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16 People Who Made a Career Change After 30 to Become Self-Made Millionaires

SimiDecember 16, 2017

Every generation has their own work ethic and beliefs of what is expected in the workplace. The baby boomers were extremely dedicated to their work seeing that they had to viciously compete to get a job. Once they had a job it was all about accomplishment, climbing the corporate ladder and building on a career. This caused them to have extremely long careers of 30 to 40 years, doing the same job or staying in the same field.

Generation-x was a bit different though. They were the product of the overworked boomers and sought a more balanced life. They were independent, free thinkers and they were tech savvy. One major distinction between the two generations is that unlike the baby boomers that had long careers, they changed jobs every 3 to 5 years.

For the baby boomers, changing careers was almost unheard of. They wanted security and held on to their careers. Generation X showed that it could be wise to make a career change. They weren’t really bothered by job security and used their resourcefulness to fall into other careers.

That is, however, easier said than done. For many people, it is still a paralyzing thought to change a career path. The following 16 people didn’t have it all figured out when they started on their career paths, but when they changed careers they became highly successful.

Jeff Bezos

Jeff always seemed to have a knack for computers. After graduating from Princeton, he went to Walls Street and had very successful career in computer science. He worked at various top financial companies and developed an international trade network for a company named Fitel. He then went on to work at Bankers Trust and later at the internet-enabled hedge fund company, D.E. Shaw & Co.

In 1994, Bezos combined his computer knowledge and the financial knowledge he gained and founded the online shopping giant Amazon. He wrote the business plan on the road from New York, where he left his well-paying job at the hedge fund company, to Seattle.

He saw an opportunity in online trading when he learned about the growth of internet use. He combined that knowledge with the US Supreme Court ruling that exempted mail order companies from collecting sales taxes in states where they didn’t have a physical presence. The birthplace of Amazon was in his garage and soon grew to the e-commerce behemoth we know today.

One characteristic that stands out about Bezos is his attention to detail. He is reported as being a notorious micromanager and wants to be involved in every single aspect regarding his company. This trait has garnered him some negative press as working at Amazon was described as working at a ‘’soulless dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter is heard’’. He took offense to the article that was written in the New York Times and responded to his employees by stating that if it was true, that they had to contact him personally.

Julia Child

Julia Child is an extremely versatile lady who didn’t change her career path only once, but a number of times. She works in various diverse industries, ranging from advertising, media and even secret intelligence. However, it was her last change in career that turned her into a celebrity. At the tender age of 50, Child wrote her first cookbook. This cookbook quickly turned her into a celebrity chef in 1961.

There was very little in her upbringing that would suggest that she would be involved in cooking. She grew up with a cook and her grandmother was also known for her doughnuts and crullers, far from being French cuisine. However, it was her would-be husband Paul that ignited her passion for cooking when she was introduced to all manner of interesting food.

Child was a hardworking individual with a strong head on her shoulders. When she graduated from Smith College, she went to New York where she worked as a copywriter for the company, W & J Sloane. When WWII broke out, she joined the Office of Strategic Services and was soon responsible for top-secret research and working directly with the head of the OSS, General William J. Donovan.

Later in her career at the OSS, she was posted to Kunming, China where she met her husband, Paul Cushing. The two got married in 1946 and later moved to Paris, France when the US State Department assigned Paul as am exhibits officer. It was here that Child was exposed too French cuisine and explained her first meal as an opening of the soul. Years later, and after publishing her first cookbook, she started her first cooking show.

John Glenn

John Glenn is another man who made a complete turn-around in terms of his career path. His initial career path was connected to aviation and it seemed like he would follow that path after he became the first American to orbit the Earth. After his days at NASA, he started to pursue a career in politics and eventually became a US Senator.

Before Glenn joined NASA, he was a distinguished WWII fighter pilot in the US Marine Corps. He received 6 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 18 air medals for downing 15 Mig-15 aircraft during the war in China and Korea. In 1957, he made the first supersonic flight across the US and took the first continuous panoramic photographs of the US using his onboard camera.

In 1959 he was selected as one of the Mercury 7, the first US astronauts. On February 20, 1962, Glenn flew the Friendship 7 mission and became the first American Astronaut to circle the globe. It was not long after his historic mission that he resigned from NASA. He as the oldest member of the astronaut corps when he resigned at the age of 42. It was unlikely that he would be selected for the Apollo missions and at the suggestion of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, he decided to run for Senate.

On January 16, 1964, he announced his US Democratic Party candidacy for the US Senate from his home state, Ohio. A Concussion that he sustained from a fall against a bathtub, left him unable to campaign and he withdrew his candidacy. In 1970, he ran for the Senate again and due to his military background and patriotic appeal, was the race and was the senator until 1999.

Terry Crews

There doesn’t seem anything funny about a massive Terry Crews who is about to tackle the living daylights out of you. That is exactly what he used to do before we came to know him as the award-winning comedian. Crews had a brief four-season stint as a defensive player for various NFL teams before he swopped his protective gear for an acting script.

After a brief, yet somewhat successful NFL career, Terry went to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. Up until 1997, he had always wanted to be involved in movies, not necessarily in acting per se. After a couple of minor roles and performances, Terry knew that he was born to be an actor. Without any formal training, he was able to entertain the crowd and make a success of his career.

Although Crews is widely known for his comedy roles, he has also made a name for himself in action movies which started with his appearances in The Expendables. Despite his athletic physique, Terry has avoided being type-cast as the muscle man. Instead, he often takes on mocking roles where he jabs at the gym-junky stereotype. He has attained great success through exploiting this contrast.

Recently, the 49-year old was named one of Time Magazine’s persons of the year for speaking out about sexual assault. At first, he did not want to speak out about the incident for fear of retaliation. Yet after the recent surge of Hollywood actors that have come forward with sexual assault allegations, he decided to break the silence. Besides his towering physique, Crews stands out as an individual who excels in all that he pursues.

Martha Stewart

The life of a model is fragile one and their careers can end abruptly. Martha Stewart was a fulltime model until she became a parent. Aged 25, she found few modeling jobs that came her way. During the next five years of her life, she became a Wall Street stockbroker. When she turned 30, she started to follow her passion and it into a massive company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

From a very young age, Stewart was interested in cooking and acquired skills form her parents and grandparents. Her transition from Wall Street stockbroker to professional chef was a relatively bumpy one, mainly because of allegations that she was difficult to work with and other misunderstandings. All of which led to her opening her own catering business.  Her husband’s success at a publishing house in New York is most probably that opened the door for her to publish cookbooks.

While her husband hosted a dinner party for the release of The secret lives of Gnomes, he contracted her company to do the catering. Alan Mirken, head of the Crown Publishing Group, was impressed with her work and asked her to work on her first cookbook, named Entertaining in 1982. After the success of the book, she went on to publish many more.

Her success didn’t end there, however, she also went on to appear in various television productions which ultimately led to her establishing Marth Stewart Living Omnimedia. She came close to losing it all when she was convicted of dumping stock to avoid losses. Yet her tenacity and determination saw her return to her position as chairman of her name’s sake company in 2012.

Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg showed that it is never too late to make a change. After founding and running his financial company for 20 years, he decided to go into politics. He served as Mayor of New York City for 12 years before returning to his company to assume his position as CEO.

Bloomberg started his financial career in 1973 where he worked as a general partner for the bulge-bracket Wall Street investment bank, Salomon Brothers. Phibro Corporation bought the company in 1981 and Bloomberg was laid off. He didn’t walk out the doors empty-handed though. He left with over $10 million worth of equity shares and used that money to start his own financial company, named Innovative Market Systems.

The company was later renamed to Bloomberg L.P. after they started to install their Market Master Terminals. Bloomberg’s company grew at a massive rate and his net worth grew to over $ 47.8 billion. During his company’s growth years, however, he started to dabble in the world of politics. At the ripe age of 59, Bloomberg became New York City’s 108th Mayor.

He served for a total of three terms and during that time, made a number of changes. The biggest change that he attempted was an educational reform, but it was largely unsuccessful seeing that there wasn’t any improvement in the students’ test scores. He never did it for the money, seeing that he declined to receive a city salary. During his time as mayor, he accepted a salary of $1 annually.   

Vera Wang

Vera Wang was born and raised in New York. When she was 8 years old, she started figure skating. In 1968 she competed in the US Figure Skating Championship. Unfortunately, she failed to make the US Olympic team and shortly afterward quit skating competitively. Soon after her retirement from professional skating, she entered the fashion industry.

It didn’t take long for Wang to make a name for herself in the fashion industry and upon graduating from Sarah Lawrence in 1970, she became editor of Vogue Magazine. She held the position for 17 years before joining Ralph Lauren. After only two years there, she resigned and started designing bridal wear independently. She has made wedding gowns for a number of public figures, ranging from lucrative business woman, to celebrities.

She never forgot her roots and even though she wasn’t skating anymore, she still designed figure skating costumes. Designing costumes earned her a place in the US figure skating hall of fame for her contribution to the sport in terms of her costume designs. Vera Wang became very popular and became a household name for many celebrities.

Her contribution to the fashion industry didn’t end with designing for celebrities. In 2006, she signed a deal with Kohl’s and designed a less expensive line of ready-to-wear clothing. The Council for Fashion Designers of America awarded Wang with their lifetime achievement award in 2013.  Today Vera is one of America’s foremost and well-known designers. She still enjoys skating today.

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

Dwayne Johnson had a couple of transitions in terms of his career. He started out as a linebacker for the University of Miami. It seemed like he was set on a football career, but that was not to be. Two months into the 1995 season, he was cut from the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. This encouraged him to make his first career transition into Professional Wrestling.

He gained tremendous fame from 1996 to 2004 and was considered as one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all time. He was according to the WWE, ‘the most entertaining man in sports entertainment’. His fame in the ring opened up the road into the film industry. In 2002, transitioned into the film industry. He was cast with a leading role in the movie The Scorpion King. He was paid a massive $5.5 million for his role, a world record for a first starring role.

Since then, he has starred in a number of films. His latest roles as Luke Hobbs in the Fast and the Furious were some of his more prominent roles. Apart from being a successful actor, Johnson also started his own production company, called Seven Bucks Productions. Though his production company, he has produced a number of TV shows and films.

In 2013, He was listed No. 25 in the Forbes Top 100 most powerful Celebrities. Since then he has made it into the top 20 every year. In 2015, he was named Muscle & Fitness’s Man of the Century. On top of those awards, Time named Johnson as one of the World’s 100 most influential people.

Ronald Reagan

Although Ronald Reagan started out as an actor, he was always a leader at heart. When he graduated from college in 1932 he started working as a sports announcer on a number of regional radio stations. He then moved to Hollywood in 1937 to pursue an acting career. He was an up-and-coming star and featured in a number of major productions.

While he was still acting, his leadership qualities started to reveal themselves. He was elected as the president of the Screen Actors Guild twice. He focused mainly on eradicating the Communist influence while in the position. During the 1950s, he switched to television where he became a motivational speaker for General Electric. He had always been a Democrat but became a Republican in 1962.

This marked the beginning of his political career. He quickly gained a large following after his speech, ‘A time for Choosing’ and in 1966, became the governor of California. He ran for president unsuccessfully twice, in 1968 and 1976. However, in 1980 he won by a landslide and defeated Jimmy Carter. At that time, he had been the oldest president of the US ever elected.

Economically, Reagan was one of the most successful presidents. During his two terms, he had brought inflation down from 12.5% to a mere 4.4%. Overall he ranked as one of the greatest American Presidents with an overall approval rating of 68%. Shortly after his end as president, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and eventually died as the second longest-lived president of the US. He died in 2004 when he was 93 years old.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold followed a similar path to Reagan in that he also made a transition from the film industry to politics. However, he started his career as a professional bodybuilder and won the Mr. Universe title when he was 20 years old. He also won the Mr. Olympia title a massive seven times. During his time as a bodybuilder, he also wrote a number of books and articles on the sport.

After his bodybuilding days, he transitioned to the film industry when he was in his 30s. Most people might remember him for his role in the Terminator franchise, but it was his role as Conan the Barbarian that shot him into fame. He went on to star in a number of high grossing and successful films. It was his transition into politics that caught a number of people off guard, although he had been involved in politics since 1993.

In 2003, Arnold was elected as the governor of California and eventually went on to serve two terms. During his terms as governor, the media outlets dubbed him the ‘Governator’. He became the second foreign governor of California after Irish born John G. Downey. Arnold didn’t accept his $175 000 state salary due to his successful acting career.

After his second term, he returned to the film industry and starred in a couple of action movies, including the Expendables franchise. His success in the entertainment industry has lifted his total net worth to over an estimated $400 million.

Harland Sanders

Harland Sanders probably has the most famous goatee in the world. He is also better known as Colonel Sanders, but before founding one of the world’s biggest fast food chains, he held many odd jobs. In his early life, he held positions such as a gas station operator, steam engine stoker and insurance salesman. It was during the Great Depression that he developed his secret deep fried chicken recipe while selling chicken from his roadside restaurant.

His job as a gas station operator in Corbin, Kentucky, enabled him to start a small roadside restaurant which gained popularity among the locals in 1930. He got into a shootout with his competitor, Matt Stewart, over a sign that directed traffic to his gas station. Stewart shot and killed a Shell official who was with Sanders at the time of the shooting. He was convicted of murder and in so doing, eliminated himself as Sanders’s competition.

In 1940, his restaurant burned down and he had it rebuilt it as a 140 seater restaurant and motel. It was during this time that he perfected his secret recipe and also patented his cooking method. He found that cooking chicken in a pressure fryer was faster than pan frying.

After WWII, Sanders had the opportunity to open his first franchise in Utah in 1952. Pete Harman was the first franchisee and due to the secret chicken recipe, his sales more than tripled. Many other restaurants followed suit and ended up paying Sanders $0.04 per chicken sold. The franchise grew rapidly and by 1964, there were franchises in over 600 locations. The growth got too much for Sanders and he sold the franchise for $2 million.

Jonah Peretti

The saying, those who can’t do, teach, do not apply to Jonah Peretti. He was able to do what very few other teachers were able to do. He became a multi-millionaire. However, before Peretti made his millions, he was a middle school computer science teacher. He taught middle-schoolers how to work with Microsoft Office. It was his technical skills that enabled him to go on to other ventures and make his millions.

Peretti had a fairly average childhood and education. Initially, he graduated from the University of California with a degree in environmental studies in 1996, a far cry from the computer world where he made his mark. He then went on to become a computer science teacher at Isidore Newman School in Louisiana.

After teaching for only three years, Peretti headed to MIT Media Lab where he completed a postgraduate degree. It was there that he started thinking about how ideas spread and why people shared ideas in the first place. Near the end of his time at MIT, got into an email altercation with Nike and before he knew it, he was Arana Huffington and Ken Lerer and founded the Huffington Post.

It didn’t take long for Huffington Post to grow and it was eventually acquired by AOL for 4315 Million in 2011. Peretti then started Buzzfeed as a side project which is valued at an estimated $1.5 billion. They now employ over 1300 employees across the globe. According to Peretti, he was merely lucky and once he attained his initial success, he was introduced to other people and data that enabled him to synthesize other things.

Ray Croc

Ray Croc was a tenacious salesman who spent his time trying to make his big break and make his millions. After WWI Croc did a number of odd jobs, including selling paper cups, becoming a real estate agent and even playing piano in various bands. It was when he sold milkshake machines for Prince Castle that he saw the opportunity of a lifetime at age 52.

Richard and Maurice McDonald operated a takeaway restaurant in San Bernardino, California which ran like no other. They ordered 8 multi-mixing milkshake machines and Croc wanted to see why they needed so many machines. Upon arrival at their chop, Croc was convinced that their establishment had the potential to become a very profitable franchise.

He convinced the brothers that their restaurant could spread across the US and eventually opened the first chain in Des Plaines, Illinois. Croc became frustrated with the brothers who didn’t want to expand beyond a couple of restaurants and ultimately brought them out in 1961 for a mere $2.7 million. 13 Years later, Croc retired from running McDonald’s and decided to get back into his lifelong favorite sport, baseball.

In 1974, Croc bought the San Diego Padres for $12 million. His success with his baseball team was not as pronounced as with his restaurant chain. During his first year of ownership, they lost 102 games but drew over one million in crowd attendance at their games. Croc eventually succumbed to heart failure in 1984, after struggling for years with alcoholism. His legacy of the golden arches, however, still lives on.

Anna Mary Roberson Moses

Anna Mary Robertson Moses is the perfect example of proving that it is never too late to follow your passion and make a success of it. Better known as Grandma Moses, she only started her fruitful painting career when she was 78 years old. Before then, she was a housekeeper and farm laborer. Her work has become internationally acclaimed and in 2006, one of her paintings, The sugaring Off, was sold for $1.2 million.

Her initial love for painting was ignited in school. She used various natural materials to make the colors of her landscapes. When she was only 12 years old she left her home to work for a wealthy neighboring family. For 15 years she kept the house, cooked and sewed for wealthy families. One of these families noticed how she admired their Currier and Ives prints and decided to buy her some chalk and wax crayons to create her own works of art.

When she was 27 she got married to Thomas Salmon Moses and the pair worked on four farms separate local farms in Staunton, Virginia. They spent nearly two decades working on the farms before they bought their own farm. At her husband’s request, the moved to Eagle Bridge, New York in 1905. Her husband died of a heart attack in 1927 and one of their sons, Forrest helped in managing the farm.

In 1932, Anna retired from farming and moved in with her daughter. It was there that she finally had the time to manifest her childhood painting dreams into a reality. Her painting garnered her great fame in the US and even Woman’s National Press club Trophy. She became one of the most celebrated women in US history.

Taikichiro Mori

Taikichiro Mori was an economics professor before he built his multi-billion dollar real estate empire in downtown Tokyo. He became known in Tokyo as ‘ooya-san’ which is a friendly Japanese term for the landlord. He earned this nickname because he eventually had buildings all over Japan, naming each building according to their chronological building date.

Mori was a modest and disciplined man who grew up in Tokyo. He graduated from Tokyo Shoka University in 1928 and began teaching trade theory at Yokohama University. Mori’s father’s death marked the beginning of his real estate transition when he inherited the small family business and two buildings. At the time, Japan was in for three decades of expansion and growth.

His first focus was the Toranomon neighborhood which was in need of redevelopment. The houses were weak and small and it had been destroyed twice, first by the earthquake of 1923, and then by the American Bombing in WWII. He was very concerned about the local residents and had their well-being at heart when he started his developments.

Over 17 years, he helped the 500 residents to relocate or gave them apartments in hos developments. He also saw that Tokyo was becoming an international business hub. This led to him developing business complexes that combined office space with residential apartments. This was done with traffic in mind. Eventually, his company was responsible for building over 80 buildings and reshaping the Tokyo Skyline. He admitted that it was never his dream to see the city develop the way it did, but he was glad he could help the people nonetheless.

Donald Fisher

You don’t need to be an expert in a field if you want to make a success of something. Donald Fisher is living proof of how someone can use their skills in one field and apply it to another and make a success of it. By using his B.S. in Business Administration which he obtained from the University of California, Berkeley, he co-founded the retail clothing company, Gap.

Fisher started out working for his father as a mill and cabinet maker. In the 1960s, he started his own company that renovated hotels. During this time, he bought a hotel that leased some retail space to a Levi Strauss & Co. shop. He wanted to return a pair of jeans that didn’t fit, but was unable to do so. Most department stores only carried a limited stock of their merchandise and Fisher suggested that a shop be opened that carried all their sizes and styles.

Levi accepted his idea and he opened his first store that he and his wife called Gap. In 1972, Fisher launched his own clothing brand that bore the same name as the shop they opened. Their brand was a massive success and eventually, they went on to acquire the mail-order catalog business, Banana Republic. They also founded Old Navy which reached $1 billion in sales in just four years.

Fisher was the CEO of Gap until 1995 and remained chairman of the board until 2004. He was the company director until he died in 2009, aged 81. Although fashion was never one of Fisher’s passions, he saw a gap in the market and used his business know how to build the multi-billion retail giant.

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