More Magazine’s Lesley Jane Seymour on Success and Second Acts
If anyone knows about self-reinvention, it’s Lesley Jane Seymour. The topic was at the core of More, the magazine she helmed for eight years before it closed last February, and the former editor-in-chief published hundreds, if not thousands, of articles offering advice and inspiration to women contemplating their second acts.
So it should come as no surprise that six months after joining the ranks of underemployed journalists, Seymour is five courses away from getting her master’s in sustainability management. “I know, who goes back to school in her 50s?” she says, laughing. “But environmental studies was my first love—I was originally going to be a marine biologist—and it’s been an amazing, mentally stimulating experience.”
Following her magazine’s advice, Seymour started preparing for her second act while still in her first one and signed up for her first class three years ago. “What partly got me to do it was a story we’d run about a librarian who decided to be a war reporter and got herself embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq,” Seymour explains. “I kept thinking if she can do that, I can do this.”
Seymour, who seems incapable of doing only one thing at a time, is also about to launch Kindred Community, a newsletter and online community for smart, accomplished women, age 35 and older, who want to change the world—i.e., her former More readers. She took time out from her course reading and startup planning to share what she has learned from climbing the masthead and being at the top of four titles (YM, Redbook and Marie Claire as well as More).
“What it means to you changes over time. In the beginning, it’s getting that job or reaching that level or being at that top-ranked company. But at some point, success becomes defined by what impact you’ve had on the world—that you’ve helped people and improved their lives.”
BEST CAREER ADVICE SHE EVER GOT
“I had many micro-managing bosses early in my career, so when I went to YM as editor-in-chief, I called a friend and asked, what do I do? She suggested doing the opposite of what my bad bosses had done. It worked.”
ON GETTING PROMOTED
“It took me till my 30s to realize that working hard and doing a great job aren’t enough. To advance, you also have to talk yourself up and make sure your boss knows that he or she is lucky to have you.”
“Anything can wait for 20 minutes. A decision, an email response, even a boss—they can all wait. Hitting pause is a way of taking back control. And doing it to meditate, which is what I do, is really empowering.”
ON REACHING THE TOP
“Don’t think you can only climb straight up. You can go sideways—or even down before going up. If something interests you, then do it. There’s more than one route to the top.”
ON BREAKING THE ULTIMATE GLASS CEILING
“Research has shown that visualization helps effect change—it’s easier to imagine doing something if you’ve seen it done. So if Hillary Clinton wins, I suspect the sight of her in the Oval Office will have a huge effect, and we’ll be seeing more barriers coming down.”
Lesley Jane Seymour will be talking with Mindy Kaling on the Main Stage at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women on October 6, 2016.