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Career Reinvention

A lot of people are redefining themselves over 50 - example of former convict, surgeon turned teacher and radio presenter turned comedian.

Photo of Kate Rushton
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Robert Mansfield, 64, San Francisco

"Robert Mansfield’s wake-up call came in 1995 as he sat on his bunk in California’s San Quentin State Prison, a place he called home for the better part of 10 years. Determined to put his life of drug addiction and crime behind him, he found his way to the Delancey Street Foundation, a residential self-help organization for substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless and others who have hit bottom. For him, it was the beginning of a new chapter. Meet Bob Mansfield today: program analyst for UC San Francisco Global Health Sciences and a guy who turned a life of waste into one of usefulness. Upon reentering the workforce after an absence of 20 years, he was understandably apprehensive. But now he’s just happy that he can do what he can to ensure others have the same opportunities he’s been given. “I am a living example that people can change,” he said.

Peter E. Rice, 56, New York

"At age 51, after 25 years as a practicing surgeon, Peter E. Rice made a big change. He had grown increasingly frustrated with being a physician and realized that what he liked most about practicing medicine was the teaching aspect. And so he did precisely that: He got a teaching degree at night and is now a high school science teacher in Brooklyn. And yes, it is a significant pay cut. And yes, he did it with the support of his family. “You should not take something that you are good at and try and love it. You should take something you love and try and be good at it,” he said. Even so, he admitted that “teaching adolescents is harder than operating.”"

Devon Wickens, 57, Las Vegas

"At 53, and being well established in her radio career, Devon Wickens never thought she would have to start all over from scratch. Her employer had a round of layoffs and suddenly she found herself jobless, and having to roll up her sleeves and working hard at a job paying a measly hourly wage. It was an eye-opening experience, but one that helped Wickens revisit her passion for comedy and drawing. The same year she was laid off, Wickens decided she should put her talents for cartooning to good use. She started a comic strip called “Baby Bummers” to provide comic relief to people of her generation, struggling with the same issues as her, ranging from joblessness to retirement to aging. Wickens has since also started doing stand-up comedy, given her affinity for one-liners and making others laugh. “It was cartoon therapy. That’s how I was dealing with job loss and self esteem issues... by losing my career, it really forced me to go back and think... let’s do something I’m passionate about,” Wickens said. “If other people in my situation read this and smile, that’s what it’s all about... laughter is the best medicine.”

All three stories were taken from this article from The Huffington Post

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

There are so many reasons why people make changes in life. Some changes are a choice and others are forced upon you. What can we do to support people going through these changes?

Tell us about your work experience:

I am the Community Guide for this challenge.

Specifically, please check all that apply:

  • I'm not currently involved in a credit union, but am curious to learn more!

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Photo of Safin

Great post Kate. Do you have some ways that we can support these people do go through these changes?

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi, Safin! I would really like to hear your ideas, but I think it would be interesting to look at the financial options out there as well as careers advice options.

For example, Sharon mentioned in my post here - https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/financial-longevity/research/my-50-art-class-friends - wants to study art. She spoke to our art teacher for advice. She did not realise that many art degrees have a strong focus on modern art. If she did not speak to her, she would not have thought that this took place. She also contacted art schools and established artists for advice. Can we somehow harness these experts in the careers you want to enter? Can we learn from existing careers advice tools? Can we consider partnerships/collaborations? What do you think?