Never be afraid to try something new

By Elizabeth H. Cottrell – info@nvdaily.com

I’ve always heard, “It’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind,” and when it comes to my professional career, I’ve certainly taken that to heart.

Some people my age feel it’s too late to learn new skills, much less try a new career, but when I look around at all the gutsy men and women reinventing themselves even into their 80s and 90s, I get inspired! Every day is an opportunity to expand your experience and try something new.

Growing up on a Virginia cattle farm in the 1950s was an idyllic childhood. With my brothers, I made forts in the woods, built rock dams in the stream, and swam and fished in the pond. I learned to gather wild berries safely, how to deliver a baby calf and where the foxes had their den. My love of natural things led to an degree in biology and a master’s in human anatomy. In the 1970s, I supervised a scientific research lab in Louisiana where we studied leprosy in armadillos. Our work resulted in several journal publications.

For several years, my top priorities were raising our two children, volunteering in the community, and being a homemaker while my husband practiced internal medicine in Woodstock. As college tuition costs loomed, I rejoined the workforce as a technical writer for Applied Concepts in Edinburg, doing government contract work in the area of accessibility. My boss appreciated my liberal arts and science background, figuring correctly I could take the work of his engineers and make sure government bureaucrats could understand it. Before long I was managing research projects.

When the owner closed the business, I opted for the flexibility of working from home. As an early adopter of Mac computers, I provided services to local clients who weren’t comfortable with the “new” technology. I wrote resumés, did page layout for local printers, maintained databases, and helped clients publish family history books. At one time, I managed a team of international writers to provide content for a membership website.

When my husband retired and became happily busy with his own hobbies, I still had an entrepreneurial itch to scratch, so I learned about social media and took courses in marketing, writing, website design, and online visibility. Now I help small business owners make sense of the overwhelming amount of information, especially in navigating the social media maze. I do freelance writing and editing, and I’m learning about digital publishing for myself and my clients.

Through my blog, Heartspoken.com, I’ve found an outlet for my writing and a way to explore my fascination with the power of connection: connection with God, connection with others, connection with nature, and connection with self.

At age 62, my work as a volunteer officer of the Shenandoah Community Foundation and serving on the board of First Bank are enormously satisfying.

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I’m living proof it’s never too late to change your mind!

Elizabeth H. Cottrell of Maurertown is a desktop publisher, freelance writer, blogger, and small business consultant at RiverwoodWriter.com and Heartspoken.com.