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Lessons in Pressing the Career Reset Button from Those Who Prove It Can Be Done

Do you ever wonder if it’s too late to ever become really successful in another career? Many people fall in love with a certain type of job early in life only to realize after a few years or even a couple of decades that it no longer holds the fascination it once did. Or maybe age just led to a brand new fascination with an entirely different career. Try hard enough and you can probably whip up a least a dozen excuses for not leaving the security of a comfortable job you can count on to take the risk of finding security with a brand new career. The one excuse you’ll have to trash is that nobody ever pulls it off. In fact, plenty of people who pressed the career reset button have gone on to find even greater success the second time around.


Sherman Hemsley: Postal Worker Turned TV Actor

For much of the 20th century, the job security offered by the United States Post Office was such that leaving it to pursue any other career could only be seen as downright foolish. Especially if that career was the complete opposite of the postal service when it came to long-term job security. Before Sherman Hemsley moved on up to everlasting fame playing George Jefferson on not just one, but two incredibly popular TV sitcoms, he spent eight years working as a clerk for post offices in New York and Philadelphia. Mr. Hemsley’s experience offers the valuable lesson that even the closest thing in the world to guaranteed job security is worth gambling away if the potential payoff means enough.


Howard Cosell: Lawyer Turned Sportscaster

The most famous sportscaster in American TV history was neither academically trained as a broadcaster nor another athlete out to prove that experience is hardly a requirement for the job.  Like Sherman Hemsley, Cosell put in eight solid years in one job before undergoing a career transformation. Howard Cosell was an NYU law school graduate who specialized in labor and union law before going on to become the only sportscaster more famous than most of the athletes he covered. Howard Cosell’s lesson in finding success in a second career is that you should never turn down any opportunity that interests you. While Cosell would eventually go on to become one of the most recognized celebrities of 1970s, his new career began about as far down on the totem pole of athletics as possible. His first job was hosting a radio program in which Little League ballplayers posed questions to stars from the majors.

Thomas Welch: Dentist Turned Grape Juice Magnate

Not only did Thomas Welch experience incredible success in his career as a dentist before his name became synonymous with fruit juice, but he actually continued practicing dentistry for more than a decade after his invention of the pasteurizing method he invented that revolutionized the world of beverage consumption. Learn well the lesson that Thomas Welch teaches about moving from a career with built-in anatomical job-security to pursuing a dream dependent entirely upon the entrepreneurial spirit. Welch’s Grape Juice was the result of a complex convergence of issues that included Biblical law regarding the sacrament of wine, the temperance and Prohibition movements and scientific trial and error. While Welch was busy overcoming these obstacles to finding success in a future career, he was busy in his present career founding a dental supply company and publishing a dentistry journal in addition to running his dental practice.

Mao Zedong: Educator Turned Revolutionary

Shortly after Mao graduated from college, he found a job working as assistant to the Chief Librarian of Peking University. After leaving that position, he worked as a teacher and principal. The university’s librarian just so happened to be one of the first major proponents of Marxism in China.  The lesson to be gained from the story of Mao must take into consideration the fact that he had barely ventured more than a few miles outside his hometown for the first 25 years of his life. That lack of worldliness combined with the fact that educational careers tend to lure with promises of security more than anything else seems to create the portrait of a man whose future is not likely to include any kind of revolutionary metamorphosis. Few things in life can stimulate such a personal revolution more capably than the sight of another person who has chosen to comfort and security over passion.  

History of full of people who have refused to give in to the enticement of playing it safe and sticking with what they know. If you have chosen a career that is no longer satisfying or seems to have been transmogrified by the forces of history into something completely different than what it was when you started out, you may be moved to make the leap to something entirely new and scary by reading about those who successfully made the leap. 


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