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Sabine Feuilloley, 55: Career Reinvention

In mid-life, after a life upheaval that included the closure of the magazine she contributed to and the breakdown of her marriage, Sabine Feuilloley completely reinvented her career, shifting from fashion to medical science. She tells us how she did it, what skills were transferrable, and what keeps her balanced.

How does one make a massive career pivot into an entirely new field in mid-life, with a new way of working and an entirely different skill set? We often hear of parallel careers, or sometimes the dream of downshifting out of corporate to something more heart-centered, but this is the first time we have encountered someone who has made a change as radical as this. 

We first heard about Sabine from Riku Campo’s book I Am Beauty. When working on that book, she was a well-known fashion stylist. Since then, she has moved far away from fashion and is now working in the field of medical science. Our anticipated conversation around style and fashion yielded to something much more exciting: a total life makeover at age 55. How does that happen? How does one have the openness to make such a change? How does one go about getting a job in a field with zero background in it? It turns out that the empathy and observational skills honed in the one field were a big plus in this new one.

Why did you want to leave your past career?

I had been struggling for a while to find a sense of satisfaction through work. In fashion, you are always challenged to look for the “next best thing” and I couldn’t justify the lasting wellbeing pushing another outfit could bring.

“I had been struggling for a while to find a sense of satisfaction through work”

How long did you spend thinking about what to do before you found a solution? 

A long time, without knowing how to act. I threw myself into interesting but unrelated projects and felt without clear direction.

Renovating a house and managing two other vacation rental properties I own in Normandy, France took a lot of my energy. At the same time I was acting as fashion editor for A Green Beauty magazine.

A Green Beauty was both an editorial fashion magazine and a natural organic lifestyle guide, promoting sustainable living, holistic health, and beauty. It was such an inspiring way to look at life and fashion. We were doing such a beautiful job but the struggle of sustaining the magazine took over. Sadly, it closed for good last year.

Adding to my whole life upheaval, I separated from my husband of many years not long after the magazine folded. Newly single in NYC, I seriously needed to become financially stable.

photograph by Samantha Rapp for I AM BEAUTY

“Newly single in NYC, I seriously needed to become financially stable”

How did you go about looking for something new? What was your process?

I wrote on a piece of paper what I liked: researching and discovering things, what motivates and shapes us, history, science, wellbeing, energies, meditation, sound meditation…

First, I decided to join an upcoming sound meditation practitioner training at the WOOM Center in NYC. Then Covid hit and, amidst the panic, it became a Zoom world.

I joined various online coaching workshops. My favorite was “The Clarity course,” a method developed by Agathe Lerolle, an executive recruiter, to empower talent by giving their career a strong and purposeful narrative.

It was like going to a work shrink! 🙂

“I realized it was something I could do, where some of my stylist skills could translate well with my interest in science and wellbeing”

In the meantime, I was chatting with friends about my desire for changes, to be more involved in the wellbeing world. One of them suggested that I speak to one of her friends who worked as a clinical research coordinator. It was the first step. Learning about the profession, I realized it was something I could do, where some of my stylist skills could translate well combined with my interest in science and wellbeing.

Then it was a matter of time and a lot of phone tags until I met Lynda who would become my new boss. Her fresh-out-of-college assistant had just left her high and dry and she decided to look at the other end of the spectrum to fill the position. A unique perspective I thank her for.

Could you describe your new job?

I am still very new in the position, barely 3 months, and learning new things almost every day. As a clinical research coordinator, I am coordinating details of cancer clinical trials between the oncologist, patients and research sponsor. We have to make sure the protocol and regulations are followed in their various steps and time frame. We are pouring over the treatment data and sorting out the information necessary for the study. It’s a little bit like being a detective reading through consultation notes, pathology reports, labs and imaging reports…So interesting!

We can also be a personal link to the patient, acting as extra help to navigate the medical system when needed.

“Patience, kindness, attention to detail, and a sense of observation are required skills already acquired from years of experience in fashion, life and sheer drive”

How did you learn the skills needed?

I am learning them on the job. Patience, kindness, attention to detail, and a sense of observation are required skills already acquired from years of experience in fashion, life and sheer drive.

What role does curiosity play in your new job?

A big one! I am discovering that each case study is different and curiosity helps me find the correct information.

This is a huge change from your previous career, how did you prepare?

Prepare??…Maybe by having developed, over the years, interests outside of my profession and being so ready for something else.

How do you like having a regular job vs the freelance career you had previously?

I won’t lie that it wasn’t an easy adjustment. Through it all, I appreciate the present stability it brings, especially in these rickety times and the new world as it is opening.

“I was introduced to meditation through a silent Vipassana retreat”

What form of mediation do you practice?

I was introduced to meditation through a silent Vipassana retreat. Over the years, my practice went through various commitments until I developed my rhythm. For a few years now, I am in a groove, meditating every morning 30 min upon waking up. I love how it anchors the day, helping the transition from sleep and feeling the day rise.

Shortly after, I also discovered sound meditation. It was magical! The healing power of sound through gong, Tibetan bowls, chimes … was a great revelation. Nowadays, I find my balance between both silent and sound meditation.

How long have you been doing sound meditation work?

About ten years. And after those years, I was inspired to step behind and take a sound meditation practitioner course. In the last few months, on my downtime, I have been diligently training and practicing on my friends to their great delight.

What do you feel its effect is for you?

This first Vipassana retreat did allow me to experience the mind/body connection, memories lodged in the body. So interesting, like a weird biology class. It was all at once, fun, difficult, exhilarating, exhausting … It made me aware of how wobbly my foundation was.

Since then, I feel it has been a slow tearing down/rebuilding, manifesting itself inside/outside. Altogether I feel in much better body and mind health than I was in my 20s.

Do you feel it was helpful in making your transition?

Definitely. However scared I was and still am to step into the unknown. 

Working on I Am Beauty

Although you are no longer in fashion, what was the experience of being in, and working on Riku’s book for you?

It was one of the most interesting and fun projects I participated in. Riku, Sam, and I worked very well together… Being in front of the camera was another story, so outside of my comfort zone. Sam’s talent and the complicity we had developed helped so much. I am happy to be part of this inspiring gallery of women.

What was your impression of the other women you met?

They were so great! Full of life — so interesting to listen to their various life paths. They were also so pleasant and fun to work with. Their enjoyment to be part of the project was uplifting. Many laughs were shared, which I think shows in the book.

Did the experience change how you felt about age?

Not so much about my present age, however it inspired me about aging. Helped me keep in mind that we still have options as long as the body can carry us. I started to view menopause as a blessing in disguise.

Images of Sabine by Samantha Rapp for the wonderful book I Am Beauty by Riku Campo.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I am disheartened by all the women’s web-sites which really are a platform for brand ambassadorship and fashion! I understand we all need to earn a living but I have declined many of these sponsor offers because the product or clothing was something I would never wear or use! And truthfully I don’t thinks the so-called ambassador would either…hideous! Congratulations for moving on to something more meaningful and that brings more long terms satisfaction than a day of looking in the mirror at one’s newest jacket from Bergdorfs.

  2. Thank you for your willingness to give truly open and honest interview! Yours was indeed a far more drastic and courageous Transition than you give yourself credit for. You came from FASHION……my GOD….probably the most Ageist profession and transitioned to a career which might seem totally unconnected, but I know as a transitioning Fashion Photographer so much of my or your skill sets are in PRODUCTION……DETAILS……Long before our shoots would ever begin there was the pre production….getting everything sourced, staged, talent……data….data….data. only after that do we get to the shoot and what seems to be total spontaneity, relied so heavily on the ground work before and the follow up after.
    You were so fortunate to encounter an individual who could see the obvious (to us) interchangeable nature of the skills.
    As far as your sound work and meditation or even
    what sounds like coaching, you (we) have existed in a field of constant change in style, technology, culture and we just naturally kept very current. Some people do allow themselves to “get old” to stop learning, stop seeking, resist change. Your field and temperament didn’t allow that. So very happy for you that you were recognized for the wealth of life experience and talent which you have been able to bring to your new gig. Your new boss is a smart cookie because she “gets it” and is as a result indeed fortunate to have you rockin’ it for her.
    Bravo!

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AUTHOR

David Stewart
David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.

 

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