Stronger, wiser, better at 50 and beyond! The Know Your Value community share their comeback career stories

With the release of Mika and Ginny Brzezinski's new book, "Comeback Careers," we wanted to hear your success stories. Here's what you told us.
From left to right: Cathy Jean Norman, Amy Kaufman and Teresa White
From left to right: Cathy Jean Norman, Amy Kaufman and Teresa White

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Know Your Value staff

With the release of Mika and Ginny Brzezinski's new book, "Comeback Careers: Rethink, Refresh, Reinvent Your Success —At 40, 50, and Beyond," we wanted to hear your success stories on how you've managed to reboot, relaunch, return to, or reinvent a career. Here are a few of your inspirational journeys:

Bobbie Novak

When I heard you talking on “Morning Joe” about Comeback Careers I didn’t think what I did was a big deal until you said it was!

I spent the first 25 years raising a family, and although I’ve had mostly enjoyable jobs, some were less fulfilling than others. In 2015, I took a leap and joined the local theater group; and it was no surprise there more roles going to younger women.

Finding myself out of work with too much time on my hands I was beginning to think this was it.

Then…

One day at a friend’s daughter’s wedding, I was surprised to see the officiant was my spin instructor! He called me over after the ceremony and said, “Bobbie you can do this.” No way!

It took nearly nine months and the baby was born! I became certified to officiate weddings and put myself out there on website to get leads. Still, I found reasons not to take on bookings: venue was too big, the date is too far out; and I was paying for these leads. Then I took a deep breath and said, “I do” to the next lead I received. It was a small gathering in the couples’ home. Easy Peasy!

Bobbie NovakCourtesy of Bobbie Novak

My next booking was four months later; I soon had 34 bookings for the rest of the year (a couple times there were two in one day!) and…I got a role in a show that ran all summer long!

Soon, I started becoming overbooked. I enlisted my son-in-law to take on some weddings; then my son approached me to join the team. With the two of them being geographically diverse, I was able to cover a larger territory. January has seen three weddings and we are booked out into October with 36 weddings!

BTW: I’m not 40 or 50…I’m beyond and I’ve become a business owner and am inspired by you to keep moving onward.

Amy Kaufman

I can’t say I made a career change or a comeback. It was more that it made me.

My 17-year-old daughter died in a car accident in 2009. It changed everything I knew about the world. Staying in the environmental consulting business I started with my husband (now ex), wasn’t really an option for lots of reasons. Everything changed and now when I look back, I realize everything had to change.

I started a non-profit foundation for art, equality and education in my daughter’s name. The foundation has taken me from advocating for organ and tissue donation in the U.S., to Nepal, to Ecuador, back to Nepal, and now I am living in a small village in India, and organizing online yoga and meditation classes with an Indian yogi for women in Afghanistan!… I don’t make much money but I have inner wealth. That is the biggest comeback there could be, at least for me.

I never thought I would find a new life and a new career but more than that, after such a tragic loss, I never thought I would find inner peace for myself. Learning to live with grief is one of the most challenging things we can do.

A career is a career, but a life is a life. I feel successful, so I am successful. I am 55 and looking forward to what more this crazy, sad, joyous life has to offer. My heart has led me into places I never would have expected.

Cathy Jean Norman

Many people may feel that turning 60 is too old to start over. If anything, most people are looking toward retirement. Yet I felt like I had no choice. After 36 years of being a minister for the Unity church, I felt profoundly guided to move on from the only career I had ever known.

What I did know was this: I’d supposedly aged out of the “normal workforce.” I also knew I had far too much vitality, brainpower, and ingenuity to just wither up — even if I didn’t know my way around the world outside of ministry.

So what could I do?

I started with the two things I knew I could do with great joy: write sermons and cook!

It was from there that a book was born with co-author Noelle Nelson, called “Sermon on the Molehill.”

Almost at the same time, I formed “It’s All in the Mixx” with my business partner, Hope Delong, also in her 60’s. We created and developed Keto baking mixes that will be on the shelves with retailers nationwide, and e-commerce toward the end of this spring…

Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought my life post-60 would turn out the way it has. However, I knew, deep in my heart and soul, that there is always something much bigger watching over me. I just had to believe and take the leap!

Teresa ‘Lilly’ White

I am a forensic anthropologist living in Montana, with my husband (who is also an Anthropologist). I married when I was 20 and also opened my first business--which I ran successfully for 20 years. A car accident took me out of the profession I loved, leaving me feeling vulnerable and lost. I went back to college at age 37 to earn a BSLS, Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral degree. I earned my terminal degree at the age of 54. The journey through school was both rewarding and extremely frustrating.

One of the most frustrating elements of my education was encountering and fighting the widespread misogyny that exists in higher education. Allow me to give you an example: My husband, Stocky, and I attended the University of Montana at the same time and finished our doctorates in 2019. While I was met with obstructionists throughout my journey, Stocky was getting opportunities at every juncture. I finished my Ph.D. with a 4.0 GPA (he finished slightly lower, but he's still brilliant). However, I was not given one dime from my university while Stocky received funding throughout his graduate studies.

Doors shut in my face at every turn. Right before my dissertation defense, my male chairperson resigned off of my committee, leaving me hanging. It forced me to remain in school for another semester, delaying my ability to apply for jobs and secure employment. I truly believe they wanted me to quit, out of frustration. They tried to break me, but I'm unbreakable.

…But, what can we do about it? We speak up, but if we don't get support---how do we change things? What will make people change? How many women just throw up their hands and quit instead of continuing to fight? How do we wake-up America to make them care about women and women's issues?

I think it's important for people to understand that women face many obstacles, especially when attempting a "Comeback Career." To acknowledge that often not achieving our greatest goals is not for lack of trying or will, but more likely the fault of the toxic male-dominated era we live in. The future of women is at stake …

Amy Schmidt:

Six months before my 50th birthday, I had what Oprah calls an 'aha moment'. Now let's be honest, this flame was ignited in me was always there, as a flicker....But I simply woke up, looked in the mirror and said, "I haven't peaked yet, I'm just getting started".

For women at midlife there are so many changes, both physically and emotionally. They are needed in different ways, and their roles change and shift. My conversations with my friends were centered around a simple question, "Remember when" and "I'm just.” So that was all I needed to hear, and I knew it was my time to live and look forward, and certainly everything I had experienced to this point in my life, was all part of my journey, but you can't look back with Norman Rockwell-ish glasses and not continue to move forward.

I am not a celebrity, I've never been on a reality television show, but I am a woman on a mission to empower and encourage women over 40, 50, 60 and beyond to put their fears aside and take on this phase of life with confidence. I started my career in broadcast journalism and was ready to set the world on fire. My passion was writing and connecting people through stories. I got married, and started to reinvent myself over and over, as my husband's career took him on the leadership track. I embraced my role of traveling spouse. I chose to stay home and raise my children, and along that journey moved 11 times and lived in Germany with the family for six years. I continued to write my blog, submitted articles to online magazines, and of course, immersed myself in activities in the community, sitting on local boards, PTA and Booster President, Jr. League fundraising chair, you name it - I took it on. In Germany, I started coaching swimming at the high school level, which was something I knew a lot about given my experience as a collegiate athlete.

All of those pieces along the way, fit into my puzzle....

But now - it's my time. I decided to take my gifts and share them, continue learn, as a lifetime learning is vital as you age. Two of my children were off, out of the nest, and my baby....not far behind. After continually engaging in conversations with my peers about aging, and getting back into the work force, or dealing with the loss of parents, or relationships with their adult kids, I knew it was time to open the dialogue on these important parts of our journey at midlife and beyond.

I knew that one of the obstacles for me would be technology, so I signed up for course at the [Apple] Genius Bar, and when they saw me coming they might have wanted to turn around, but I continued to challenge myself and stay current. I launched my website with a blog, sharing my story, my journey with hopes that it would empower others to think differently and take action.

I researched and bought the equipment needed to launch a podcast, and using my gifts of networking and connections, I successfully launched Fearlessly Facing Fifty podcast. A weekly podcast that I host. My goal is simple - I share stories of incredible women and we dig deep into the conversations that need to take place. With their stories, and interviews with experts on women's health, grief, aging parents, returning to the work force, and so much more, these podcasts leave an imprint on the heart of the listeners and/ or inspire them to take action.

I am overwhelmed and excited with what has transpired as I launched my brand, Fearlessly Facing Fifty…

You're never too old and it's never too late…