Why a New Career at 30 Could Be Your Best Move Ever
The 30 Under 30 list—originated by Forbes, but now a staple of all career-focused publications—seems to pop up every other week. As a 25-year-old dating a 27-year-old, I feel the intense pressure the modern media places on “being successful by 30.” But there seems to be an invisibility cloak hiding the accomplishments of women over a certain age, and that’s just wrong. There are plenty of successful women who didn’t hit their stride until they were 30 or older, and they might be even be better for it. Read on to shatter the illusion that the window for success closes at 29!
After years as an investment banker, Candace Nelson left her job to pursue something a little sweeter.
“I left my job to pursue my passion for baking,” Nelson told Gluten Free Daily. After taking attending a professional pastry program in San Francisco, Nelson and her husband opened Sprinkles in Beverly Hills in April 2005. Nelson originally chose banking as a career path because she thought it would be a good foundation for anything. But her passion for baking existed since she was a little girl, baking with her mom. Nelson credits her determination and delaying gratification for her success in her dream field.
“I was doggedly determined to make my dream a reality, in spite of the many obstacles presented to me,” she says. Nelson mentions obstacles such as “naysayers, landlords who didn’t want our businesses in their space, and forgoing vacations and other indulgences.” With more than 18 stores the United States, we think Nelson’s efforts definitely paid off!
We can thank Julia Child for bringing Parisian cooking and all of its buttery goodness to America. But this culinary queen didn’t cook her first dish until age 36, after she enrolled in the Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris. Her legendary cookbook, which wasn't published until Child was 49, was a byproduct of trying to find a French cookbook for Americans, and the international success Child enjoyed was beyond her wildest dreams. In 1993, she became the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute of America's Hall of Fame, and in 2000, France bestowed the Légion d'Honneur on this once kitchen newbie.
While originally known for her tousled locks and bikini body, Sports Illustrated model Kathy Ireland parlayed her name recognition into a multibillion-dollar megabrand. After selling more than $2 billion worth of licensed products in 2011, Forbes quoted Ireland as being a bigger licensor than Martha Stewart. Her target audience is American moms, and with more than 15,000 products in her name, it’s undoubtedly a good demographic fit for the Santa Monica-based founder. Interestingly, most of Ireland’s products, such as ceiling fans, flooring, and mattresses, are not what you normally would associate with celebrity labels. By selling these “necessities” and appealing to a large audience, Ireland continues to bring in millions in revenue.
Kimberley Seldon is one of the most successful interior designers and television personalities in Canada. After working as a television producer for some time, Seldon found herself longing for a change. “Shooting all night long loses its appeal pretty quickly,” says Seldon. “Twenty-eight years old and pregnant with my first child, I decided the time was right to explore my hobby of decorating a little bit, so I signed up for interior design classes.” That exploration blossomed into a burgeoning career, including publishing her own interior design books, and Seldon couldn’t be happier. “I cannot imagine life without both of my careers,” she says. “How dull!”
Her name is synonymous with lifestyle and home décor, and many credit her as the founder of the entire (tremendously successful) lifestyle industry. But Martha Stewart didn’t dabble in domesticity until she was 35. Believe it or not, Stewart worked as a stockbroker at Monness Crespi Hardt. Before that, Stewart made a living as a model and received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University. Stewart developed her eponymous magazine Martha Stewart Living in 1990, and the publication grew to a peak circulation volume of two million-plus copies per issue.
Before changing the lives and boosting the confidence of millions of women, Spanx founder Sara Blakely worked as a Mickey Mouse-ears-wearing greeter at Disney World and then as a door-to-door fax-machine saleswoman for Danka. While Blakely was a phenomenal salesperson (she brought in more than $20,000 per month), her potential far exceeded rising the ranks of a sales company. At 27, Blakely decided to do something about her need for a nonexistent product—“a hardcore girdle,” as she puts it. While maintaining her 9-to-5 job at Danka, Blakely spent her nights and weekends researching pantyhose design and patents. Not wanting to pay for a lawyer, she bought a book on applying for a patent and did it herself. At 29, Blakely left her sales job to pursue Spanx full time. After Oprah Winfrey picked Spanx as one of her “favorite things” in 2000, “the flood gates opened” and the rest is history, Blakely told Women Businesses.
Chang was a majorly successful chief creative officer at 19 Entertainment—the company responsible for hits like So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol. But, in her mid-thirties, Chang took a leap of faith and left her secure, highly paid position to found Yoxi, a company that discovers, nurtures, and elevates social entrepreneurs. “A lot of people ask me why I would give up the position of chief creative officer for American Idol, and the answer is very easy: I wasn’t happy,” Chang told Fast Company. The ambitious business leader believes that your mid-thirties are an ideal time for career reflection and possibly, a big change. “I think that level of awareness just can’t come when you’re 25,” she says. “Challenging status quo is easy,” Forbes contributor Rahim Kanani said about Chang in a 2012 interview. “But going beyond that to challenge our own mind so we can work ‘with,’ not necessarily against, status quo is much more difficult. It requires a lot of tolerance, integrity, and ingenuity.”
It’s impossible to think about wedding dresses without having the name Vera Wang cross your mind. Perhaps the most famous wedding gown designer of all time, Wang didn’t design a gown until age 40. Wang’s career as an iconic fashion designer is actually her third. Throughout her childhood, Wang trained as a competitive figure skater. When she didn’t make the 1968 U.S. Olympic team, she traded in her skates for a pen and paper and spent the next couple of decades working as a fashion editor. At 40, Wang performed another career switch and transitioned from writing about fashion to creating it. Every bride—past, current, and future—(not to mention the entire fashion industry) is grateful that she did!