career reinvention

Nine Inspiring Stories of Career Reinvention

Career reinvention, or jumping into a career with which you have very little experience, can be extremely daunting. Yet people do it all the time. Sometimes it’s because of an innate interest in the profession or a dormant talent that they have just come to realize.

Career Reinvention

It’s understandable that people don’t attempt to launch a new career until the last straw because security and routine are extremely seductive. If you have a job that is paying the bills, doesn’t require extra effort on your part, and leaves you time to entertain yourself as well, there is no reason to leave it. However, when routine sets in, it has a tendency to rust creativity. This is why so many people around the world are dissatisfied with their jobs, yet they keep themselves chained up.

However, there are people who have defied that over our thousands of years of collective history, and their examples stand out as beacons to the rest of the world that it can be done. Those stuck in dead-end jobs don’t have to be; those that have a burning desire in their hearts to start their own business, or those that yearn to follow their dreams, can. Here are a few individuals that have proven through their actions, through the ages, that it’s never too late to pursue what you really want; it’s never too late to reinvent yourself.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

You have probably heard this name in middle school, or from family members who were moved by her writing. She moved from place to place while growing up, and as a woman in the late 19th century, wasn’t expected to do much but help around the house and bear children. Even so, she desired to help her family in other ways. She became a teacher by profession, but left that line of work once she got married, to help her husband around the farm. It was a simple life for her, but she felt she wasn’t living up to her full potential. She did, however, write regularly as a columnist for the local newspapers and magazines.

All that changed when her husband became partially paralyzed and couldn’t continue working on the farm. This, coupled with the Great Depression, led to their fortunes taking a turn, and their income began to decline. However, at the age of 43, Laura Wilder was motivated by her daughter, Rose, to write about her childhood. Although her first attempts at the book were rejected by publishers several times, she was determined to succeed by tapping into her inner talent for writing. After improving the manuscript several times, she finally published Little House on the Big Woods in 1932 when she was 65 years old. This eventually led to a series of eight books being published, the most famous of which was The Little House on the Prairie. The rest, as they say, is history.


Harry Bernstein

Working for most of his life as a script-reader and magazine-editor for trade magazines, Bernstein was also a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers. However, when his wife died, he was struck by the unshakeable desire to write a book on his experiences and the love he shared with his wife. He wrote The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers at the age of 93. It encompassed the struggle of his family when he was a boy during the First World War. The book was published when he was 96. Reading his story, it’s no wonder that the desire to share it rejuvenated his creativity and encouraged him to reach beyond his comfort zone.


Gladys Burrill

If you’re looking for a story that could define the word resilience, this is it. Gladys Burrill had done it all. She had been an aircraft pilot, a mountain climber, a hiker and a horseback rider – but she’s not famous for any of those things. Keeping in line with the idea of career reinvention, she is known for marathon running – at the age of 92!

She began to run marathons when she was 86 and kept pursuing the sport until finally, the world saw her for the incredible woman she was. She ran the full Honolulu Marathon at the age of 92, in nine hours and 53 minutes. Extremely proud of the goal she set, she paced herself, jogging and power walking throughout the entire thing. At the age of 92, most people’s entire bodies give out from the slightest strain, yet she proved that age is just a number after all.

Burrill was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for her achievement.


Susan Boyle

You may have seen her audition for Britain’s Got Talent and if you’ve seen it, you may never forget it. It’s one of those rare moments when Simon Cowell, the famously snarky and vicious judge of American Idol, was caught completely off guard and was flabbergasted at what he saw. You’d think that was impossible.

Susan Boyle had been singing for a long time but she only did so as a side gig at local venues and never signed a record deal or gained the admiration she so deserved. She participated in a few government training programs and had just a few qualifications from school. This went on until her mother encouraged her to go audition for Britain’s Got Talent in 2008.

Though she was mocked when she went on stage, stout and plump at 47 years old, she surprised everyone with her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. She went on to sign an album deal and won second place in the third season of Britain’s Got Talent. Just goes to show you what is possible if you decide to follow your dreams and remain resilient.


Alan Rickman

You either know him as Hans Gruber from Die Hard, the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood, or as Severus Snape from Harry Potter. In any case, he’s a legendary actor who will be remembered for his iconic performances. However, it wasn’t always this way. Alan Rickman didn’t get a degree in theatre, but went for an Arts Major and went into graphic design. He even opened a graphic design studio with a couple of his friends. However, that didn’t go on for long because the theatre called too loudly to him.

He began working as a dresser for other actors until he got an acting break in Les Liaisons Dangereuse, which was a hit and got him a few rolls on the big screen. Unfortunately, he was replaced in some of those roles by other actors. He would turn 40 before he got his big break in Die Hard when a producer on the film noticed him. The film became recognized as one of the greatest action films ever made and Rickman went on to become Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies 13 years later, solidifying his name as a legend. He had to go through a lot of pitfalls, but he got there eventually; a lesson to those who think it won’t happen because you failed once or twice.


Peter Mark Roget

He was a doctor, a lecturer and an inventor. He invented the log slide rule, helping people perform exponential and root calculations; he wrote papers on optical deception; he designed many unique chess problems, and solved them. However, he also underwent several bouts of depression that ate him up inside.

He eventually retired from professional life at the age of 61 and started to lead a sedentary life. However, he began to keep himself busy with a hobby of his, making lists of words organized by meaning. Eventually, this hobby led him to make a full compendium of this odd knowledge and he began preparations to publish it at the age of 69. The first edition of this book came out when he was aged 73 and it was called “Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases.

He didn’t stop there and kept making revisions and additions to his work, until his death at the age of 90. After his passing, his son and grandson continued his work. This is a remarkable example of personal leadership and turning a simple passion in to a profession. What a remarkable career change.


Kathryn Joosten

You may have seen her on the sitcom Scrubs as the dying patient of the protagonist John Dorian, and you may have seen her in the role that won her an Emmy in Desperate Housewives. Kathryn Joosten was a lot of things; a great actor, an inspiration to everyone, but most of all, she was an incredibly resilient and motivated person that changed her fortune with a lot of persistence.

She began as a nurse when she was young, but when she got married, she gave it up. The marriage lasted a little over ten years before ending in divorce. In order to support her children, she began acting at the age of 42. However, due to her lack of experience, she didn’t land any big roles at the beginning. Hence, she started painting and wallpapering houses to make ends meet.

She was hired as a street performer at Disneyland at the age of 53 and three years later, moved to Hollywood. It wouldn’t be until the age of 60 that she gained fame for her role on the West Wing, the Aaron Sorkin drama about a Democratic President played by Martin Sheen. She won her first Emmy at the age of 66.

You really can’t know when life will smile upon you; you just have to keep going.


Ray Kroc

He spent most of his life after World War I selling paper cups and milkshake makers, but at the age of 53, he signed a contract to franchise a restaurant that sold burgers and fries by the name of McDonald’s. He opened up locations all over the United States and ushered in a new era of fast food service. Six years later, he bought the company and the name from its founders, the McDonald’s brothers, for a million each, and grew the restaurant in to what it is today.

Leading a sedentary life driving around the country selling milkshake machines was hard work, and it wasn’t the kind of thing that Ray Kroc really enjoyed. Heading up a company like McDonald’s became his calling when he saw what the restaurant could do to transform the fast food industry. Most people have a mid life crisis around the age of 50, and Kroc turned his into one of the greatest corporate success stories ever told–the story even featured in the recent motion picture, The Founder. Who knows what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it?


J.K. Rowling

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past two decades, then you know who this woman is. She’s the first billionaire author, the author of one of the most successful book series ever written, and a national treasure in Britain. Joanne Rowling had worked at schools as a teacher, at the Chamber of Commerce, and as a bilingual secretary and researcher at Amnesty International. However, on a train ride in 1990, she suddenly came up with a story about a young boy Wizard and his friends, on a quest to save the wizarding world from a deadly enemy.

She turned that idea in to the Harry Potter books and the rest is history. J.K. Rowling’s story is regarded as a modern “rags to riches” tale and she is held up as an inspiration to people all over the world. The Harry Potter books have generated sales of over 238 million pounds, a multibillion dollar movie franchise and a spin-off franchise of films starring several supporting characters.

J.K. Rowling was a divorcee with a young daughter when she decided to write the Harry Potter books. She described her realization that she was “a failure” after seven years had passed since graduating from university, as liberating. She took that liberty and wrote. Her resilience paid off.


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