I do hope you’ve been enjoying our Life Lessons feature that we run a couple of times a week here but did you know we have another introspective exercise called Second Acts? We know life is about changing and personal and professional growth so we want to celebrate that too. In fact, it’s JUST about time for me to update my own (you can see the original here). Anyway, we’re going to continue that today with a really super lady. Suncera and I met through a circuitous way (she and I had a number of people and places in common) and hit on a fast friendship. Last year, was a tough one for Suncera but her future is so bright now…. well, you know the rest. More now on Suncera and if you’re in your Second Act and want to tell the world, drop us a line here; we’ll get the questions right out to you!
What is your Second Act?
My Second Act is as a Social Media Strategist and Author.
When did you realize you needed a change of career or lifestyle? What was your breaking point?
Much like you, Rene, I worked in traditional television. I had been freelancing for quite some time and realized that I needed to supplement my income and branch off into other areas of employment, using skills I acquired throughout my career.
When I got laid off in 2009, I got a wake up call. Being a “perma-lancer” (permanent freelance) gave me a faux sense of security because I was at the network for a while without having to look for another job. My breaking point was when I couldn’t land a job doing ANYTHING, simply because I had words like Production and Producer on my resume.
I was someone who previously could end a job today and have another one before the day was over. With the recession raging and employers having larger pools of candidates to choose from, I was put in the “overqualified” pool. Although I am a paralegal specializing in entertainment contract law, it had been years since I performed in that capacity. No one wanted to hire a television producer/editor as an Executive Assistant. While people around me were saying take ANY job – there was not ONE offer on the table.
How did you make the change?
I re-created myself on social media as That Writing Chic, which touted my experiences, AND I “deconstructed” my resume to down play my accomplishments. First, I started with my online radio show. I knew I needed to brand myself and I became deeply involved with social media. I read and I spoke with anyone who knew anything about it because I felt eventually that it would be the new wave PR machine. I wrote an e-book, I built my blog and spread the word about my experiences.
While I did that, I was able to land entry-level jobs in television as a production assistant with my “deconstructed” resume. Once on the set,I developed relationships and only THEN did I tout my experiences. That led to three promotions in one year. I self-published my first e-book and then began to write for magazines as well, once they saw my body of work.
Was it scary?
VERY! I turn 50 next year. I often think of retirement and the long hours and the uncertainty involved in television production. Although I love it, I don’t know that I want to be 55 years old on the set every day.
What was the toughest part of your Second Act?
Being a single mom, trying to tend to the needs of a teenaged son and balancing work. Finances were extremely tight and while I know the value of sacrifices, it was challenging getting my son to understand that we had no choice but to change our lifestyle.
Where are you in your transition?
While I was working as a producer on a VH1 show, I had the chance to show the extent and impact of my social media footprint. Subsequently, I was offered a staff position to head up all of the Social Media directives of three, new YouTube Channels. YouTube recently began an initiative to fund 100 Premium Content Channels. I feel like I have the best of both worlds: the ability to contribute my creative ideas and see them developed, while having a staff position with benefits, etc. without the 12-15 hour days. I am still able to work within the confines of a production company, however, my creative focuses on developing Social Media Strategies around each channel and the content unique to each of them. I would never have imagined that I would land a staff gig that encourages me to tweet, post on Facebook, etc. on a daily basis!
I just published my second e-book “Breaking Into Television: An Insider’s Guide” and continue to share my experiences with others. The book has garnered interest from publishers and a literary agency.
What did you learn in the process?
I’ve learned that it’s never too late to change or start over. More importantly, that sometimes starting over, really just means finding new ways to do what you have already done. It’s not merely thinking outside of the box. It is STEPPING outside of the box, exploring all of your surroundings and walking away from the box towards the sum total of new experiences that await you!
Are you happier now than you were in your previous life?
Yes! It’s an interesting time. I have a teenager, who is hoping to go to college after graduation next year. I am single and learning more about myself every day. I am learning that I do love myself and appreciate the value that I bring to each person I meet. And for the first time in my life, I am comfortable with ME. I am happy being ME. I have learned the value of taking care of ME!
What’s the best part about your Second Act?
I feel appreciated. I work in an environment where my creativity and ideas are not only welcomed, they are respected and sought out. I’m able to look at the total of my experiences and share them with others in a way that will hopefully encourage them.
I also have the freedom and flexibility to take on additional projects of my choosing. I am currently working with a client on a romantic comedy. My part-time gig is done on my own time and allows me to have additional income, while doing what I love!
What would be your advice to anyone looking to make a major life change?
Don’t over think it. Do it. I spent so many years thinking about writing and hearing people tell me about my writing gift. The minute I started DOING it, it took off and led to other opportunities. My work in social media has all come as a result of me WRITING in the social media realm.
Encourage yourself. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer and I will tell you that for the past year I had been praying that I would land a staff position. I knew that was what I wanted for this stage of my life. I did not question how it would happen nor when it would happen. I made myself available for each opportunity to present itself to me.
Be prepared so that when an op”poor” tunity comes, you don’t grab onto it out of desperation. Don’t ever let anyone undervalue your worth. Learn the value of giving and receiving the gift of the word “NO”.
What are your dreams and hopes for the future?
My children doing well in life is the best that I could hope for. My career has no boundaries. I am excited about the opportunities that exist within the world of new media and will continue to write to encourage others to pursue them. My hope is to one day head up development, whether it be in new or traditional media and to have at least one New York Times Bestseller. And maybe, just maybe…there’s still someone out there waiting for me!
Suncera Johnson is a mom, TV/film writer/producer/editor/director, friend of God, radio talk show host, motivator, author & freelance writer, though not necessarily in that order! In addition to creating new media and writing, her passion is helping others find their purpose in life and opt to pursue their passion, instead of merely working a job.