Don’t wait at the back of the pretzel line (and other ah-mazing tips for midlife career reinvention)
An EvolveMe Interview With Zibby Owens, creator & author of Bookends
At EvolveMe, we’re on a mission to support women in midlife career transition and share stories of those who’ve made it to the other side! As we like to say, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”
We know you’ll identify with the twists and turns along Zibby’s career reinvention journey.
What we loved about Bookends was how open Zibby was about wanting more, and how she didn’t let the voices of others – or those in her own head – win out.
Spoiler alert: in the end she returned to her first love – books!
And we get it. We looked to our favorite authors for inspiration while trying to figure out our next career chapters. And we’re honored to chat with Zibby here!
EvolveMe: After reading Bookends, we feel like we know you! Thank you for such an intimate and heartfelt read. So much of your story resonates with us as moms (5 kids ages 11-23 between us!), entrepreneurs, career returners (Linda) and pivoters (Judy) ourselves. You talk about always knowing you were a writer.
We’re curious – did anyone ever ask you what you wanted to be when you grew up? And did you say “writer”? If not, how did you answer? Is there a moment you can pinpoint when you decided you wanted to be a writer?
Zibby: Yes, people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and YES, I did say I wanted to be a writer!! The problem was, as I got older, I couldn’t find the most effective path to actually becoming one, so along the way I tried many other careers. But this was always my dream.
EvolveMe: “…I had better be doing something that involves my whole self. All of me…Anything else I did professionally would have to be a labor of love. Worth it.” “Ultimately, I found my purpose on earth. Something worth dying for at my desk.”
These lines jumped off the page for us! We kept coming back to them.
Women we work with want more meaning and fulfillment in their work in their 40s, 50s and 60s. For you, this statement was informed by loss and wanting to make the most out of life and work.
What has reinventing your career given you? How has it made you more of who you were meant to be? How has it been “worth it”?
Zibby: Oh, it has made everything so much better to have a fulfilling career. But what I do never feels like a job because it’s all just me. Being me. Writing my thoughts. Reading books I love.
Management has been the biggest “job-like” part of it because I’ve started three business lines: Zibby Books, a publishing house for fiction and memoir; Zcast, a podcast network of shows designed to help people live better lives; and Moms Don’t Have Time To, our content and community site. But every day is exciting because I’m just all in. All the time.
EvolveMe: Today, it’s common for people to have 12 different jobs by the time they’re 50. We stopped counting a hundred pages into the book, but we know you’ve had quite a few transitions. You’ve come a long way from being the Gaggle intern!
So many women come to us lacking clarity of direction and confidence when making a change. They feel stuck.
What helped you transition from one role to the next? Where did you summon the courage? Was it something inside of you – a voice telling you that you deserved more? Women friends like the Breakfast Club? Honing in on your purpose?
Zibby: Whenever I was faced with a decision about what was coming next, I really listened to my instincts. I followed what I was truly interested in, even if it made no sense to say, spend one summer working at a psychiatric inpatient unit, and the next, managing brand strategy at an ad agency on Madison Avenue.
But all my many jobs came from a place of saying, “Well, that sounds super interesting.” And just doing it. At times, I felt like I really needed to explain all the jumping around on my resume, but now literally everything I’ve done at every single job has coalesced and not only makes sense but helps me daily.
EvolveMe: We work with many women, like you, who’ve taken a caregiving break. In fact, Linda had a 16-year pause in her career to raise her three children. What’s been most surprising about getting back into the paid workforce after your break?
Zibby: Yes, I stayed home for 11 years with only some occasional freelance writing and a few short-term projects. It’s honestly so exciting to see the ad revenue come in from my podcast and think, “I created this. I did this!”
Most surprising was that it isn’t like if you stay home, you come back and you’re at the end of the line. I thought it would be like getting a pretzel at a crowded sports arena, waiting all the way in the back and slowly inching up until it was my turn.
But actually it’s more like joining in while dancing the horah. You join in midstream and others hold your hands as you begin the dance again and spin around, right in the action. You can rejoin at a very high level. You don’t have to start from scratch.
EvolveMe: Love that analogy! What’s your best piece of advice for women who want a next chapter – whether they’re returning to work or pivoting careers – you did both!
Zibby: I would say: the time is now. Like, right now. It isn’t too late. It’s perfect. We only get to live once. Try it. Pursue it. If not now, when?!
EvolveMe: And who are your role models?
Zibby: My role model is really my dad. He created a company from nothing that has gone on to expand internationally. He always senses opportunity and then analyzes everything before entering a new market. He works constantly but will let a stack of papers fall on chest as he moves off his reading glasses and pays attention to me. He works hard and thinks all the time, but still leaves room for family and fun. And reading!
EvolveMe: Ok – we have to ask you two last things. Give us a sneak peek.
What can we expect from the next podcast in the Moms Don’t Have Time To… series?
For our audience, it would be “have careers” (but we’re trying to change that!)
Zibby: My newest podcast after Moms Don’t Have Time to Grieve with Kelsey Chittick is Moms Don’t Have Time to Move and Shake, a community-hosted podcast with women around the country sharing their stories, struggles, and solutions.
After that, I’m doing Moms Don’t Have Time to Be Influencers with social media expert Emily Raiber. And there’s a Dads Don’t Have Time To in the works.
EvolveMe: AND we know there’s another book living inside you. You’re so prolific – in life! What’s the next topic going to be?
Zibby: There is. I’m actually writing a novel now! News about that is coming soon.
We love Zibby’s advice – the time is now, and it’s not too late. And you don’t have to start from scratch in midlife. As she says, It’s all about joining the dance and spinning around with other women who have your back.
And that’s what we’re about at EvolveMe.
Are you ready to double down and seize the moment? There’s NO time like the present. There will never be a perfect time to start, so get going now!
Whether you’re looking to change jobs, return to work, switch your role or industry, or transform your whole career outlook, check out our Reinvention Readiness QUIZ to assess where you’re at in your journey - and what support you need to move forward!
And who doesn’t love a quiz, are we right?