Finding a Dream Career in Your Fifties

By on February 7, 2018

By Lisa Congdon–

From a young age, we are often peppered with clichés like “the early bird catches the worm” in an effort to prepare us for the responsibilities of being grown-up, especially when it comes to work. Many of us are expected to springboard out of college with clearly-defined career goals and lofty ambitions for getting ahead. Rest assured, out there exist countless “late bloomers,” women who, for myriad reasons, didn’t find their true calling until well into mid-life, a progression Lisa Congdon celebrates in her new book A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives (Chronicle Books; October 2017). 

Jennifer Hayden discovered graphic novels at the age of 43, around the same time she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After two decades of writing fiction and illustrating children’s books, Jennifer decided she wanted to make comics. In 2015, at the age of 52, Jennifer published her debut graphic novel—a 352-page memoir about her life and experience with breast cancer. Aptly titled The Story of My Tits, the book was named one of the best graphic novels of the year by the New York Times, NPR, Forbes, and Library Journal, among many others. Jennifer’s comics, full of moxie and humor, have been featured in The ACT-I-VATE Primer, Cousin Corinne’s Reminder, and the Strumpet. At age 55, she’s currently finishing a graphic diary spanning the trials and successes of the last three and a half years, along with a new fiction graphic novel. 

Julia Child was born in 1912 in Pasadena, California. After graduating from college, she had aspirations as a writer and craved experiences beyond her conventional upbringing, but she still hadn’t found her calling at the advent of World War II. Working for the Office of Strategic Services and stationed overseas during the war, she met her husband Paul, who was eventually posted in France. It was here that Julia discovered her true calling by learning to cook and taking classes at the famous Cordon Bleu. After establishing her own cooking school, she set out to write Mastering the Art of French Cooking which took ten years to complete; by the time it was finished Julia was entering her 50s. While promoting the book on a television segment, Julia was asked to host her own; as they, say, the rest was history. Julia continued to write cookbooks and produce and star in a series of television shows, winning a Peabody and multiple Emmys, and actively working nearly until her death in 2004 at the age of 92. 

Stephanie Young was a well-known New York magazine writer and editor. During the course of close to thirty years, she worked her way through the publishing ranks of more than six major publications—from transcriptionist at Mademoiselle to columnist at Glamour, and then as health and fitness director at both Self and More. During her career in publishing, she was a pioneer for the writing on women’s health that is now so abundant in modern media. And then, in 2007, at the age of 53, Stephanie left the publishing world behind and embarked on a new journey—entering medical school and pursuing a career as a doctor. Today, at age 60, Stephanie is in the midst of applying for residency positions and beginning her career as a medical doctor.

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Finding a Dream Career in Your Fifties