It’s never too late to learn
My mother always said: “It’s never too late to try something, learn something, or to become something. Right now, I’m 54 years old and building a new career online. “Digital Native” is not a term that applies to me at all. Using what I call the “Google of Me” – which does not involve using the internet, but rather doing an honest internal search of my strongest emotional and intellectual skills and to identify my deepest personal career needs.
My parents, both African-American World War II Army veterans, used this method long before there was ever such a thing as the internet. One of the most important professional examples from my parents was to “learn how to learn.” That’s the core principle of the Google of Me.
This principle has come in handy for me throughout my student life, my work life and my money life. I grew up in Detroit, one of our nation’s most depressed economies. My mother at the time was a registered nurse and had left military service as a lieutenant colonel. My father was a journeyman electrician. Both of my parents held city jobs, practicing in their professions with full benefits – and always found time and energy to participate in continuing education. They also kept side jobs going, into their mid-70s, to support me and my 2 sisters.
Skills morphing into memories or an instruction manual?
To give you a timelapsed picture of my professional life: I won a scholarship to the Parsons School of Design in New York City, parlayed that into a successful career as a supermodel and the first woman of color to receive an exclusive cosmetics contract– forever shattering that barrier in the fashion industry, then parlayed that into film work and television journalism, then into working as a freelance writer for many of the publications I had previously appeared in as a model.
Delaying childbirth for career, I became a wife and mother in my mid-30s. Tossing aside my entrepreneurial hat, I left the paid workforce to run the world’s most important cottage industry – caring for people whom you love. According to a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly, 43% of highly paid professional women take maternity leave without a decisive strategy for rejoining the job market. I was one of them.
Reentering the job market in my mid-40s, doors that were once held wide open for me were now literally shut in my face. Skills and experiences I had worked so hard to accumulate over a lifetime seemed like they were destined only to be shared as mere memories or as an instruction manual for young hopefuls to draw from, but, sadly, no longer of use to me to grow as a professional outside of my home.
In 2011, my four kids came home from school and I asked: “Where’s your homework?” I didn’t see any books or papers or even pencils! My eight year old held up her smartphone and said: “I used Google classroom on my phone riding the bus home from school, Ma.”
THAT was a lightbulb moment for me. I used the Google of Me. I asked myself, which of my skills and assets could be digitally marketable? I’m a good writer and I give great fashion and beauty advice.
5 questions to ask yourself
If you’re not a digital native like me, and you’re thinking about moving into the digital age as an entrepreneur or start-up founder, here’s my “Google Of Me” Questionnaire:
- Write down 3 things you feel passionate about.
- What would you enjoy learning about literally forever and ever?
- Would you be excited to lead the way and engage people into conversations on this topic?
- When you research and talk about this topic does it grow the business you’re trying to build?
- Would your opinion and influence on the subject you’re studying become a potential profit center?
And now find your answers
Here’s what I came up with: I LIVE to share my knowledge about beauty wellness and fashion to help create freedom and confidence in women’s lives. Boom! The idea for my blog WebbOnTheFly.com was born in 2016. There’s not a lot of fashion bloggers over 50 or women over 50 pictured in fashion period. Yet, we make 95% of the buying decisions in our homes! We hunger to be seen and heard.
Knowing nothing about digital marketing or web development, and even though I was scared to lose money or fail, I created my blog. Even though I was scared, my parents had always shown me that courage quiets fear.
It’s been 3 years now since I went live with my first post on WebbOnTheFly.com. I’m proud to say that I’m succeeding as a “micro influencer.” Today, 25,000+ affluent educated followers log on to WebbOnTheFly, who, like me, are looking for dialogue on next level beauty, fashion and wellness. Trial and error and lots of mistakes were made along the way to building this digital business. My next-level challenge is learning how to market my blog online, which is not obvious. As I write this, Google search shows 17,800,000 results for “fashion blogs women over 50,” but I won’t let that stop me.
The word “googol,” which the founders of Google named their company after, refers to the giant number representing the number 1 followed by one hundred zeroes. When you do your own “Google of Me” search to understand your next move, know that there are a googol ways to grow and become successful in today’s digital gig economy – and the good news is the answers are literally at our fingertips.
Join me here next month to learn more about how I’m using Google tools to build and accelerate my business growth.
This article originally appeared on Google’s Accelerate.withgoogle.com. WebbOnTheFly.com partners with Google to help people in mid-life, women, minorities and small business owners take advantage of Google’s free educational tools and programs.