Considering A Late In Life Career Change? It Might Just Be The Best Choice You Ever Made

late life career change women business empire success vera wang

How many of us are truly satisfied with our careers? Who amongst us is completely content with the choice you made at 20 to study an industry and pursue one path?  There are many reasons you might want to make a career change, as this Upskilled article attests. More and more people are choosing to change careers to seek a more lucrative or fulfilling profession, however, sometimes it can be hard to shake that nagging feeling that we’re too old to make a change or it will be too hard to learn a new skill. 

The truth of the matter is that we regret the chances we don’t take far more bitterly than we mourn the gambles that didn’t quite pay out. You don’t want to live with the ghost of what could have been if you’d only been a little bit braver. Take the leap! 

To help reassure you that making a career change later in life can be one of the most rewarding decisions of your life, check out the stories of these three inspirational women. 

Make Moves Like Madeleine Albright 

Refugee, student, journalist, full-time mother, fundraiser, legislative assistant, congressional liaison to the National Security Council, academic, US Ambassador to the United Nations  and then the first female Secretary of State. The storied career of Madeleine Albright is a roadmap to how to transition up with gumption and career changes. Born in Czechoslovakia in 1937, her family emigrated to the United States in 1948. She attended Wellesley on a full scholarship majoring in political science. On her summer breaks working as an intern for The Denver Post she met Joseph Albright. Joking to The Wall Street Journal, she said ‘I really waited a long time [to get married] — three days after I graduated… I did want to be a journalist....My husband was a journalist. I did what you’re supposed to, worked on a small newspaper while he was in the Army. And then, this is classic...We were having dinner with his managing editor, who said, ‘So what are you gonna do, honey?’ I said, ‘I’m going to work as a journalist.’ And he said: ‘I don’t think so.’... Instead of saying what I might say today, I just kind of saluted and did something else. ’ 

In 1961 when her daughters were born prematurely and required a long hospital stay, Madeleine began Russian classes as a distraction (as one does!). Later the family moved to DC where Madeleine continued her studies in Russian and international relations. She began fundraising for her children’s school which led her to be invited to organise a fundraiser for the 1972 presidential campaign of Sen. Ed Muskie. Over the next several years she would earn her PhD from Columbia University and begin working as the chief legislative assistant to Muskie. 

Never one to do things by halves, Madeline’s first real full time job was at the White House. Her former professor was named National Security Advisor and he recruited Albright to work in the West Wing as the NSC’s congressional liaison. Following Carter’s loss to Reagan in 1980, Albright moved to the Smithsonian to continue her research and later joined the academic staff at Georgetown. When Democrat Bill Clinton returned the White House to the Democrats, Albright was employed to handle the transition for the NSC. 

Best known for her work as a diplomat, she received her first posting at the age of 56 when Clinton nominated Albright to be US Ambassador to the United Nations. Four years later Albright took office as the 64th US Secretary of State. The first female Secretary of State, she became the highest ranking woman in the history of the US government at the time of her appointment. A true groundbreaker. 

Vogue Her Way Into Multiple Callings: The Very Impressive Vera Wang 

When you think of weddings you think of Vera Wang but you might not know that it was actually figure skating that first held Wang’s heart. She began figure skating at the age of eight and she was good at it. While in high school she competed in the 1968 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and was such a rising star that she was featured in Sports Illustrated. It was only when Vera Wang failed to make the U.S. Olympics team, that she entered the fashion industry. 

Immediately after graduating with a journalism degree from Sarah Lawrence, Wang was hired as an editor at Vogue making her one of the youngest editors at that magazine. In the 17 years she stayed at Vogue she rose through the rams to the position of senior fashion editor. 

At 40 when she was planning her own wedding Wang was disheartened by the lack of bridal styles on the market. Noting that none of them were quite as stylish as she was. She saw a gap in the market and filled it herself. She became an independent bridal wear designer, opening her first bridal boutique in New York one year later. 

Her gowns are iconic and her reputation in the designer circuit is unmatched. Wang has made wedding gowns for notable figures such as Victoria Beckham, several Kardashians, Chelsea Clinton and hilariously also for Ivanka Trump (that’s some interesting symmetry). Wang’s gowns her also favoured by Michelle Obama during her term as first lady. In an amazing full-circle way Vera Wang has also designed costumes for figure skaters including Nancy Kerrigan and Michelle Kwan. 

Innovate Like Ina Garten 

Famous chef, cookbook author, the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten actually wrote nuclear policy under several Presidential administrations. 

Always interested in cooking, Ina began to dabble in baking and entertaining as a way to fill her time while her husband was in the military. Her love for food was only reinforced by a trip to France they took after her husband had completed his military service. However, following their vacation the Gartens returned to Washington where Ina worked in the White House while earning an MBA from George Washington University. Originally employed as a low-level government aide, Ina climbed the political ladder and joined the Office of Management and Budget. She held the position of budget analyst, which entailed writing the nuclear energy budget and policy papers on nuclear centrifuge plants for Presidents Ford and Carter. 

What happened next is history. As she explained to TIME, ‘I was working in nuclear energy policy and management and budget for the White House, thinking, ‘There’s got to be something more fun than this.’... then I saw an ad for a specialty-food store for sale in the New York Times… to say that I knew nothing about what I was getting myself into was an understatement.’ She had spent some time working in real estate, flipping homes for profit which had given her the means to purchase the store which she did in 1978. 

The store was a raging success and Garten was able to expand the store to over seven times its original size. In 1996, after almost two decades of operating the Barefoot Contessa specialty food store, Ina was after another change. She sold the business to two former employees and took a six month sabbatical from the culinary scene. In offices she built above the shop she studied the stock market and sketched out plans for potential business ventures. 

She turned her intention to publishing and her book The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook was a sleeper bestseller. The success of the book led Ina to get her own television series which became the Food Network’s highest rated show!

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