Nancy Collamer, a career coach based in Old Greenwich, CT, offers hope to the burned out and the bored in mid-career. It’s possible to switch gears in midlife and to start a new venture that brings rewards, both financial and emotional, she writes in her book, Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement. Her target audience: the semi-retired worker who might want to become anything from an adult education instructor to an executive recruiter to a mediator to a franchisee.
The book includes advice and concrete information about how to make these transitions. For example, adult educators may try to sell their services to a place like the Learning Annex. Aspiring mediators can take an online course at mediate.com. Would-be franchisees should check out the International Franchise Association (franchise.org), which connects with franchised businesses in a range of areas, from custom-built print shops to 1-800-FLOWERS to Weed Man lawn care services.
Aside from the many advice tidbits, the most compelling parts of the book are the real-life stories about people who have made successful career changes and found second acts that are both satisfying and that bring in sufficient cash. I’ll share five of my favorite stories here:
1. Jack Turk, Microsoft employee to magician marketer
When Turk turned 50, he decided to quit his job as a writer, program designer and game designer at Microsoft. For 15 years, he had worked at the same company and was earning a six-figure income. But his lifelong passion lay elsewhere. All along, Turk had run a side business as a magician. He used his corporate experience to bolster the marketing he did for his magic business. Meantime, he noticed that other magicians were struggling to get work. He also knew that a man named Dave Dee ran a business that helped magicians market themselves. Turk wound up buying the business from Dee, spending a year working alongside him while the enterprise changed hands. Now Turk runs magicmarketingcenter.com and sells products like “Success Strategies for the Restaurant Magician,” while doing more than 200 magic events per year, mostly birthday parties.
2. Debra Hamilton, litigator to pet mediator
Hamilton, 54, had worked as a litigator before taking time off to raise her children. When her son started first grade, she decided to train as a mediator. A dog lover and breeder, she wanted to specialize in animal-related conflicts, like disputes over who gets to keep a dog after a divorce and clashes involving trainers, veterinarians and handlers. She charges $500 an hour for her services, with a two-hour minimum. Most cases take six hour to resolve and both parties in a dispute assume equal responsibility for her bill.
3. Beth Chapman, public relations consultant to senior move manager
For nearly 20 years, Chapman, 68, worked as a PR consultant in financial services. Then in 2008, as the financial crisis cut into her client base, a friend sent her a clipping about so-called senior move managers who help older people with the difficult process of divesting possessions and moving to a new, smaller home. After moving 18 times herself, settling five estates and working at her church’s rummage sales, Chapman knew she could do the job. She discovered an annual conference run by a trade association, the National Association of Senior Move Managers, and picked up lots of valuable information at the conclave’s many seminars. Chapman started her own senior move business, called Extra Daughters. She also runs a service she calls Life Legacy Party, which helps clients inventory their valuables and distribute them fairly. Though she had years of experience in PR, she learned that her best marketing strategy was the most down down-to-earth, posting on community bulletin boards.
4. Eve Young, part-time bookkeeper to celebrant and acting extra
For most of her adult life, Young, 60, spent her time raising her kids, volunteering in her community and bookkeeping part-time. When her children left her home in Glen Ridge, N.J., Young read about a nonprofit called Celebrant Foundation and Institute that trains people to officiate at events like weddings. Coming from a family that was part American Indian, Young had taken part in many rituals and ceremonies and decided to study to become an interfaith minister. Young specializes in personalized ceremonies, like a wedding for a single mother of Polish extraction and an African-American man. Young charges $350 per ceremony and does two per month. She also started working as an acting extra after reading a classified ad, getting paid up to $125 for a job on a movie set and as much as $250 per day as a model for print publications.
5. Alison Talbert, travel agent to importer
After working as a travel agent, Talbert, 45, became a stay-at-home mom until her two kids reached their teens. Casting around for a part-time work option, she learned about a course for people who wanted to import goods from Ecuador. The course included a trip to South America and meetings with local artisans. Talbert stocked up on goods on that first trip and has since returned a dozen times. She buys leather bags, woven shawls and jewelry, and sells them to vendors who then sell the goods retail. She has also traded roses and other flowers and plans to open her own online retail stores.
A few caveats about these stories: Collamer doesn’t offer enough financial details for us to know how profitable these enterprises are and whether the people she describes are truly living on what they earn. I suspect that the first three described here, magician Turk, mediator Hamilton and senior move manager Chapman are all earning their keep. But my guess is that Young and Talbert get help from a spouse or they have substantial savings. The financial details of Talbert’s Ecuadoran import business are especially vague. But it does sound like Talbert has found a fulfilling path that can lead to profits down the line. The takeaway message from Collamer’s book is that many people in mid-career can discover ways to channel lifelong passions into new careers. Or they can find their way into totally new vocations that match their interests and talents.
This is an update of a story that appeared previously.