What if You Could Re-Do Your Career

“All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.” ~Walt Disney


We ask kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” all the time. As adults, do we ever ask ourselves that question? How many of us wonder about a different line of work? That dream job that just remained a dream? For the majority, economic conditions and family needs probably outweigh the option (and let’s be honest, fear) of stepping out into the unknown to pursue a dream.

Surprisingly, many have taken that big step and are well known for their dream job. The jobs they left behind are equally amazing, although it’s difficult to imagine them in any other role than the one that made them famous.

  • Colonel Sanders didn’t always wear that signature white suit and black string tie. No, he was a railroad worker and a gas station operator among other jobs. In fact, he didn’t develop his Kentucky Fried Chicken secret recipe until he was 65 years old.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first novel at age 65. Her first career was as a teacher in South Dakota.
  • Grandma Moses began painting at 76. She worked the family farm and was skilled at embroidery earlier in life.
  • John Grisham, world-renowned author, was originally an attorney/politician.
  • Vera Wang was a figure skater and competed in the 1968 US figure skating championship, but did not make the Olympic team. She was with Vogue for 17 years and was their youngest editor. She resigned to pursue her design career at 40. What would the wedding industry be without Vera Wang gowns?
  • Harrison Ford was a carpenter before his acting career took off. Could anyone else be Indiana Jones? I don’t think so.
  • Walt Disney was a newspaper editor before Mickey came alive for generations of kids. I remember watching the Mickey Mouse Club every day after school. My favorite movies for years were from Disney Studios.
  • Sylvester Stallone worked a deli counter and was a lion cage cleaner before getting inspired to box and run those steps to victory.
  • KISS bassist Gene Simmons was a sixth grade teacher before becoming known as “The Demon.”
  • Joy Behar was a high school English teacher until age 40. The View wouldn’t be the same without her sharp wit.
  • Another View alumni, Whoopi Goldberg, once worked as a beautician in a funeral home.

So, beyond famous folks who started out with very different careers, what about the rest of us? A grassroots poll of friends and family yielded some interesting wishes for do-over careers.

Several shared that they are in their dream careers (myself included). Most wish they’d gotten there much earlier, but are clearly happy doing what they always wanted.

Our children have inspired many of us. A high school friend shared that although her career is perfect, she’d have liked to teach after seeing what an impact her daughter has on her students. And my own daughter continues to inspire me to follow my dreams.

Several cited specific attributes as goals – wishing to be more adventurous, more confident in their skills, or being able to contribute more to the community/world.

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. A friend from college days wishes she’d owned a record store. One wishes she’d continue her musical goal of being a concert violinist. Wondering about owning a restaurant from one responder was a bit of a surprise, but I know for a fact that she loves to cook.

The careers we probably said we wanted as children are still relevant as adults for many. Several mentioned nursing or health care fields, attorneys or other legal field options, teaching, or engineering as dream do over careers.

What does all this prove? It’s never too late. Never give up. Go for your dreams. Ella Fitzgerald said it well, “Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to. Where there’s love and inspiration I don’t think you can go wrong.”