Success in the Second Half

6 Professionals Who Have Navigated a Midlife Career Change

 

It can take years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance to feel like you’ve ‘made it’ in your chosen career – which is why, for many, the idea of starting again from scratch is absolutely terrifying. Yet those who boldly make the switch after decades spent in a familiar industry are often rewarded, whether with financial gain or, more importantly, greater fulfillment and personal satisfaction. Though the transition may be challenging at times, a career change later in life can be the golden opportunity to pursue a long-held passion and find meaningful work for the years ahead.

The following six professionals have successfully navigated a midlife career change. What follows are their stories of taking the leap. 

 

By Mary Beth Wallace  /  Photography by Emily Long

From Clinicals to the Courtroom

Carmen Ware, RN, JD

Nurse-Attorney, The Ware Law Firm

 

Everyone knew Carmen Ware was destined to become a lawyer before she did.

Ware explains, “I got that all the time from my teachers in high school: ‘Are you going to go to law school?’ I guess I was always arguing a point, debating an issue, questioning things. I even got in trouble as a small child for questioning the Bible!”

But Ware, having a long-held interest in the medical field, decided to attend nursing school instead – and spent 20 years in the nursing profession. “I loved being able to help people and see the immediate results,” she says. “I worked mainly as an ICU nurse, which required a lot of critical analysis and thinking quickly on your feet.”

When her youngest son of two graduated high school, Ware began to think seriously about a second career. She decided to apply to law school and soon found herself in Virginia Beach to attend the Regent University School of Law. After a strong first year, she transferred to Vanderbilt University to finish out her law school education.

“I don’t think I would have made it through that time without my family,” Ware shares. “My husband was so supportive; he moved with me both times! My brothers and sisters would send me care packages at school, and my mom was my anchor and my rock.”    

Ware ended up right back in Chattanooga, and after a stint working for a local firm, she took her next big leap – establishing her own practice. “It was scary to leave behind that steady source of income,” she says. “In fact, that first year, I questioned whether or not I had made the right decision to go out on my own.”

Ten years later, Ware has no regrets. “My desire all along has been to serve other people. These days, I’m finding myself doing a lot of workers’ comp, helping those who have been denied what they’re legally entitled to. That’s where the need is, and that’s what keeps me going. I’ve learned that your career can serve as your ministry.”

As for her third career, Ware has a few ideas. “I’m getting a passion for forensics, and I’ve always wanted to be a judge. It’s like I tell my boys, you don’t have to be limited in what you do.”

From Advertising to Advancement

John Stroud

Vice President of Advancement, Chattanooga Christian School

 

After earning a master’s degree in advertising from Northwestern University, John Stroud was recruited to work for a large agency in Chicago. A string of sales and marketing jobs followed, taking Stroud to Georgia, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and eventually, the Scenic City.

“All total, I spent about 30 years as a marketer,” Stroud says. “It was a lot of fun – listening to consumers, working on new products, growing those businesses. I loved being a part of a team.”

When corporate restructuring ended Stroud’s marketing career, figuring out his next move required some personal introspection. “Over the course of those six months, I became more aware of what I liked and disliked, which gave me clarity as I searched for my next role,” he says. “I’d tell anyone going through the same thing that it’s a wonderful opportunity to not only learn more about yourself, but also reconnect with people in the community as you network and see what’s out there.”

An opening in the advancement office at Chattanooga Christian School, where Stroud’s four daughters had all attended, was practically providential. “I truly believe God opened that door for me,” he says.

As vice president of advancement, Stroud would be responsible for the school’s fundraising, admissions, and communication efforts. While many of Stroud’s skills seamlessly translated to his new role, others had to be picked up along the way. Stroud explains, “I did a lot of reading, and I reached out to people who had done this type of work before. My boss, Chad Dirkse, was extremely helpful through the transition.”

A few years in, and Stroud is excited about all the new developments taking place at CCS. “We started The King School downtown, and we’ve partnered with Siskin Children’s Institute to create The Learning Center, which will give individualized attention to our older students with more significant needs,” Stroud tells. “It’s very gratifying.”

He adds, “Being involved in the students’ lives, it’s energizing. The other day I was giving a tour, and a first grader ran up to me screaming, ‘Mr. John!’ just because he was excited to see me. It’s a totally different world than what I was used to, but it’s been a real blessing.”

From Skyscrapers to Surfboards

Patrick & Carolina Molloy

Co-owners, Adventure Sports Innovation

 

Patrick and Carolina Molloy said goodbye to their New York City home in the summer of 2017, shortly after leaving decades-long careers in the corporate banking and financial services industry, respectively. You could say that the move was the beginning of a grand adventure.

“I spent 31 years in cash management, and I enjoyed it,” Patrick recalls. “I liked the travel, and I liked interacting with a lot of people.” Carolina, who was a management consultant, also appreciated the daily face-to-face interactions.

“However, at that point in our lives, we both wanted a change from corporate America,” Carolina explains. “We wanted to be entrepreneurs. With Patrick’s passion for adventure sports, we knew our business was going to be in that industry. We just had to choose where to relocate.” With its moderate climate, abundant resources for new entrepreneurs, and an already-developed adventure sports industry, Chattanooga was the perfect spot.

By July 2018, Adventure Sports Innovation was up and running. “We spent a whole year researching, forming our business plan, attending conferences, scouting out gear,” Patrick says. Learning how to use some of the gear proved to be a challenge for Patrick initially. “I spent three whole weeks in my garage trying to master the electric unicycle!” Patrick laughs. “Since then, we developed proprietary training methods, so now we get most adults road ready in two 30-minute sessions!”

According to the Molloys, there was plenty of help along the way. Patrick explains, “Being in Chattanooga has been invaluable. We probably sat in 30 different sessions during our first Startup Week alone. And then we’ve been able to hire some really good people. Our staff has worked hard to make the customer experience so exceptional.”

One of Carolina’s favorite parts of the job is seeing the direct result of their hard work. “I enjoy that we created Adventure Sports Innovation, just the two of us – it was our brainchild. We’ll get customers that ask, ‘Where else can we find ASI? Is this a franchise?’ To which we reply, ‘No, this is it!’ We have a running list of places where we could expand one day.”

Patrick adds, “When we conduct training sessions and watch people learn and adapt to our gear – and then they come away smiling – that’s the most rewarding thing.”

From Trains to Tadasana

Johnny Martin

Owner & Instructor, Young Yogaletts

 

An adorable video of his 2-year-old great-niece doing yoga sparked Johnny Martin’s dream career.

At the time, Martin was a railroad conductor at Norfolk Southern, a job he had held for 15 years. “I really enjoyed the camaraderie with the men and women I worked with,” Martin says. “But that video changed everything – I started researching the benefits of yoga for children, which were awesome, and I didn’t know of anyone leading kids’ yoga in the Chattanooga area.”

Martin and his wife, Tammy, spent many nights discussing what it would look like to leave the railroad and start his own business. “It wasn’t an overnight decision. I had a leg injury, and there was concern that my continued labor at the railroad would affect that even more. In the end, I decided to do what was best for my family and overall well-being,” Martin shares. “I’m so thankful for my wife, who encouraged me to use my God-given talents and pursue my passion.” 

Martin’s transition to his new career would involve a steep learning curve. To start, he had to become certified to teach yoga. Even now, Martin is participating in workshops and seminars to stay current on the latest practices, and he’s finding ways to further his learning in child and family studies. Then, there was figuring out how to run a business, from budgets to marketing and time management.

“That part was definitely ‘learn as you go,’ and I’m still learning,” Martin says.

The reward, of course, is getting to do what he loves every day. “It’s a blessing to enjoy your job, and sometimes in the middle of teaching yoga, I’ll forget I’m working!” Martin laughs. “I love building relationships with the kids and helping them meet their needs, whether emotionally, socially, or physically. I love when negative attitudes turn into positive behavior through yoga – once the kids get involved and enjoy it, you just notice an improvement in their overall performance.” 

And Martin’s passion for yoga is spreading. “At first, it was an uphill battle to educate people on something they’ve never experienced before, to show them how beneficial yoga can be,” he says. “A few years into this, and I’m being approached by parents, siblings, all kinds of people wanting to get involved!”

From the News to New Opportunities

Jed Mescon

Community Liaison, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union

 

 

It wasn’t all that long ago that Jed Mescon filled television screens across the Tennessee Valley. A morning anchor for WRCB-TV Channel 3, Mescon developed quite the following over his 28-year career, due in part to his sunny disposition and on-screen antics (he proposed on-air to his wife, Phyllis Peeples, in 1989).

Mescon applied to be a reporter for Channel 3 in 1987, which led to him headlining programs such as “Jed’s Journal,” “Jed and Company,” and “3 Plus You.” He recalls of his time on the air, “I told thousands of stories, from the crazy and unusual to the heartwarming and poignant. I enjoyed being a part of people’s lives, and of course, it was nice to hear compliments like, ‘My parents love you!’ at the grocery store.”

Listening to Don Mueller, former CEO at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, speak at an event forever changed the trajectory of Mescon’s career. “Learning about the exciting things going on at Erlanger, I just thought, gosh, that’s where I need to be right now,” Mescon shares. “I immediately made an appointment and asked to be brought on in some capacity.”

In March 2016, Mescon was named vice president of marketing and public relations, a role that would serve as Mescon’s first managerial experience. “The people skills necessary for this role I had down pat, but the managerial skills took some time to develop,” he explains. “It was definitely tough, coming in as an outsider and working with people who had 20 and 30 years of experience in the hospital field. But I loved being able to sit in on major decisions, getting to sign off on things, working alongside the unsung heroes at Erlanger – it was surreal.”

Four years later, Mescon has joined the marketing team at Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union. He’s now using the skills he developed from his time in television and the hospital to build relationships and promote TVFCU in the community.

“I’m lucky to be at TVFCU, and I’m proud of myself for how far I’ve come,” Mescon says. “I’ll never forget the people, like my co-workers at Channel 3, Don Mueller, and my wife, Phyllis, who have helped me along the way.”

Shares