Mastering the art of self-reinvention might be tiring sometimes: it requires resilience, fresh ideas and tenacity but eventually all your hard work will be rewarded. Janet Meadowcroft, the founder and former chief editor of ‘The Simple Things‘ and ‘Mollie Makes‘ magazines among others, knows this very well. And now, she is reinventing herself in her 50s after her senior role as director of strategy and planning in a Bristol-based content agency came to an end at the start of the pandemic. And this isn’t her first re-birth.
A career across consumer and brand magazines
“I loved the magazine world, the creative mix between the visual, the editorial, the tactile, the mood, as well as the marketing, finance and economics of the product – she said to CrunchyTales-. You had your heart in your mouth a lot of the time and I absolutely liked the whole package. I even loved spreadsheets – she laughs- and playing out the various what-if scenarios to see what would happen if you included a gift and slightly reduced the cover price.” However, as long as she enjoyed working in publishing, with the bottom falling out of the magazine world, Janet had to re-think her career. She took time out to raise a family, buy a house and do all the interior design, too. Then there came a time when she had to start earning money again. Reluctantly, she launched herself into a brave new digital world.
A new beginning
“I wasn’t’ interested in the digital world or social media. I’m quite private, but I knew if I didn’t learn I would soon be out of my profession forever”. She quickly built up her team of digital natives, most of them half her age. “This was a challenge as they had plenty of facilities within easy reach with all things digital and yet, I was their boss. They expected me to know everything but I didn’t as this wasn’t my background.” What followed was a very interesting process, she explains. “I had to let them shine in their respective areas, and not pretend I knew it all. But they also needed to understand there is so much more beyond the areas of digital marketing.”
Working With Millenials
Gradually mutual respect and trust developed between Janet and her team, which she describes as both fascinating and rewarding. It was a struggle at first, she says: “they were biting at my heels and constantly challenging me. But this forced me to learn from them and once they realised that I had their backs when things got ugly, then they also had mine. I come from generation X, we work hard and strive for more, have a strong work ethic, and are self-sufficient. But we are also known for being critical of millennials constantly accusing them of being needy and work-shy“. However, she ended up finding them a really impressive bunch. “They don’t have the same work ethic: they expect to go home at a reasonable time and not work at weekends. And this is my point – what I initially thought was a weakness, is their strength. They have a better work balance and they are high achievers. My team were less greedy, less consumerist, less acquisitive. They prefer experiences like eating out with friends. They don’t want to drive or own a car. I realised that people from this generation are the ones who will save us from ourselves in terms of the environment because unless we are prepared to change how we consume, we will never shift towards a better balance.”
Another looming crisis
The age gap closed and so, when the company shut down very suddenly and very upsettingly last summer during the pandemic, here she was at 53 having to reinvent herself yet again. “I realised I felt the loss of my team rather than the job itself. These brilliant young colleagues of mine who had so grown up during our time together also kept me young and I felt protective towards them in a way I’d never experienced before. Age-wise, they are between me and my children and that relationship loss is the biggest sadness I have about the closure of the company.”
There is a bright side, however, as no longer commuting to Bristol three times a week to her very tiring, fast-paced job was very liberating. Suddenly she has the time to enjoy her beautiful Georgian house in Bath that she so lovingly restored.
“I have found running and river swimming every day to be the best tonic. I was told not to run or cycle anymore, but I have built up gently again and am fitter and stronger than I have been in a long while. I am in a happy place.” From this new perspective, she has found the strength in a time of crisis to think about her second mid-life rebirth and her new business venture. The way she managed to move forward from this latest cross-roads is quite illuminating: “I wrote down all the things I love doing. But I also wrote down what I didn’t want. And this was key. In my ‘don’t want’ column, I wrote digital marketing, being at the computer all day, doing things virtually and this was a really helpful process to understand myself“.
Then, she came up with the idea of marrying her passion for teaching and languages, (she speaks Italian and Spanish and spent time in her 20s teaching English in Italy), with her wealth of experience in strategy and planning. “My new plan is to help company directors who need to be able to write pitches in English come up with their marketing strategy and help them with how to do this and present in English. That is my niche. I can combine my passions and create a new business strategy with my love for teaching English. After all, at my age, I won’t find an agency job at my level equal to the one I lost over the summer, so I have to create my own opportunities.”
Her greatest take-home points from this challenging 2020? “I have realised how little I need to be comfortable and how precious my time is. My aim going forward is to continue to live simply and to be aware of how my daily decisions impact on the environment which is of great concern to me. We need to tread lightly on mother earth.”