A Second Look at My Second ACT

By Susan RoAne

Whoever said that there are no second acts was highly mistaken. So many of us have had two and three successful careers, myself included. My first was that very traditional, formerly highly respected and definitely NOT overpaid —profession of teaching. You may have heard the old saw about teaching, “You always have to something to fall back on.” Would that were true.

In 1979 San Francisco Unified School committed sacrilege in a post Proposition 13 economy and laid- off 1200 teachers. My friends and colleagues called bemoaning their fate. And I was Suzy Sunshine telling each one that they could do anything in spite of Bernard Shaw’s outrageous and far too oft- quoted insult: “Those that can DO and those that can’t … Teach.” But my upbeat skills assessments made no impact.

Finally, I had an epiphany: people have to go through a process to learn. Of course. That’s a fundamental of education. So I designed one of the first career change seminars for teachers. Through twists and turns and happenstance and serendipity… I was promoting the seminars and discussing the ins and outs of career change on a radio show and the business editor for the Hearst syndicate San Francisco Examiner tuned in. He called and asked if we could do a local career series for the business section. For some reason, which fails to come to mind, I had the foresight to say, “Yes.” Then I went home and got ill.

For three years the best local Career series ran weekly in the business section. I corralled the contributors. If I heard an interesting talk, overheard someone discussing a topic that caught my attention or was privy to research, it was an article. We were one of the first series to do an article on sexual harassment… in 1983. And I wrote over thirty -five of the columns which turned out to be the basis of my books. The workshops continued until the private funding to help teachers make career changes, ended. But, thanks to some great coverage, there was a waiting list of 100 people. It was then my “femtor”, Sally Livingston, who taught me the formal aspects of networking and shared her materials and resources… said, “ One hundred people on a waiting list… my dear girl, you have a business. Come with me to Women Entrepreneurs to hear a magnificent speaker, Patricia Fripp.” And I did.

It was Sally who saw me moderate the all day workshops. She said I was funny, captured the audience and needed to come out from behind the lectern. Scary. But good advice from people we trust is easy to follow. I’ve never stood behind anything or anybody since! And people started to read my bylines in the career section and ask me to tell my story because they heard I had an awful layoff situation but told it in an amusing way. And they offered me honorariums for 40 minutes that were more than my teachers per diem.

Having a byline in a major American newspaper was the best third party endorsement and helped set my career. Luckily, I met Dawne Bernhardt, my speech coach, very early on and worked with her to tame my tangential comments, vary my tone, pitch and pace and give audiences the information they needed in a format that could internalize. Her coaching was invaluable.

I didn’t go into the speaking business because I needed applause, standing ovations or an ulcer from reading evaluations. I was there because I started a program to help my former colleagues and… ended up helping myself as well.

For more of my story, go to There you will free articles, and Tips from me, the #MinglingMaven®. And a link to my blog.


Susan RoAne is a VIRTUAL and In-Person keynote speaker and the nation’s original and leading networking expert who has taught a variety of clients how to work rooms, turn contacts into connections and how to make small talk that leads to big business benefits. Her clients include: Lockheed, Citigroup/Dept of Treasury/Office of Public Debt, Bank of America, Pfizer, Stanford University, the NFL and Hershey Chocolate….her favorite. Susan is the author of How To Work a Roo

About Susan RoAne

Susan RoAne leads a double life as a sought-after professional keynote speaker and a bestselling author. Known as The Mingling Maven®, she gives diverse audiences the required tools, techniques and strategies they need to connect and communicate in today’s global business world. The San Francisco Chronicle says she has a “dynamite sense of humor.” To hire Susan to speak for your company, association or college, 1.415.461.3915