Making Career Switch Later in Life

How old is too old to decide what you want to be when you grow up?  Actually, maybe never. 

Two very accomplished women are proving you don't have to be 18 to pursue your dream job.

For example, take Dr. Janice Hartnett, a Hartford-area Obstetrician-Gynecologist.  It’s 9 a.m. and her day is already off to a busy start.  She's already induced labor for one expectant mother, has a c-section to perform and this is just the beginning of her 24-hour shift.

"Whatever comes my way later today, see what happens," says Dr. Hartnett.

But medicine isn't what she started out doing.  "I went to college quite some time ago and I went into computers.  Computers were just up and coming."

The Waterbury native spent the next decade pursuing a successful career that included a mix of computers, engineering and business.

“I was living in NY and single at the time and had a lot of fun.  Two years became five years became ten years and I kind of got caught up in things,” she said.

But she always had an interest in medicine and a friend’s battle with ovarian cancer caused her to reassess her own life.

“For the first time in my life it made me stop dead in my tracks and evaluate what I was doing with my life.”
At age 34, she made the bold decision to start over and go to medical school.

"Once I made the decision, I never looked back," said Hartnett.

But it first took some preparation to even be ready for medical school.

"I started taking some, they're called post back, courses so refresher chemistry, organic, biology at Columbia while I was still working to wet my feet to make sure I could do this," she said.

Turned out, she could.   But it was a long road.  From start to finish, becoming an OB-GYN took ten years.

Three years later, she's delivered over 1,000 babies.

"This was definitely the right decision for me.  I'm where I'm supposed to be now and God willing another 15, 20 years doing the same thing would be ideal," she said.

Nann Thomson also knows a thing or two about making life-altering decisions.

"I graduated from UConn Law School in 1985 and passed the bar in 1985 and became an attorney," said Thomson.

But after twenty years practicing family law, she needed a change.

"It's very high stress job even some of the judges were having open-heart surgery one after the other," she said.

But she vowed that wasn't going to be her.  In her late forties, Nann went back to school to become a teacher. 

So enrolled in the state's ARC program or alternate route to certification.  It's an accelerated program for mid career adults.

"A lot of people were concerned I would miss the status attached to being an attorney, as opposed to a teacher.  I'm very proud to be a teacher, I think it's important work."

More importantly, it's work that she enjoys.

"I think it's the best thing I've ever done.  I probably should have done it a whole lot earlier."

For others considering a late career change, you have to be ready to live without a paycheck for a period of time and acclimate yourself to life as a student again.

From there, anything's possible.

"Go for it.  I think statistically the kids that are coming up now in high school are going to have three to four different jobs before they retire.  Just because we started a bit later doesn't mean we can't take that step too," said Thomson.

"Life is long.  You have one shot.  If you can make a change along the road- take it," said Dr. Hartnett.

To learn more about ARC, click here.

To learn more about preparing for medical school, click here or here.

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