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Why I Left a Successful Law Career to Work in Senior Living – and Never Looked Back Featured

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I often tell people I’ve never had a bad day at work. That’s how they know I’m not a lawyer. And yet, that’s exactly how I started my career. Looking back, I can recognize that while becoming a lawyer was a great start, for me, it was just that: a start.

I first met the founder and CEO of a retirement community when I was visiting with him hoping to get his company as a client for my law practice. Instead, he got me as an employee.

Listening to him talk with passion and purpose about helping seniors age well, I was confronted with the realization that his work life sounded more engaging, purposeful, and even fun, than mine. On a whim I asked about going to work for him and he hired me. I took a pay cut, moved from Chicago to Baltimore, and began my career in senior living. It turned out to the best professional decision I ever made.

I suspect that many of us will at some point dream of a career change. Let me assure you that it can be easier than you think and more rewarding than you can imagine.

Embrace a less linear career path

As anyone in business can tell you, careers today are not linear. Many of our parents and grandparents worked for one or two companies for their entire careers.

Research tells us that current generations can expect to change jobs and companies seven times in the course of their careers.

Even so, to transition to a different career, and do so abruptly, can be daunting for a host of reasons. When I left my legal practice, I was intimidated by the uncertainty of success or a defined career path but I believed in my decision and embraced the change.

Sometimes you need to take a chance when you see it, if your gut tells you it is the right thing to do. Your experience is probably speaking to you in your gut reaction and, if it turns out wrong, very few decisions are irreversible or uncorrectable.

Switching careers doesn’t mean you’re starting over

A common apprehension for people switching careers is the feeling that all the experience they have in one profession will be going to waste. Essentially, we feel as if we’re starting over.

Almost all skills, even those that seem most highly specialized, have components that allow for creative and successful deployment in different channels.While it may not be clear at the time, professional experience in any industry carries over into your next opportunity. For people hesitating to make a career change, nothing is definite but listening to your instincts might pay off in ways you never even thought possible.

What I’ve found is most people are pleasantly surprised when they make a career change and realize just how much of their past professional experience is applicable to a new industry.

No risk, no reward

If you are happy and engaged with where you are, recognize it and celebrate it. I took a chance and I thrived, not because I became a CEO, but because I gave my working career to a cause I loved working with and for people I respect and admire. I took a chance by listening to my gut and since then, I’ve never had a bad day at work. I hope you can say the same. 

As president and chief executive officer, John Cochrane is responsible for the strategic direction of the company, overseeing operations and serving as the primary liaison to the HumanGood Board of Directors. Cochrane served as president and CEO of prior to the company’s affiliation with ABHOW. Before joining, Cochrane worked for Lifespace Communities, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, where he served as chief operating officer overseeing 11 retirement communities in seven states. Cochrane previously worked as a practicing attorney specializing in real estate and finance, and as executive director of the $150-million retirement community Oak Crest Village in Catonsville, Maryland. He has his law degree from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northern Illinois University.

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