Joanna Maxwell

Over the years I’ve become pretty well-qualified to write about changing identities, rethinking careers and growing older.

When I was a small child I just knew I was an alien. I spent hours in our backyard scanning the night sky for the planet where my real family lived. I was positive one day they would magically arrive and take me home with them. I also watched and re-watched every episode of Star Trek, looking for a clue to my real species. Gradually, it dawned on me that I was in fact human and had a loving family here on earth. After a somewhat brutal adjustment period, I accepted my fate. But it took me many years to truly fit in on this planet, to find my tribe and develop a sense of belonging, let alone an understanding of my purpose or career path.

At university, I mourned being too young for the Vietnam protests, searched for a cause, wondered about feminism, contemplated a stint abroad as a volunteer. But I did very little about any of these things, drifting from class to class, idea to idea. Not a clue, really.

In my working life, I meandered from a legal career, through academic teaching, freelance journalism, film writing, training as a therapist and working as a coach, teacher of adults and a consultant. I picked up qualifications in arts (B.A.), law (LL.B and LL.M), coaching (PCC), training (TAE), therapy and education (M.Ed.). (I like learning…)

In my early 40s, I founded my own business. I ran career-change programs (a role for which I was clearly well qualified) so I could help other people whose first career was not the right fit for them. I used creative thinking to teach people to think differently. And I kept on writing.

Into my 50s, I took my business in new directions and worked with some fascinating people. I ran a business startup program for migrant women in Lakemba for five years. I helped people over 40 who wanted to rethink their work, and I consulted with employers to help them appreciate and integrate several generations into their workforces. A real highlight was being resident coach on two series of Ray Martin’s The Road Next Travelled radio show, which focused on three Aussies changing their lives in their 50s. I started my blog, published a book on creative thinking and kept writing.

In between my work, I travelled to Tibet, the Middle East, India, Bhutan, Tanzania and more. I survived walking on fire and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, though I wouldn’t necessarily want to repeat either of those adventures. I remain hopelessly addicted to obscure sci‐fi shows like Jericho and Firefly (and Game of Thrones, though it is neither true sci-fi nor even slightly obscure…)

Increasingly now I work to help Australians of all ages and backgrounds feel they belong and have a way to contribute – and to flourish. That’s why I wrote my book, Rethink your Career in your 40s, 50s and 60s. And HarperCollins published it in 2017 as an ABC Book.

As I turn 60, I am planning my next book on what it means to age in Australia.

Watch this space.

Joanna Maxwell


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