Career Lessons from a Bevy of Late Bloomers


Whether the economy has forced you to flip flop between careers, or you wake up one morning to find yourself lagging at least a decade behind your peers, starting over in new career is never (ever) a negative thing. Famous late bloomers like The View co-host Joy Behar and the world’s top tenor Andrea Bocelli did not decide on a definite career until well after ages 40 for Joy and 30 for Bocelli. In fact, most late bloomers spend decades doing things they dislike before that inevitable Aha! moment.

What does all of this mean for the millions of men and women that are forced to make a career change each year? Well, what you decide to do after you’ve lost your bonus-laden banking job or that “newly created” position at a non-profit, just might be your true calling. So, how do you go about making a somewhat smooth transition? Do you quit your day job and dive right in? Do you wait for your pink slip and severance package before taking the plunge? Or, do you wait until you’ve called in sick one too many times to realize your career has run its course? This is a decision you have to make on your own, but in making it, you should consider everything from how you truly feel to what your finances can accommodate—within reason.  In the meantime, here’s how the famous and not so famous did it, so take notes.

Joy Behar, 68, from teacher to comedian to talk show host.

TV Behar HLN Show

Joy Behar was a high school English teacher before she became a comedian. She was 40 years old before she realized she was always the funny one at parties. She started doing stand-up and the rest is history. Joy has this advice for you, “people should do what they loved to do when they were 10—the age before you start caring what others think.”

Patricia Kline, 50, from marketing executive to baker.

After her mother died, Patricia Kline of Menlo Park, California turned to the childhood ritual she’d shared with her mom—baking.  At age 49, Ms. Kline had lost her mother, and due to a faltering economy, the business she’d shared with her husband was officially over. She had been the company’s head of marketing and operations. Before helping her hubby build business relationships, Kline was a Silicon Valley communications executive. Patricia decided that she would not return to her PR roots. Instead, she became a baker, selling her famous pies from a coveted spot at her local farmers’ market. Patricia does special orders too and she has this advice for late bloomers and anyone wanting to make a career change, “when you lose so much, you discover that your identity isn’t made up of material things—it’s about what you can do with your brain and enthusiasm. Now {is} the time to take a chance and do something with pasion.”

Al Franken, 60, from SNL to U.S. Senator.


“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog gone it, people like me.” Need we say more?

Tammy Mack-Lowe, 35, from investment banker to stylist.

After college, Tammy Mack-Lowe did what other graduates in her major did—she took a job at Chase Bank. She spent 10 years in the foreign exchange and commodities group. When the market went south, Chase offered her a severance package. With it, she returned to her childhood dream of becoming a force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry. Tammy took her severance and savings and started a career as a stylist and personal shopper. Mack-Lowe saw losing her job as an opportunity to do what she always loved, yet as a college graduate, she just didn’t have the confidence or cash to do it.

Today, instead of crunching numbers in a conservative environment filled with cubicles and late afternoon coffee runs, Mack-Lowe’s days now consist of dressing models at photo shoots, dragging shopping bags filled with clothes for her clients around the streets of Manhattan, and searching for the fiercest fashions she can get her hands on for everything from socialites to Grammy nominees. Tammy has this advice for budding entrepreneurs and corporate castaways, “there’s a hierarchy in a corporation—you know where you stand. But in your own business, sometimes you’re meeting with CEOs, and sometimes you’re taking out the trash. You have to be disciplined—and suspend your ego.”

Andrea Bocelli, 52, from attorney to tenor.


Andrea Bocelli studied law at the University of Pisa, graduating as a Doctor of Law. He worked as a court-appointed lawyer before being discovered in 1992. Bocelli offers this advice, “I came to believe that if you have a gift, you have an obligation to share it with others. It’s as simple as that.”

Image Credits

Late Bloomer,
Al Franken,
Joy Behar,
Andrea Bocelli,


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