Did you ever think to switch your career at a later stage? Let’s check some inspiring stories of people who switched careers at a later age in life.
WAIT! Before you drift away merely looking at the size of this blog, here’s something to work with. Every story is cherry-picked and is bound to touch you in some or the other way. However, in light of time and interest, I have prepared an index of personalities featured in the blog.
You can choose to hop skip and jump to stories of the personalities that interest you. Yet, each story is unique in its flavor and I assure you an interesting and inspiring read. Happy Reading…!
Sapne dekhte toh sab hai, par unhe pura hote dekhna har kisi ki kismat nahi,
Mehnat kar kaam karte sab hai, par zindagi bhar mann maar kar mediocre mein settle hona sapne dekhne walo ki fitrat nahi,
Bas chund hote hai jo kachchi umr mein zindagi ki rah samaj lete hai, aur career ki shururat se hi apne sapno par lapak padte hai,
Badhti umr ke saath sapne toh sabhi ko saaf dikhai padte hai, par kuch hi hote hai jo baal pakne ya baal-bachcho ki aadh mein na chhipte apne sapne ki or nikal padte hai,
Yeh hai kisse un sahasi, sanki, par safal logo ki jinhone so called ‘risk taking age’ nikalne ke baad chhalaang lagayi aur paaya kuch aisa, jise naapte unke sapne bhi chhote padte hai.
‘Experimenting with your career is possible only until you start your own family. Beta tees se pehle ki toh umr hai risk lene ki. Every chahca, mama, papa, pati, dost, boss across the world is heard giving advices like these.
Parents’ health (mostly ab toh hamari sunta hi kaun hai), wife’s needs (mostly demands), husband’s reservations (mostly ego), children’s education and allowance (mostly unknowingly funding their expensive dates), EMIs of the sedan (should have gotten a hatchback), repaying the debt on the biggest asset for most, home sweet home (not so sweet when you realize that for half your life, half your salary is actually what you have in hand), insurance premiums (you die only once, but till then you pay, even metaphorically), arranging for your child’s marriage (technically just the biggest party you’ll ever throw, along with all your money), saving for your retirement (if there’s anything left for that post these)… The list is un-exhaustive, but I wouldn’t know because I am still in my so-called risk-taking and experimenting age. Hence the blog…
Responsibilities, expenses, debts, comfort zone, fear of the unknown, self-doubt, societal image, or simply not knowing what to do or exactly knowing but not having the resources for it. Reasons could be endless, and we are experts at creating them from thin air and clinging to them. Most people today don’t want to do what they are doing.
Some are stuck in their 9-5. Few following their passion but struggling to make a living. Some doing it just for the money with a constant frown stuck on their faces. We all know we don’t want this. Most even know what they want. But we just transition from ‘Oh I’ll do it when the time is right’ to ‘Arey ab kaha, now the time for that is gone’.
Sometimes all we need is a little nudge, a little push, a little inspiration and a lot of validation that yes this can be done and people have done it! This is my attempt to help you with that validation and possibly even give you that little push to at least think upon if not act upon that dearest thought which you pushed under the rug, and made sure it stays there by crushing it under the burden of your conjured excuses.
Here I bring to you a compilation of inspiring stories of people who made a bold career shift after the ages of 30, 40 and even 60 and successfully excelled at it. For some this might be relatable, for some inspiring, and if nothing I guarantee you at least an interesting read. If that’s your fate, it’s never too late.
Thirty & Thirsty
1. Jeff Bezos
Opportunity seeker | Intelligent | Stubborn | Crazy | Omnipresent
High paying corporate job à Entrepreneur in the garage à World’s richest man
Bezos and Amazon have been topping almost every list these days, so I decided to stick to the trend. We’ve all heard a lot of rags to riches stories, but you know what is more interesting, courageous and crazy? Riches to Rags to the Richest!
Coming to this world as a ‘mistake’, Bezos was born to a 17-year-old high school girl whom he called mother and a bike shop owner. They soon called off the marriage and Jacklyn, his mother later married a Cuban immigrant, Mike Bezos. Jeff, the brilliant student, had many accolades to his name. He graduated from Princeton University with a 4.2-grade point with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science.
He worked as a computer scientist at Wall Street with Fitel, a FinTech start-up and went on to be associated with huge Corporations like Bankers’ Trust & De Shaw. At the age of 30, he was the Vice President at De Shaw. For most that itself would be quite an achievement and complacency would creep in. But the entrepreneurial itch in Bezos would never let him settle. Not even after he had his fingers dipped in almost all fields of business.
It was in the spring of 1994, that he had his calling. Looking at the statistics which showed the Internet and Web usage growing at a surreal 2300% a year, at 30 and the peak of his career, he threw it all away without a concrete plan. Finally boiled down to sell books online due to their low cost and universal appeal.
He founded Amazon with his office and servers set up in his garage and penned down his business plan on a cross-country drive from New York to Seattle. His first investors, his parents, had just one simple question, ‘What is this Internet’. They were betting not on the business but their son.
Accepting a capital investment of an estimated $300,000, he began the expansion of his business functions. One of the biggest lessons, Jeff teaches us is being transparent. While accepting the money he was upfront about the fact that there was a 70% chance that they would lose all their money.
I have used the adjective ‘crazy’ because that is how many who work with him perceive him. The business started growing with an initial team of 10 employees, whom Jeff expected to work 60 hours a week, doing graveyard shifts and having 2 pizzas for dinner. Today, Amazon employees 97,000 personnel.
Whenever a customer sent a grievance email, Jeff would forward it to the concerned person with the subject as ‘?’. This question mark email was the most dreaded and it was infamous as the ‘ticking bomb’. Jeff later had hired consultants for his temper management.
Generating revenues of over $61 billion and being the world’s largest online retailer today, Amazon has its foundation in the philosophy ‘Stubborn on vision, flexible on details.’ Amazon as a company believes if you are not stubborn, you’ll give up too soon. If you are not flexible, you’ll never be able to see a variety of solutions to a problem you are trying to solve.
Take away: If you have a vision and if you are crazy about it, just be gutsy enough to leap. Start small but start because things have their ways of working out.
2. Sylvester Stallone
Optimist | Tenacious | Charismatic | Uncanny
Cleaning lion cages and waiting tables à Academy Award (Oscar) winning film actor/writer/producer.
Alright, I’ll wait for a minute till the Rocky theme song stops playing in your head…
Yes, immediately as we think of Sylvester Stallone, we think of Rocky and Rambo. He has managed to create such iconic characters immortalized in the film reels. Or maybe some hard-core Bollywood fans recognize him as the chunky foreign actor who did his cameo with Akshay Kumar in Kambakht Ishq… Sylvy is having hiccups right now, and if it is made known to him that he is being remembered for Kambakht Ishq of all his movies, he’ll probably consider a career shift in his right now too!
He was bound to do a Bollywood cameo because his life has been so filmy. The drama starts in his life-story right at his birth. Born in Hell’s Kitchen (birthplace ka Naam bhi kaafi dramatic) area of New York City, during his delivery the doctors faced some complications and they had to use forceps to pull him out of the womb.
In the process, one of his facial nerves was severed paralyzing the lower left part of his face. How many of us would consider a person’s prospect of a successful acting career, given his lower face being paralyzed? But as fate would have it, this incident gave Stallone the uniqueness in his identity… the lopsided droopy lipped smile and the iconic slurry speech.
His father was a beautician and his mother promoted women’s wrestling. Following the hostile relationship between his parents, Syl had a troubled childhood spending an initial few years in foster care. He was expelled from several schools due to a lack of attention and care. And he finally had to attend school for troubled teenagers.
It is not always that the reason for a late shift in career is the individual’s hesitation or lack of courage. It could be so that the person has been wanting to pursue a career, but the circumstances were never conducive. Syl was interested in acting right from his college days. He dropped out just a few credits shy of graduation. To sustain, he did all kinds of odd jobs like cleaning lion cages at the city zoo to waiting tables.
I don’t know if this makes you fans interested or creeped out but here’s some juice. The rumor about Syl’s debut in a soft porn film ‘The Party at Kitty and Stud’s’ is true! Not getting enough work, he had hit the bottom and hit so hard that the house owner threw him out and he had to spend a couple of nights on the streets. He had just one possession, his bull mastiff dog Butkus. As the last resort, he had to sell his mastiff and Stallone says that was the saddest day of his life.
Finally, at the age of 29, he finished writing the draft of a film that gave birth to the iconic character, Rocky Balboa. The script was loved by the producers and they wanted a known face to play the lead, but Stallone was hell-bent that if anyone would play Rocky, it would be him. Tje Jury nominated Rocky at the Academy Awards for acting, writing, direction and best film, and won the best film honors… and the rest is history.
Take away: Stallone’s life gives us a few very important life lessons. 1. You cannot be ego-tripping in your times of distress, and he is a living example of koi kaam chhota nahi hota. 2. When opportunities don’t come your way, you need to create them. The writing wasn’t always his sweet spot, but his first major hit as a result of him going out of the way and creating an opportunity for himself.
3. J.K. Rowling
Creative | Passionate | Persistent
English Teacher à The Author who gave birth to Harry Potter and his magical world
I know all you potter heads are going nuts right now, but Shaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaant ho jaiye! (Hindi speaking Dumbledore be the best!)
We all somewhere are intrinsically good at or have an interest in some form of activity besides work. Be it singing, dancing, writing, painting, acting, etc. many of us do even try to keep up with it and wish to pursue it full time, but uh… that jump is what most of us can’t attempt. Rowling’s inspiring story is here to Wingardium Leviosa all your apprehensions out of the window.
Born to parents excelling in the field of science, young Jo grew up surrounded by books. The typical nerdy looking bookworm covered with freckles, wearing huge glasses, Jo always wanted to become a writer. She wrote her first novel when she was just eleven.
As years passed by and life happened, her flair for writing increased, but the will to turn it into a full-time profession went on diminishing. She moved to London and took up various jobs of which one being a researcher at Amnesty international.
In 1990, she conceived the idea of Harry Potter while sitting on a delayed train from Manchester to London’s King Cross. Over the next five years, she mapped out the storyline of all seven parts of the saga. She scribbled notes on odd scraps of paper and with a mass of these notes; she moved to Portugal and began teaching English as a foreign language.
Got married, had a daughter, got divorced and she returned to the UK, but with a copy of the first three chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. She began teaching in Edinburgh at various City schools but continued writing in every spare moment.
After approaching various publishers and being declined, also being called eccentric, her first novel was published at the age of 32. The rest is history and today publishers and critics can’t cease to appreciate her sense of imagination and the magical universe she created.
Take away: Never give up. If you love doing something, do it. Do it in baby steps without worrying about what will it culminate into, but keep at it. Rowling’s persistence at writing despite all her professional and personal commitments is a thing to be absorbed and imbibed.
4. Chetan Bhagat
Outgoing | Risk-taking | Daring | Experimenting
Successful Investment Banker à Author, columnist, motivational speaker, screenwriter, reality show participant, and judge…
All you muggles for whom Rowling wasn’t enough, here’s someone Desi and more resonating. The man has equal lovers and haters, but no one can deny his gutsy decisions followed by exhilarating success as a banker as well as an author.
Everyone who has read the book or watched the film 2 States, which Bhagat claims to be his own life story, has a fair and a glorified picture of the banker turned author’s life. For other so-called intelligent readers who probably are running an anti- Bhagat cult in their backyards, here’s a little context.
Born in a middle-class Punjabi family in Delhi, Bhagat was a bright student. He completed his education from the IIT and IIM, both one of the most prestigious institutes in the country. Post his management education, he moved to Hong Kong and worked with Goldman Sachs as an investment banker for over a decade.
He had been a closet writer all his life and wrote his first novel Five Point Someone while he was in Hong Kong, keeping his day job and bringing his characters to life at night. His book was a huge success and producers also adapted it into a film later.
At the age of 34, having a great paying job and a luxurious lifestyle in Hong Kong, came his moment of decision. Despite everything, he believed that writing was his calling and he took the riskiest, boldest and probably the best decision of his life. After over a decade of working as a banker, he moved to Mumbai to pursue his career in writing full-time.
Bhagat is a regular columnist having strong views about the socio-political scenario of the nation. He has been a dance reality show participant as well as a judge. He might not be great at everything he did, but his experimenting and daring nature took him places.
Take away: The leap of faith! That is what Chetan Bhagat and life, in general, is all about. Where will the course of life take you, is something no one can control. But what is in our control is to leap to explore what life has in store.
5. Reid Hoffman
Brainy | Strategist | Far-sighted | Constant learner | Preacher
Computer scientist and successful corporate executive à Founder of the most widely used professional networking website, LinkedIn.
When it comes to learning entrepreneurship, Hoffman’s life is a textbook. His expertise in fitting business activities into implementable strategies and tactics, his learning and insights and his never give up attitude earns the reputation he holds today.
He graduated from Stanford University and Wolfson College studying subjects like Symbolic systems, Cognitive science, and Philosophy. Working with companies like Apple Computers and Fujitsu, Hoffman had built a successful and stable corporate career, but the strategist and the entrepreneur in him wouldn’t be satisfied with a safe and stable life. He proudly calls himself a bad employee and that he found it difficult to take orders. Also, he hated doing the same thing day in and out.
He founded his first company SocialNet.com in 1997 which was one of the earliest attempts at creating a Social Networking site. The business did not pick up, and the learning he deduced was that businesses no matter how innovative or dynamic, most would fail if they are way ahead of their times.
He co-founded the professional networking site LinkedIn, which was later sold to Microsoft in 2016 for $26.2 billion. This shot at success that made him known to the world came only after five failed attempts at various start-ups. He lives up to the phrase ‘Failures are steps to success.’
Take away: Reid has extensively shared his experiences, failures and learning on various platforms. Following is a compilation of the most insightful sharing by Hoffman.
- Games were his obsession. Board games helped him learn to strategize and develop tactics, and Role-playing games helped him to problem solve. Playing against real people helped him to learn to comprehend the competitor’s moves.
- Any job that pays less but offers an opportunity for tremendous learning should always be given priority, especially in the early years of one’s career. Always say yes to Internships, Apprenticeship, High-level assistantships.
- You lose focus when you aren’t challenged enough at your work, and when you start to lose focus, it is time to reconsider. “If you are drinking too much coffee at work, quit.”
- He says as an employer he would always prefer someone with a little relevant experience but a high learning clock speed. I would bet on a scrappy but smart student out of college or would partner with a person mid-flight who is trying to shift careers, as he is the most motivated and craving challenges.
- A simple rule of selecting a career: Following are my strengths, these are the market trends, this is where my strengths meet the trends.
6. Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson
Fighter | Dreamer | Iron-willed | Devoted
A decent football player who was not given a chance à Rank 1 wrestler at WWF/WWE à World’s no.1 box office star.
That raised eyebrow beneath those dark glasses. The rock bottom. The charisma, and the goosebumps when he yells ‘If you can smell’… Nostalgia I know!
An agile and promising football player receiving offers from many collegiate sports departments decided to develop a career in the game and took up a full paid scholarship program. He was doing well on the field at the defense line, but life back home was tumbling down.
For a single mother raising a family, the financial crunch seems to be never-ending. The family barely managed to make a living and one gloomy evening while returning home they found an eviction notice at the latch. Spending nights on the streets and living in survival mode drew Dwayne down to the wrong paths to earn a living.
While he resorted to occasional thefts, he knew he wanted to do something more meaningful with his life. The only thing he knew he could do with his two bare hands was to pump some iron and work on his body. Successful athletes with sculpted bodies inspired him.
He started getting into great shape and the game on the field was picking up. Also started wrestling and living up to the family lineage of wrestling started by his grandfather. He was acing at football but he never seemed to get a chance at the big games. He was unable to pay up the ‘fees’ for the selectors to select him. His football career ended.
At his extreme low, he had started to show symptoms of clinical depression and would stay at home for days spending time crying. However, he kept showing up in the wrestling ring now and then to earn his livelihood. This persistence was the catapult that pulled Johnson out of his absolute worst. The WWF/WWE signed him as a wrestling star and that marked the beginning of his drive uphill.
The Rock dominated the WWF wrestling ring for a better part of the decade. He won the WWF Championship title eight times in ten years. Although at the peak of his wrestling career, he had dreamt of a life beyond wrestling, life on the Hollywood screen.
He debuted has a half-scorpion, half-naked human in the film The Mummy Returns. His film career bloomed with box office hits like Jumanji, San-Andreas, The Fast and Furious series. He also became the World’s no.1 international box-office star in 2013.
Tale away: The most inspiring trait of Dwayne Johnson is his fighting spirit. Battling life choices as a troubled teenager, sudden collapse of a promising career, pulling through depression… he always had the will to go on and try and hit one more punch every time.
7. Nayantara Kochhar
Free-spirited | Have no regrets | Thrill seeker
A 9-5 corporate executive à Founded and successfully managing an interior design firm.
Women’s entrepreneurial success stories are so inspiring even to men. With a list of added responsibilities apart from running the house, it becomes a task to even plan out your time and priorities if you own and manage a business. Miss. Kochhar’s drive to break the 9-5 wheel and the search for a creative outlet to put her skills to monetary use helped her build her design firm Auraz.
After 8 years of working with the country’s two largest corporations managing the human resources of the firms. The monotony of 9-5 had worn her out. She wanted to try something that could claim as hers and would challenge the daylights out of her. At 29, she decided she would have a shot at it before she turned 30.
Having a ‘no regrets’ outlook she quit her job three weeks before her marriage. She then gave herself time to figure out a creative outlet to earn the buck. Her childhood fascination with designing drew her every time. With the support of an extremely encouraging family, she started her design brand Auraz Design.
She started with a clear mindset. If it didn’t work out, she would at least have a story to have a good laugh about. To her benefit and also a surprise, the brand quickly flourished and Nayantara got featured as the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in a leading magazine.
Take away: ‘The one thing the world doesn’t warn you about when you start on your own is your time’ says Kochhar. Suddenly weekends and weekdays merge into one. You forget about the holidays, your mind is always occupied and it is a constant hustle. But if your hard work pays off, it the most liberating life that lies ahead.
I hope you were inspired/ touched/ moved/ at least had a good read.
Oh, you are not in the 30s?
On a closing note,
‘Failures, you may not want, but the regrets in avoiding them will surely haunt.’