Published 07 November 2017 Category: Entrepreneurs, Compass Tips, Workplace

4 Mid-life Career Changes That Made A Difference

Questions about whether you're on the "right" career path can strike fear into even the most confident person's heart. But as some of the most successful people prove, you don't have to have it all figured out from the start. Plenty of highly successful people chose to make major career changes, some even many years into their lives.

Many people managed to change careers in their 40s, 50s and even 60s. Of these four examples, some are renowned personalities; others are little-known generally but reputable in their fields. Each listened to a calling that led them to leave their comfort zone.

When chemist Laura Pastore was 40, she wanted to work outside of the lab without necessarily leaving the company. Having few options in the organisation, she thought about what she loved about her job. After realising that her being a chemist had allowed her to look at individual problems and solve each of them, she grabbed the opportunity to be part of the human resource team. With a pay cut involved, Pastore’s choice did not seem appealing. But she found her calling in a different setting.

Julia Child became famous as a chef for introducing French cuisine to mainstream America. But the celebrated chef also once served her country as an intelligence officer in the Office of the Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor of the Central Intelligence Agency. She was appointed as the Chief of Office Registry in Sri Lanka and parts of China in 1944-45. During her OSS career, she met her would-be husband, Paul Child. It was Paul who led Julia to appreciate French cuisine, according to a CIA commemorative article.

Child started late as a cooking icon. It is safe to say that she did not abruptly quit her post and pursue her culinary interests. Like her, you can ease into the change. Take an online course about coding. Attend a workshop on design. Focus on a hobby and see if you can find clients or customers while still earning from your day job. If you want to start a business, find a mentor who is has already made his or her first million years ago. Tweaking careers does not have to be utterly terrifying.

Vera Wang was an editor at Vogue editor for 17 years before she began designing wedding gowns loved by brides around the world. Before Vogue, she was a teenage figure skater aspiring to make it to the Olympics. It was a long road for this entrepreneur. “People have done far better than me in far shorter periods of time, but that wasn’t my story,” Wang said in an interview with Business of Fashion. At 40, she jumped ship, moving from journalism to fashion, and has not looked back since.

The fear of failing seems more potent as you approach old age when energy wanes. But take a page from Wang's playbook and dare to try.

Bill Busbice was a lifelong entrepreneur and business mogul who owned Ace Transportation, a trucking company that served the oil and gas industry. But as a testament to his openness to learn new things, he has incorporated his trucking experience into the software startup he co-founded. Their app, HWY Pro, helps owner-operators and drivers find loads more quickly and efficiently.

Mid-life career changes often focus on the negatives (“I’m too old,” “There are no jobs,” “I can’t compete with younger workers.”) A positive attitude will reflect well on you and help you shine in interviews.

Thinking of a career change? Here are some of the mistakes to avoid.

Rather than focusing on the downfalls of age, highlight to potential employers the competitive advantages you offer over younger workers such as maturity, stability, commitment, and reliability. Instead of fitting your life into your job, find ways to extend the longevity of your career by fitting your job into your life.