5 Insanely Successful Women Who Had Totally Different Careers Before Hitting It Big

mbg Contributor By Shannon Kaiser
mbg Contributor
Shannon Kaiser is the best-selling author of 5 books on the psychology of happiness and fulfillment including The Self-Love Experiment, Adventures for Your Soul, and Joy Seeker. She has a B.A. in Journalism and Communications from the University of Oregon.

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Are you stuck in a job you hate? Do you feel your life lacks meaning or real purpose? Do you dream about leaving it all behind to pursue your passion but worry you're too old or not educated enough to start over?

Several years ago I was a successful art director working at one of the largest ad agencies in the world. My doctor diagnosed me with clinical depression, which resulted in what I call a quarter-life crisis. The path I was on was no longer fulfilling, so I left it all behind to become a writer and life coach.

Since 2010, I’ve penned three books and been named one of the 100 Women to Watch in Wellness by mbg. My story is evidence that the life you've always wanted is possible as long as there is air in your lungs.

Here are five more women whose second-act success proves it’s never too late to live your dreams.

Julia Child

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Julia Child worked as an advertising copywriter, as a top-secret researcher for the head of OSS, and didn't even start to explore cooking until her late 30s, after she was married.

Her husband's job with the U.S. State Department necessitated a move to Paris. There, Paul Child (known for his refined palate) introduced his wife to the world of gourmet food. She decided to study at Le Cordon Bleu, then joined Le Circle des Gourmettes, where she met the friends and co-chefs who would help her test and refine recipes for several years.

The result was a seminal work—Mastering the Art of French Cooking—that is still in print. Child was 50 when it was released, launching her career as a celebrity chef.

Child's subsequent television show, The French Chef, ran for 10 years and won several awards. She went on to star in numerous other television programs and publish multiple paradigm-shifting tomes on the art and experience of French cuisine.

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Vera Wang

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Vera Wang started figure skating at the age of 8 and even competed at the U.S. National Championships. When she didn't make the Olympic Team, she went into fashion journalism, becoming Vogue's youngest ever editor at 21 and staying there for 17 years.

She started her own incredibly successful bridal design company in 1990 and has become one of the preeminent wedding gown designers in the world. She still skates and has designed costumes for famed skaters like Nancy Kerrigan and Michelle Kwan.

Ellen DeGeneres

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Ellen DeGeneres left college after one semester to do clerical work in a law firm with a relative. Subsequently she had jobs at J.C. Penney, T.G.I. Friday's, and other restaurants before she even started pursuing standup comedy. After finding notable success in film and television, Ellen's exposure and influence reached a whole new level when she came out as a lesbian on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

After her autobiographical character on The Ellen Show followed suit, the show was canceled in May of 1998. It wasn't until The Ellen DeGeneres Show, her daytime TV talk show, launched in 2003 three that she reached the stratospheric fame she's now achieved. Her show had won 36 Daytime Emmy Awards as of 2013 and is currently in its 13th season.

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Betty White

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Betty White, credited as the first woman to produce a sitcom, has been in the film and television industry for more than 75 years. In her 20s, White was rejected consistently by film studios because she was "unphotogenic."

When she finally got some traction through radio appearances and eventually televised singing performances, World War II erupted, and White joined the American Women's Volunteer Services.

She continued to work in television after the war but didn't get her "big break" until the early '70s. She turned a spate of guest appearances on The Mary Tyler Moore Show into a recurring role that won her two Emmys.

In 1985, she started perhaps her most noteworthy role as Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls. She won one Emmy Award for her portrayal of Rose and was nominated every year the show ran (1985–1992) in the category of Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series.

Since then, White has brought her genius to an incomparable variety of dramas and comedies, in both television and film, published books, and received eight Emmy Awards, three American Comedy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and a Grammy.

J.K. Rowling

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Rejected from Oxford University, Joanne Rowling graduated with a B.A. in French and classics from University of Exeter.

After college, working as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International, Rowling decided to move to Manchester, where she worked for The Chamber of Commerce.

The idea for Harry Potter came to her "fully formed" on a delayed train ride from Manchester to London's King's Cross, and she spent the next five years working on it.

In 1992, she moved to Portugal to teach English as a foreign language, got married, had a daughter, separated from her husband shortly thereafter, and moved with her daughter back to the UK in December of 1993. At that point, she had three chapters of Harry Potter written.

While training as a teacher at Edinburgh and living on state benefits, on the razor's edge of homelessness, Rowling completed the first Harry Potter book.

Rejected by a dozen publishing houses, it wasn't until the 8-year-old daughter of a Bloomsbury publishing chairman demanded to read more of Potter that the publishing house decided to take her on.

As of 2004, Rowling had become the first person ever to become a billionaire by writing books.

Shannon Kaiser
Shannon Kaiser
Shannon Kaiser is the best-selling author of 5 books on the psychology of happiness and fulfillment...
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Shannon Kaiser
Shannon Kaiser
Shannon Kaiser is the best-selling author of 5 books on the psychology...
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