuned to aarp.org/jane for more resources and inspiring stories on reinvention.