Dear J.T. & Dale: I have a secret. I'm a happily married 47-year-old mother of four teenagers. My husband has a great job, so I've been a stay-at-home mom. My challenge is that I dream every day of a different life. I want to be famous! I remind myself that I have a great life, but I've always wanted to be an actor. I'm petrified to tell anyone. I'm certain my entire family would laugh. Advice?
J.T.: In my experience, it's never a good idea to suppress a career aspiration. The constant "what if?" will torment you.
DALE: When you're nearing 50 and your children are grown, it's natural to look back and see all of your life's might-have-beens. If you aren't careful, you end up devoting yourself to the paths not taken, which, ironically, becomes your new path.
J.T.: So just jump in get started. You don't need to leave for Hollywood; just take an acting class. Tell your family that you want to pursue acting as a hobby. From there, you can start to see what it really will take. You'll feel better because you'll be taking action and because you'll no longer be romanticizing the idea.
DALE: Yes, you start acting, and there you are: an actor. (For those traditionalists shaking your heads, "actor" is now commonly used for both males and females.) But you need to understand that there are friends and relatives who will laugh. After all, that's a common reaction to the unexpected. Take pride in that laughter - it's good to know you can still surprise them.
J.T.: They may joke, but they'll be proud and excited for you, and will delight in coming to see you perform.
DALE: Yes, the laughter is the start of something marvelous. But know this: You are NOT going to be famous. Fame isn't what it used to be. It's more evanescent than ever, while still being largely outside your control. You might become known for your work with a local theater troupe. Is that famous enough? If not, you can move to New York City and maybe even get a lead in a Broadway show. Famous enough? If not, that leaves TV and movies, but ask yourself, How many women of a certain age become famous for their acting in a given year? The realistic goal is to be recognized for your work in a circle that matters to you.
J.T.: Maybe acting won't make you world-famous, but you'll have better odds than if you're home making pot roast. Get out there and act, and you'll no longer be living in the shadows; you'll be in the spotlight, and who knows where that might lead you.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I want a new job, but I'll admit that I'm completely unmotivated. I hate sitting on the computer, scrolling through job postings and filling out applications that result in no calls. Any suggestions for making it more fun?
J.T.: You've come to the right person! Job searching, the way most people know it, is a painfully boring and unrewarding experience. You need to change how you think about searching and how you go about it. You need to stop the spray-and-pray method, endlessly shooting out applications, and instead start meeting people. Over at CareerHMO.com, I teach the concept of an Interview Bucket List. There is a free tutorial that explains how to create a list of potential employers and a networking strategy to meet interesting professionals who can connect you with people in the companies where you'd like to work.
DALE: Fun? Maybe not. But there are people who learn to enjoy the process; occasionally we even hear, "I was almost sorry to see it end." Almost. What do such folks do differently? They see the job search as a chance to learn and to meet people. When you make that mental switch, from searching to learning, you are no longer a failure every day that you don't find a new job; instead, every day, you're getting better connected and more knowledgeable, and that makes you more valuable.
Jeanine "J.T." Tanner O'Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email.