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Famous career transitions: 6 real-life lessons for employers

Real-life lessons for employers include recognizing the value of diverse experiences and transferable skills, nurturing nascent capabilities, looking beyond a candidate's current role, being aware of hiring bias, and appreciating the potential for individuals to excel in multiple fields. These insights can guide effective talent acquisition and management.

Keith MacKenzie
Keith MacKenzie

Passionate about human resources, employment, and business management, and an expert at sharing that expertise.

Did you know Harrison Ford was a carpenter before he landed the role that made him famous? If you did, then you’ve been paying attention. Not everyone needs to have the perfect applicable background for a new job – sometimes, candidates of an entirely different ilk could turn out to be the perfect hire that crushes it in their new role.

As a hiring manager or recruiter, sometimes you can struggle in finding top candidates to fill your open positions. That does happen. One way to overcome this is to be more flexible in what you’re looking for in a perfect new hire.

One area to rethink is the required background and qualifications for a new job in your company. If you’re looking to hire a marketing manager, you’ll naturally want someone who’s well-versed in marketing and has the skills needed to succeed in marketing, which is fair. But then, you also require three to five years of experience in a similar role or even master’s in marketing.

That’s fair. But then, you go down the road of requiring five years of previous experience in a similar role or an MA in marketing. That’s where you might run into problems finding candidates.

Consider switching up your game. Maybe a candidate doesn’t have that specific marketing expertise you’re looking for, but they’ve built skills that are very much transferable to the role.

For inspiration, let’s look at famous people and their own career transitions. Here are some great examples:

1. Jason Statham was a competitive diver

Yes, the badass Englishman from Snatch, The Transporter, and several Fast & Furious films was at one time a competitive diver – even participating in the Commonwealth Games in 1990. He also has kickboxing and modeling in his resume.

It’s an example of Statham’s versatility and ability to succeed in different areas – meaning, you could task him with a project and he’d likely crush it no matter what.

 

2. Pat McAfee kicked off for a $120M podcasting deal

Pro Bowl punter/kicker Pat McAfee notoriously retired from the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts for a job as a contributor for Barstool Sports. Despite fans’ pleas for him to come out of retirement – and to be fair, he was pretty good at his job – he stayed on as a podcaster. The result? A $120 million deal with FanDuel in December 2021.

McAfee has said that it was injuries that led to the end of his NFL career. But one might suggest that he was more interested in podcasting and content creation than he was kicking a ball. And Barstool Sports was smart enough to recognize those nascent capabilities. There’s still one thing that ties it all together: sports.

3. Jerry Springer was once a city mayor

Yes, that Jerry Springer. He’s taken a few sharp career turns, most notoriously becoming one of the most successful of trash TV emcees as host of The Jerry Springer Show.

But before his most famous career accomplishment, he was in municipal politics in Cincinnati, even becoming mayor of the city for one year in 1977. And he was a seven-time Emmy Award winner for his work in broadcast journalism for a local Cincinnati TV station.

The point? Springer doesn’t become one of the most infamous TV show hosts in history without a foundational skill set that lends naturally to bringing organic commentary and interaction out of people. Call it lowbrow TV if you will, but it does take talent to create the kind of dramatic TV that he’s known for.

4. Hedy Lamarr did big screen and big tech

You’re probably reading this article using Wi-Fi technology. You’ve probably got some Bluetooth hooked up somewhere in your life – be it the kitchen speaker or your earbuds. The foundation for that technology dates back to the patented invention of one Hedy Lamarr of silver screen fame.

It’s no longer as big of a secret as it was in past times, but while Lamarr was a Hollywood A-lister, she was far more interested in tech gimmickry and innovations from a young age. Film director Howard Hughes recognized this and supported her by taking her to his airplane factories and providing her with equipment to work on between shoots.

Next thing you know, she was working with the US military and devised a new communications system that involved frequency hopping – setting the groundwork for what we use in present day.

That candidate or employee in your midst may have a resume, but perhaps they’re also working on something behind the scenes or in their “side gig” that might end up becoming the perfect solution to a skills gap in your organization.

And there’s also a powerful message in here about hiring bias – for all of her silver screen successes, she struggled in getting recognized for her other talents.

5. … and Gisele doesn’t just walk the catwalk either

Most know Gisele Bundchen as one of the biggest supermodels in the world. Football fans know her as the now-ex wife of one of the great quarterbacks of all time, Tom Brady. She pulls in an estimated $40 million annually for her work; in other words, she’s very successful at what she does.

But did you know she’s also a special advisor to DraftKings CEO Jason Robins and the company’s board of directors? She’s advising on environmental, social and governance matters in the company – a crucial element of your company brand both as an employer and as a product or service.

An easy mistake would be to assume that she’s just wielding her star power for good. In fact, she’s fully qualified for the job, with more than two decades of social and environmental work in her native Brazil, including female empowerment, clean water, and anti-hunger initiatives.

The lesson here for employers is similar to that of Lamarr: one’s most prominent career trajectory isn’t necessarily their only one. There may be more going on behind the scenes that you won’t know about unless you ask.

6. David Simon is all in the game

If you’re a fan of The Wire, you know his name well as the showrunner for what many call the greatest TV series of all time. Simon plied his trade as a crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun newspaper – which laid the groundwork for his scripts for the TV series which is all about, you guessed it, crime and corruption and everything else in Baltimore.

It’s a fascinating world to get into, but there are two lessons for employers here. First, transferable skills: being highly skilled at writing, editing, and storytelling during his reporting days, Simon had already built the groundwork to take his career in another, fresh direction in a wholly different industry – that of entertainment.

The second lesson for employers is that whatever his skill set, he had first-hand exposure to a world that proved crucial to his success as a TV storyteller. He saw the inner workings of police, the drug trade, political processes, and of course, the newsroom itself – which made him more than qualified to write stories around those themes.

Open your hiring mind

There are so many other examples, of course. But you get the point. We’ll leave you with this scenario: let’s say you’re looking for a marketing manager and your company is in the fashion industry. You come across a candidate who worked as a fashion designer for eight years and is looking for a career change.

They may not have the five years of marketing background you ideally are looking for – but those eight years of direct exposure and immersion in the industry shows their passion for the area.

Consider hiring them and upskilling them on those important marketing skills, and you may have a winner in your midst. Not everyone has to perfectly fit your bill – expand your horizons, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Wait – what about Harrison Ford?

And finally, you may be wondering: What ultimately led to Harrison Ford getting his acting opportunity? Well, he was building a portico entrance leading into Francis Ford Coppola’s office, when he caught the eye of George Lucas who was looking for actors for a little movie called Star Wars.

As the story goes, Ford and Coppola had already worked together on American Graffiti some years earlier and Ford was just biding his time in carpentry to make ends meet until his next acting gig. It’s pretty clear that Ford is an actor at heart, not a carpenter.

Your takeaway: maybe your candidate’s resume isn’t what you should be evaluating. You can also look at their ability and drive to do the job you’re hiring for. Who knows – you may find your very own Indiana Jones!

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