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How She Did It: Caroline Ceniza Levine

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

Each month we feature inspirational women who've made it to the other side of career reinvention. Learn how they did it and take away usable tips from their professional journeys!

We're happy to introduce Caroline Ceniza-Levine, Executive Recruiter and Career Coach. A Senior Forbes Contributor and Adjunct Instructor at Columbia University, Caroline successfully pivoted her career more than once before founding her own recruiting and coaching company.

Caroline has appeared as a guest expert on CNN, CNBC, CBS, FOX Business and other outlets. She has so much wisdom and expertise to share! Read on to learn how she did it.

What's your personal mantra, mission, or manifesto? I help experienced professionals make a great living doing what they love.

What inspired you to launch your current career/launch your business? I spent 15 years in strategy consulting, executive recruiting, and then in-house HR for a global media company before starting my own HR consulting firm, of which Dream Career Club is one part. I've hired thousands of people, so I know what employers want. I've seen thousands of career paths, so I know there are many routes to career success and happiness.

What is unique about returning/pivoting in midlife? Challenges & opportunities? In midlife, you have experience to draw on, wisdom and perspective from knowing yourself better (your values, passions, priorities), and years-worth of networking relationships. On the challenging side, you may be pigeon-holed by that experience, especially if you're trying to do something else; you may have periods of unemployment or underemployment to explain, you have personal obligations (kids, elderly parents or both) that are expensive or impinge on your flexibility and you may have let your network lapse.

What’s one intention you have for your work this year? My youngest of two went off to college in fall 2019, so since then I have focused on using my free time for more than just work. I have consciously focused my projects on repeat clients I love and creative pursuits. Most importantly, I have been shifting from full-time to part-time and doing more for my health and wellness.

What are you most passionate about right now? In my 40s, I got serious about financial independence -- being untethered to any one income source, like my business at the time (but it could be a job for others). I was working flat-out, my two kids were in the tween/teen stages, and I wanted to feel more in control of my time as well as set an example for them.

This started me on the road to real estate investing, launching different initiatives in my business and just thinking more creatively (and bigger) about what I wanted in life. I still am excited about what I can do to maintain that independent and big thinking today -- looking at trends, scouting real estate, and thinking of different products or services, some of which are unrelated to what I'm doing today.

What does a typical day look like for you? It's different each day because I try to schedule based on how I feel. I prefer to write in the morning. My morning routine also includes journaling, meditation, and a walk outside or other exercise. I love movies, so like to wind down the day with something from my streaming queue. I'm a member of SAG from earlier forays into acting, and it's awards screening season, so there's lots to watch. But in-between these bookends, my day can be very different. I manage my calendar, so meetings are mainly Tuesday thru Thursday. My husband and I like to do road trips so that changes the schedule considerably -- we put ~40,000 miles on our car each year!

What’s the one thing that has advanced your career in the last year? I read 30+ books each year, mostly business, health and wellness, or other personal/ professional development. I take classes -- one-off webinars and ongoing programs. I regularly meet people -- virtually and live. These are 3 things, but I will repeat them year on year because they keep me growing. I do mix up what I focus on -- this year, I joined a year-long program on wellness specifically and did a lot of reading on that topic. In 2023, I sense that I'll double down on my creative interests in writing, music, and film.

Who’s your “tribe” when it comes to professional inspiration or support? I was a music and economics double major in college, and I find that many of my tribe have a similar creative and business angle to them. For example, I have an independent film company (FBC Films), and my partner is an HR professional in tech but also an actor, writer and director.

Favorite book, app or podcast? I have so many books to recommend and profile new titles in my Forbes column several times a year. To support my fellow midlifers, I'll recommend Karen Rancourt's "It's All About Relationships" and Jill Schlesinger's "The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money"

You’re granted an extra hour in the day, how do you spend it? It varies based on how I feel -- walk on the beach (I live in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL so 40 miles of coastline to choose from); meet up with a friend; go thrifting; journal (my #1 self-care habit); or I might even do work (write, reconnect with colleagues, work on an open project).

The advice I wish I had given to my 20 year old self is… I'm 51 now. If I could go back to my 21-year old self, I would tell her to keep doing what she's doing because the next decades will be amazing (because they have been!). I would also tell her not to worry so much, but I keep telling that to myself even now and I never listen.

The advice I want to give to my 75-year-old self is... Keep growing. Stay challenged. You could have 20+ years -- that's a full career yet.

Your theme song that played every time you walked in a room would be? One of my creative pursuits is cabaret, and I've performed in several shows. One of my signature songs is "More" from Dick Tracy (Madonna sang the original). On one level, you can say it's a materialistic song about always wanting more. But the coach and personal development superfan in me sees it as an anthem for always reaching.

Best career advice for other women? Always negotiate. If you don't ask, the answer will definitely be No.

When did you feel you got “you” back? I think most people second-guess themselves from time-to-time, and I'm no different. If I'm feeling particularly indecisive, I do something physical -- cooking, walking, exercise. No sense staying in your head when it's caught in an unhelpful loop!

What’s up next? I'm taking December off, except for writing. But next January, I'm kicking off my 9th cohort with Columbia Business School's Executive Program in Management, where I design and lead the career curriculum for 30-50 experienced professionals from around the world. I also co-wrote a TV script, and an actors' group in NY has selected it for a reading, so I'll be attending that in January as well.


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