What Career Changers Have Taught
by Freda Turner Ph.D.

Human Resource professionals state individuals will average three careers during their lifetime. Sometimes a career change is unplanned and driven by a downsizing, re-engineering, an illness, the economy or a planned event such as one’s own passion to do something more mentally stimulating.

“Change is scary for everyone,” according to Marsha Myers, an upbeat, successful career changer and Senior Vice President of Lee Hecht Harrison, a global HR outplacement consulting firm in Jacksonville, Florida. She adds, “The successful career changer is self-responsible, self motivated with good people skills. One must also be willing to accept change.” The following career changers have experienced stress and fear but can teach us valuable career lessons.

Fired:
John was fired in the early 1970s from The Wellington Management Company because they did not like his ideas on ways to lower costs for investors. John C. Bogle then created The Vanguard Group, which is now the second largest mutual fund company in the world. The motivation to start his own organization was his belief that he could provide the same product at a cheaper price to consumers. Mr. Bogle is now over 70 years old, still attends organizational picnics each year and remains visible in the workplace constantly talking with employees seeking their ideas. He is a positive, upbeat person and jokingly insists he is 26 years old because he had a heart transplant and the heart came from a twenty-six year old donor. The Vanguard Fund has over $100 billion in assets.

Economy Drove Career Move:
In 1973 when Wall Street was not doing so well, Martha left her stockbroker job and started a catering business out of her basement. Within ten years, this business had become a $1 million enterprise. The economical situation and desire to be an at-home mom, moved Martha Stewart into new avenues resulting in publishing, a retailing partnership with K-Mart, and TV programs with world wide recognition.

Pioneering Spirit:
Jeff was earning a 6-digit salary as a very successful hedge fund manager when he decided to resign. In 1994, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, cashed in his fund manager chips, packed up his family and headed west toward Seattle. As his wife drove, Jeff banged out a creative business plan that would enable people to purchase cost-competitive books from their home using the Internet. He often talks about the fear and trepidation that surrounded him as he gave up a known career and income stream. He remarks that the passion to be a pioneer in a newly developing field sustained him.

Passion:
Tom Sholz graduated from MIT with a promising engineering career ahead. He was one of the team members that developed Polaroid instant pictures. He gave up his position to pursue a career with a rock and roll band, called Boston. The reason Tom gave for leaving his high paying, secure job at Polaroid was that playing music made him happy.

Physical Limitations:
Itzhak Perlman was stricken with polio as a child and wears braces on both legs. He still has to use two crutches. He plays the violin. Getting on the stage is a slow process. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly is a sight. Once on the stage, he sits down, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play. In November1995, at Avery Fisher Hall in New York, Perlman endured yet another problem. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke and sounded like a gun firing across the room. The audience waited wondering if the evening was over or would there be a long wait until another violin could be located. Itzhak waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again. The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and with purity the audience had never heard before with only three strings. When Itzhak finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. People then rose and cheered with extraordinary applause from every corner of the auditorium. Attendees screamed and cheered to show their appreciation. Itzhak smiled, and then said, "You know, sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left."

All individuals encounter stress and unplanned events in their lives. Sometimes there are career stumbles but as Itzhak shares, “make with what you have.”


Freda Turner, Ph.D. is a researcher of best business practices and is affiliated with the Doctoral and Graduate Studies programs at University of Phoenix and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. She may be reached at fturner@email.uophx.edu.

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Copyright 2001 by Freda Turner. All rights reserved.

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