5 People Who Made Successful Career Changes

At some point in their lives, people ask themselves at least two difficult questions: Am I happy with my work? and Should I change my career if I'm not?
If the answer to the first question is no, think hard of the cause. You may likely be suffering from burnout and that's temporary—usually this means you need some time off, especially if you've been working for a long time without taking a much-needed vacation.
Burnout from work should be temporary. Should time-off fix the problem, then you're likely ok staying in your present career. But, if you find yourself feeling restless and many “what if” questions keep you up at night, maybe then you should consider changing your career.
After all, some of the most popular people we know didn't start with their current careers.  Get your inspiration from these five people who became hugely successful after switching jobs.

1. Jeff Bezos

Yes, the world's richest man, founder, president and CEO of Amazon got to where he is now via a career change. After graduating from Princeton with degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Bezos went ahead to become the IT guy at Fitel, a fintech startup. He then became the head of customer service at that company for a few years, until he made his first career switch to become a product manager at Bankers Trust. He switched to one more job after a couple of years; this time, a finance company that ran a hedge fund. Not long after getting hired, Bezos became that company's fourth Senior VP at age 30.

It was after taking a long road trip that Bezos thought of Amazon, but it initially was meant to be an online bookstore. Bezos eventually expanded to other product lines, borrowing billions from banks to expand. Now, Amazon is the largest online shopping store in the world. The company hit the $1 trillion valuation mark recently, right behind Apple Inc. Not bad for a career change.

2. Harrison Ford

Devoted Star Wars fans know him as the cheeky and gruff privateer with the 7-foot furry sidekick and the fastest starship in the galaxy. But while Harrison Ford did start out in film, it was behind the camera. Ford was a carpenter who was part of the crew that built sets for a then-unknown space saga, with an even more obscure cast. A producer who was a friend of Ford fooled him into reading for the part of Han Solo, and Star Wars creator George Lucas, director, screenwriter and owner of Lucasfilm Ltd., let him take a screen test.

Ford thought he was only helping out his producer-friend, but Lucas seriously offered him the part. At first, Harrison refused, citing how his $1000-a-week paycheck was too low, but he eventually agreed. It's a good thing he changed both his mind and his career as Ford's role as Han Solo established him as one of Hollywood's royalty.

3. Colonel Harland Sanders

Affectionately known as Colonel Sanders, Colonel Harland Sanders was born in the year 1890 in a town called Henryville in Indiana. A hard worker all his life, the Colonel began as a soldier in the US Army by lying about his age (he was only 16), only to be honorably discharged a year later. Sanders then worked as a laborer to help put up a railway, and he studied law as he worked. Unfortunately, he was laid off and had his law career sabotaged—by himself. Sanders was a stubborn man who'd occasionally get into fights, and that's how he lost these two jobs. After those fiascoes, he lived with his mother while working as an insurance salesman. This was another job that he lost due to insubordination. In 1920, he put up a ferry boat company, which he then sold in the hopes of putting up a lamp factory from the profits. Unfortunately, his competitor already had a better lamp.

Sanders then became an entrepreneur and sold chicken dishes at a service station, but that business fell through after getting into a bad argument with a rival that turned into a shootout. Some years later, Col. Sanders bought a motel and restaurant, but both were razed by fire. He built a new motel sometime later, but had to close it down as there were too few guests while World War 2 raged on.
Following the war, Colonel Sanders drove all over, looking for people to buy franchises of his restaurant and his “secret recipe” for “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” He was rejected 1,009 times before landing a franchisee. Bad luck hit Sanders again, and he was forced to sell his successful restaurant after an interstate highway was put up near the property. Undeterred, Sanders put up other franchises of his Kentucky Fried Chicken in the US and abroad. Once his brand had attained some success, Colonel Sanders sold the company for $2 million. The Colonel's legacy remains today, with 18,000 KFC stores serving his delicious chicken in 118 countries.

4. Alan Rickman

Before becoming one of Hollywood's famous villains at the time, Hans Gruber of Die Hard fame, Alan Rickman was a degree holder in Art from London's Royal College of Art. Rickman would land a decent job as a graphic designer at a newspaper, then own a graphic design studio with a couple of business partners. While he did enjoy some success in his graphic design career, the acting bug bit him at an early age. Rickman always considered his art degree as a fallback for his real dream of becoming an actor. He wrote to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts for an audition, and he was accepted as a student, eventually earning a second degree in drama.

He took on a variety of small theater roles for years, supporting himself mainly by working as a costume maker for his fellow actors. Rickman finally landed a big role in his 40s. He was cast in the famous play Les Liasons Dangereuses, which would become the hit Hollywood movie, Dangerous Liasons, starring John Malkovich and Glenn Close. Ironically, Rickman wasn't picked to take his theater role to the big screen version, but his breakthrough movie role would be Die Hard's Gruber as foil to Bruce Willis' character. His other memorable roles after that would be Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies and Harry, the Prime Minister's brother-in-law in the now-classic rom-com, Love, Actually.

5. J. K. Rowling

Fans of the Harry Potter series of books and movies will always lay praise on its creator, J.K. Rowling, for both her creativity and her tenacity in overcoming adversity before bringing Harry Potter to life. Born Joanne Rowling in Yate, Gloucestershire in 1965, this now-successful author, film and TV producer, screenwriter and philanthropist wasn't always so. Her idea for Harry Potter came to her while waiting for a train to take her from Manchester to London. That was in 1990, when she worked as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International. Rowling's life turned for the worse in 1997 when her mother died, she got divorced and delivered her first child. Alone, jobless and a single parent, she lived off state welfare and barely had money to feed herself and her newborn. Rowling had always wanted to be an author, and being unemployed allowed her to go to cafes and flesh out the Harry Potter stories she wrote, with her baby daughter sleeping close by.

She had completed the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 1995, but every publisher she approached rejected it. It wasn't until a small publisher picked up the book four years later that she made money, a small advance amounting to £2,500. Her first book would go on to sell over 300,000 copies. Then in 2001, Warner Bros. Studios bought the rights for the first two books to be made into movies, and the first movie grossed almost $1 billion in the box office worldwide. Rowling became the first author to be worth over a billion dollars, but she gave away a large portion of her money to charity, and has since established charities to fund a variety of causes.
If there's anything to be learned from these people, switching careers can be risky, but any price is worth it if it means being happy. Notice that these people who decided to change careers didn't mind the work involved, nor did they care about their age. Reaching their goals and pursuing their passions are what mattered most to them, and success naturally followed.
There are many alternative careers for you to pursue, and that includes teaching others how to succeed in their present career, or succeed in a new one. By this, we mean learning how to become a leadership coach. Cliche as it sounds, it's never too late to switch careers and become successful.

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