From Soft Serve to Iron Lady

By | October 13, 2007


Are you thinking about changing careers? If so, you are in good company (more about that in a moment).

The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reports that the average worker makes more than three career changes during their working life. That’s career changes — not job changes. Careers can transcend many job changes, so the actual number of jobs can be much higher (I’ve heard estimates ranging from five to eight job changes during a working life).

Career changes can be risky, scary, and overwhelming — especially the older you get. Career changers may risk losing pace with their peers. They may lose benefits and compensation. They may discover that their new career is not as fulfilling as expected.

So why do people change careers? In a recent Yahoo! HotJobs article, Richard Bolles offers a theory:

“It’s not enough to keep busy. [People] want to have meaning in their lives and they want work to give them that meaning. [Many people] wake up one day and ask: ‘Is this all I was put on Earth to do?'”

People want to feel that they are doing something meaningful. That they are making a contribution. That they are doing what they were created to do.

Good company

So, now back to the “good company” I mentioned earlier. You may remember the Iron Lady, the nickname given to former British Prime Minister Lady Margaret Thatcher. She was the first female and one of the longest-serving prime ministers in British history. She is credited by Ronald Reagan as being instrumental in ending the Cold War. She is among the 20 most admired people of the 20th century, according to Gallup polling. She was voted fifth on the “Greatest Heroes of Our Time” list by The New Statesman. And on and on. As political leader, Margaret Thatcher found her passion and life’s calling.

But what you may not know about Margaret Thatcher is that she was once an ordinary research chemist toiling away at J. Lyons and Company, where she was part of the team that researched methods for preserving ice cream and developed the first soft frozen ice cream (i.e. soft serve). Before she was the Iron Lady, she was the queen of soft serve.

Not a bad career transition.