My Biggest Mistake Switching Careers at 57

You can launch a deeply rewarding career whatever your age. This is true even if you work fewer hours than you once did, saving plenty of time for the rest of your life. Today, in my 70s, I’m deeply engaged in my varied career as a leadership coach, which I began in my 50s. I don’t let my work control me.  But it took me a while to achieve this nice balance. In fact, my inability to view my new career as a ‘real’ one was my biggest mistake switching careers.

From law school until I switched gears in my mid-50s, I enjoyed being a busy Washington, D.C. attorney, and then a corporate executive. I liked grappling with policy issues, I was exhilarated by testifying before legislatures, and I was fascinated by the workings of government. But in my final years on that path I worked constantly. My last major task was to win a complex combination of regulatory approvals for the merger of two large utility companies. This meant more than a year of intense, stressful activity, with few breaks.

When the merger closed, my exit package allowed me to think carefully before making my next move. I didn’t know where I was headed, but I was ready to leave the law and its culture of grinding out long, anxious hours. My priorities were to spend time with my husband, enjoy a social life and find ways to give back.

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