Writer makes Rapp her writing spot


The Second Friday at the Library Series, sponsored by the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community (RAAC)
Guest speakers: Author Kerry Hannon and career coach Bev Jones will be sharing stories about mid-life career transitions and offering guidance for those wanting to enter a new profession.

When: 8 p.m. Friday (Nov. 12)

Where: Rappahannock County Library, 4 Library Road, Washington.

For more information about the event, call RAAC at 540-675-3193 or visit www.raac.org. For more information about the speakers: www.kerryhannon.com or www.clearwaysconsulting.com.

Kerry Hannon, freelance author and nationally acclaimed personal finance editor and retirement correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, has visited cities and communities around the world to do research for her articles and books. But when she and her husband visited Rappahannock County to buy a Labrador retriever, she didn’t want to leave.

“Our first impression was ‘How did we miss this all these years?’” she said. “There was something about the land, the sky and the mountains that captured our souls.” Not long after their first visit, they rented a cottage in Boston, nestled in a corner the county.

“We travel back and forth between here and D.C., but I do most of my writing here,” she said. Her latest book, a bestseller on Amazon.com titled “What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job,” is a collection of stories about people who have changed their career paths midlife, or what Hannon refers to as “second acts.”

“This book started as a column for U.S. News & World Report,” she said. “I traveled all over the country for 3 ½ years, interviewing people, particularly baby boomers, who have made drastic changes in their lives and careers in a quest to find more meaning.”

She found common threads among the people she interviewed, one of which was a desire to make a change after experiencing a life-altering event, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, illness, job-loss or the death of a loved one. She also found that the people who successfully changed careers didn’t make abrupt changes, but instead, took their time to network, get proper training, and learn all they could from other people in the field they wanted to pursue. She noted that baby boomers generally want to stay active, to be a part of something satisfying and helpful to others.

Writer Kerry Hannon nuzzles with her horse World Banker as her Labrador retriever Zena lounges. Photo © Carien Schippers.

“I discovered that many baby boomers who are about to retire from their first careers desire a second career that is more emotionally and spiritually fulfilling [than their first career],” Hannon said. She noted that although her book focuses on boomers, the information could be useful to anyone who wants to make a career change.

“People of all ages make positive changes in their lives,” she said. “The media often reports on negative things … they like to be skeptical, but I like writing positive stories that motivate people. That’s what this book is all about.”

Hannon calls her book and other writings, “Happy Journalism.”

“What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job” contains stories about 16 people who have switched careers and made major life changes midway through their lives. Among the stories are a Navy captain turned manager of a circus, a city cop turned Nashville music agent and a TV producer turned winemaker.

“Some of them took cuts in pay,” Hannon said, “but they wanted to finally do something they felt was fulfilling and helpful to others. So they took their time, educated themselves, found mentors and support, and transitioned into their dream jobs.”

One of the people featured in the book is Rappahannock County resident Sam Fox, who spent most of his career as an attorney in Washington, D.C., but gradually made the move to raising cattle on a 187-acre spread outside Sperryville.

“Sam took his time in the transition,” Hannon said. “He found a place, came out on weekends to repair and remodel, took some agriculture classes at the University of Virginia, and most importantly, listened to neighbors who had experience in farming.”

A quote from Fox in “What’s Next?” is a common sentiment among all of the people in the book who changed careers: “I feel like I have built something really beautiful, and that’s very satisfying to me. You can make anything happen as long as you are willing to work at it.”

According to Hannon, “working at it” means a patient willingness to learn and take chances and lots of networking. Hannon feels Rappahannock County residents are the types of people who make things happen.

“People in Rappahannock are dreamers; and I think you have to be a bit of a dreamer to be able to see the big picture, to take the gradual steps to make changes,” Hannon said. “I see a lot of second acts here.”

Another Rappahannock County resident featured in Hannon’s book is Bev Jones, a corporate lawyer from Washington, D.C. who took early retirement at 53, but wasn’t ready to stop working.

“Bev was faced with the question, ‘What do you do?’ so, after some thought about where her talents lie, she made up a business card that simply read, ‘counselor, consultant, coach,’” Hannon said. “After passing them out at a cocktail party, the phone started ringing.” In Jones’ career as a lawyer, she often counseled and mentored others, so she simply took her talents and put them to another use.

“Bev got the extra training she needed and now she’s well into her second act,” Hannon said.

Hannon and Jones will be speaking about switching careers in mid-life during a program at the Rappahannock County Library on Friday (Nov. 12) starting at 8 p.m. Hannon will speak about what she’s learned from interviewing people who have switched careers, and Jones will offer further advice to those who are interested in another career.

“Bev is a dynamic woman,” Hannon said. “She’s been a tremendous help to me. People who come out to hear us talk will be blessed. I’m a journalist and a financial expert, but she does career coaching as a profession. I tell people stories. People will leave with a full picture of how to go about making a change.”

Hannon said that she greatly admires those who are motivated to move to a more rewarding career later in life, but noted that she was one of the lucky ones whose chosen career continues to grow and challenge her, while providing a service to others. However, she said she’d like to someday incorporate her love of writing to another passion: horses.

“I’ll probably write a book about horses, someday,” she said. “And I’ll probably write it in Rappahannock County.”

For more information about Kerry Hannon and her book, visit www.kerryhannon.com.