07 Aug Second Act Career Interview: Susan and Larry Yarrington
Many older Americans are venturing into new fields of work. According to AARP.org, “one study shows that 40 percent of people working at age 62 had changed careers since they turned 55.”
Susan Yarrington, 69, and her husband, Larry, 77, are a delightful couple who both embarked on “second act careers.” They were kind enough to fill me in on their experiences and offer some words of advice for others who are looking to make a change.
Her First Career:
Susan worked as a health and physical education teacher for twenty years in the suburbs of Chicago. She enjoyed working with kids and helping people.
Motivated by a desire to help even more, Susan went back to school part-time to study clinical counseling. After earning her Masters degree, she left education to become a full-time therapist at a multi-staffed agency. In 2000, at the age of 51, Susan opened her own counseling center, where she served as both lead counselor and executive director. She missed education but enjoyed her new career.
In Susan’s words, “Probably about five years into that career, I had to work through some disillusionment realizing that people say they want to change…but actually, change is hard… I had to accept that I could do less than I thought I could… That meant some people I could help and other people I was not able to… I had to adjust my own expectations.”
How She Spends Her Days:
In 2014, Susan and Larry moved to the mountains of Colorado. Susan retired from counseling in March and works part-time as a life coach (which is similar to being a counselor). She also works part-time at a gift shop in Estes Park and helps her daughter with her new home. You can check out Susan’s website here.
“After 50, you have to be really passionate and persevering… to eventually find success.”
His First Career:
Larry worked as Vice President of Operations for the Northrupt Corporation, designing and making electronics for military aircraft. It was “a great time to be in that industry because everything was getting smaller… Electronics and TVs were getting smaller in some ways and the screens were getting bigger.”
At 50, Larry ended his work with Northrupt and became a minister in the prison system. Larry said, “I’d been doing some volunteer activity in the prisons for probably 15 years…I decided to take it to the next level and join Prison Fellowship… I liked it a lot. It gave me probably the greatest sense of purpose in all the jobs I ever had and felt I was really making an impact in other people’s lives.” At the age of 63, he changed careers again and became a professor of physics and mathematics at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Illinois.
How He Spends His Days:
Larry works part time as an adjunct professor at Front Range Community College. “It keeps my head in the game. If you settle down and don’t keep your brain active, it tends to dry up just like muscles.” He added that his life in the mountains has a nice balance. He and Susan love to hike and go to Snowshoe.
“(If you’re thinking about) changing gears post 50 years old, you really want to know people in whatever profession… you want to go into. It’s very difficult to make the change. The resume just doesn’t sell in the same way it did when you were thirty… (You) really need to start getting to know people in the new field (you’re) interested in. They’ll take a chance on you if they know you. Volunteering gave me some natural contacts.”
I don’t know about you, but I really appreciate Susan and Larry’s candor. They don’t sugar-coat the challenges of switching careers later in life– but they do set inspiring examples and show us how it’s done!