Tweak That Job!

Sometimes a small change is all it takes to reenergize your career and find a new job that makes you happy.

By Heather Millar

Change Your Job — Slightly

Here’s one scenario: Woman chucks successful career to, say, care for chimpanzees in the wild. Inspiring, yes. Practical? Uhh…

Come down to earth and meet four midlife job tweakers: women who found creative ways to make their work feel fresh again.

Tune It Up

Lisa Mathews | 45 | Baltimore, Maryland

The job: Singer in a rock band

The tweak: Singer in a band for kids

Why the Old Job Stopped Fitting

When Mathews became pregnant seven years ago, she started worrying about the effect that playing in bars — up late, surrounded by earsplitting noise and secondhand smoke — might have on her baby. So five months into her pregnancy, she quit the band. The timing was bad: Love Riot was just starting to get national airplay, gigs at the Lilith Fair festival and cameos on TV shows like Homicide: Life on the Street. "But I said, ‘I gotta stop,’" Mathews remembers. "We did a farewell concert, one of our best. And that was it."

Giving Up Was Hard to Do

The salary of her copywriter husband, Miles Anderson, 55, and residuals from network appearances kept the family afloat, but Mathews felt bereft in the months after that last show. "I figured I’d never do music again, that I would have to get a day job," she says. Then she noticed something: Love Riot had died, but the music hadn’t; she was spending her days singing ditties to her daughter, Jesse, and composing lullabies with her husband.

A New Band Is Born

A year after Jesse’s birth, Mikel Gehl, the guitarist from Love Riot, and his wife had a baby boy. Mathews and Gehl started playing songs inspired by their new lives as parents. Then they took their show on the road with a gig at a daycare center, competing with a Moon Bounce and chocolate chip cookies for the attention of toddlers. Their catchy beats stole the show, and when they finished playing, a 4-year-old girl bounded up and insisted on buying a homemade CD with her piggy bank money. "It was so different from my rock band, where there was this invisible wall between band and audience," says Mathews. "This is much more challenging — and much more fun."

The Learning Curve

The duo — now called Milkshake — recorded and distributed their first CD themselves. Over time, Mathews developed a business plan that calls for putting out a minimum of five CDs over 10 years and starring in their own children’s TV show. She also unveiled a new look, ditching her tight dresses and stilettos for tutus and combat boots.

More Successful Than Before

After six years as Milkshake, Mathews and Gehl have released three CDs, starred in the first season of Noggin’s Jack’s Big Music Show, and are currently appearing on PBS Kids and Discovery Kids. "With Love Riot, we’d pile into a rental van and drive hundreds of miles for $100 and free drinks," Mathews says. "Now we get airline tickets and play performing arts centers. It’s been incredible."

Branch Out Again

Heather Fitzenhagen | 47 | Fort Myers, Florida

The job: Finance lawyer

The tweak: Finance mediator

The bigger tweak: Financial asset manager

Her First Move

Fitzenhagen started out in the financial services industry as a trading assistant. Looking for a way to get ahead, she went to law school and eventually landed a job with AIG, the financial services firm, where she recruited broker-dealers and helped set up new offices.

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