5 Entrepreneurs Who Changed Careers at Midlife and Triumphed

A successful career is a very cushy comfort zone but some choose to get out anyway.

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By Jyoti Agrawal

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"Career anxiety is our latent talent howling through our minds, desperate not to go to the grave unspent."

These beautiful words are from The Book of Life, an online collection of thoughts about what constitutes emotional intelligence. But they also carry a bit of truth, which sometimes hurts, sometimes scares. It can even get scarier when, at midlife, you find yourself thinking about leaving your 20-year-old job or building a business from scratch. To effect this kind of change is not an easy decision to make. However, it does not mean it cannot be done.

Many people managed to change careers in their 40s, 50s and even 60s. Of these five 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.

Redirect your pursuit of purpose.

When chemist Laura Pastore was 40, she wanted to work outside of the lab without necessarily leaving the company. Having few options in the organization, she thought about what she loved about her job. After realizing 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. According to The Atlantic, a new sense of purpose will be good for your brain and your longevity.

Related: Thinking About a Big Career Change? Ask Yourself These Questions.

Make a big change in modest steps.

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. Just do not rush into it.

Related: 17 Inspirational Quotes From Master Chef Julia Child

Different careers at different stages of life.

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.

Related: What You Need to Do to Make a Midlife Career Change

Don't let success make you hesitate to seize new opportunities

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.

You might think that someone like Busbice has the wealth to match his ambitions. But assets are just an enabler, not the driver of a successful transition.

Related: This Doctor Who Lived to 105 Believed That for a Long Life, You Shouldn't Retire

Embrace digital technology

Lastly, take advantage of the technology that younger people are using. Think about social media, for instance, as a way to connect and share some wisdom with the youth. More importantly, its reach can help you eke out an extra income. You can create an online course based on the most practical thing you know. For instance, there are people Googling how to prepare a vegetable garden or looking for a review of the top smokers out there.

YouTube is another platform that provides opportunities for skilled and knowledgeable adults to create interesting content. Tai Lopez has compiled all that he has learned in the last several decades into a program called the "67 Steps". Lopez then creates relevant, high-quality videos on the channel to engage with his audience. For visual content creators like him, he further recommends testing two or more types of videos and seeing which ones get the most response from the audience.

You will not run out of resources about making money in the digital economy. So go ahead and take part in it. You are most welcome to do so.

Jyoti Agrawal

Entrepreneur and Blogger

Jyoti Agrawal is a business blogger who encourages young entrepreneurs to take risks and turn their dreams into realities. She writes about global entrepreneurial events for HuffingtonPost, Tech.co and other publications.

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