Many people, famous and unknown, have made dramatic and sometimes surprising career changes at all stages of life. Success often depends on having the courage to make the leap more than anything else.
Career Changers in their 30’s
For the first part of his working life, Jonah Peretti was a teacher, teaching middle-schoolers how to use Microsoft. It wasn’t until his 30’s that he launched his new career as an Internet entrepreneur; notably CEO of Buzz Feed and Founding Partner of The Huffington Post.
No matter how difficult your circumstances, you can always turn your career around and change your life. JK Rowling is the perfect example of this. A single mother, she worked as a researcher and bilingual secretary. She was 32 when her first Harry Potter book was published, followed by the record-breaking series and her company Pottermore.
Jeff Bezos had a career on Wall Street in computer science, before he changed directions and launched Amazon at age 31.
Choosing a new road in their 40’s
Pamela Stephenson was an Australian comedian and actress in the 1980’s, but had an abrupt and impressive career change when she was 47. She went back to school to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and established her own private practice. Her main professional specialty is human sexuality. Within her new career she has taught as a university professor and completed research projects in her field. She now has a regular newspaper column and appears on TV shows worldwide.
Vera Wang was a journalist and figure skater before she entered the fashion industry. She was a 40-year-old when she began her new career, and today she is one of the world’s top female fashion designers.
Dave Spikey first career was as a biomedical scientist working in the hematology laboratory of Bolton General Hospital in the UK. He had a hobby of scriptwriting and acting in amateur pantomimes with a group of like-minded health workers. His hobby became his new career when, at the age of 41, he started performing as part of a double-act, Spikey and Sykey – regularly appearing on TV and performing to sell-out venues across the UK. Later he starred in the British comedy series “Phoenix Nights.”
Is 50 the new 30?
John Glenn is famous for being the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth in 1962. Impressively, 12 years later at 53 years old, he began a 24-year long career as a US senator in Ohio.
Martha Stewart started her career in her teens as a model, then in her mid 20’s she started a 5-year career working on Wall Street. Then she became a homemaker to raising her young children. Then in her late 30’s, she started a catering business and, which boomed in less than a decade. Then she got into publishing her magazine, Living. And it wasn’t until she was 52 that she got her own TV show, elevating her to the American lifestyle mogul she is today, a household name, and worth more than $400 million. Modelling. Wall Street. Homemaking. Catering. Publishing. TV Star. She has no fear around starting something new.
Take Arnold Schwarzenegger as an example of someone adept at reinventing themselves as well: from Champion bodybuilder in his 20s and working in real estate, to Hollywood actor in his 30s, until reaching the height of his career at 56 as governor of California.
Making a career change in their 60’s
The Indian founder of the Hare Krishna movement, Prabhupada, was 69 years old when he started the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. His previous careers had been as a chemist when he also owned his own small pharmaceutical business, and a Sanskrit scholar in Calcutta.
His story is very inspiring. When he ventured outside India for the first time and arrived in New York City in 1965, he knew no one. He possessed very little money, a pair of hand cymbals, and a small trunk of his books. From these humble beginnings, Prabhupada beat all the odds. He traveled around the world, gave numerous lectures, wrote thousands of letters, and met with many distinguished scholars and dignitaries to spread his spiritual awareness.
Michael Bloomberg became Mayor of New York just before his 60th birthday, a position which he held for 12 years. His former career had been as CEO of financial software, data, and media company Bloomberg L.P, to which he has since returned.
Who says you can’t go back to what you were doing before if you so desire?
Following their dreams in their 70’s
A wonderful example of waiting until your golden years to follow your passions, talents, and dreams, is Anna Mary Robertson Moses (better known as Grandma Moses). For the majority of her life she was a housekeeper and farm laborer, until she began her prolific painting career at 78. In 2006 one of her paintings sold for $1.2 million!!
The Englishman, Edmund Hoyle, is considered to be the world’s first technical writer on the rules of card games, and he didn’t begin recording those rules until 1741, when he was around 70 years old, and continued to do so for the last 27 years of his life! Before board games, he likely was a lawyer.
Your whole career is a journey
Consider your career(s) to be part of a life-long journey: your earlier decisions, study, jobs, and career moves all lead you to your future. Nothing is ever wasted; it is all valuable experience and teaches you different lessons from which you will grow.
For more inspiration and positive reasons to start studying later in life – take a read of this: Am I too old to return to study and change career?