3 Inspiring professionals who prove a midlife career change is possible
James I. Manning, Jacinta Aernan, Scott Jaeggi
People choose to change careers for a number of different reasons. Some have spent years in one industry before getting the inevitable itch to try something new. Others may become unable to fulfill the physical demands of their former career and shift to an alternative role. And there are even individuals who reach retirement in one career, such as serving in the military, and then feel inspired to transition to something different.
Whatever your reason for considering a midlife career change, it can be intimidating. Shifting to an entirely new occupation may mean you’ll have to slowly work your way up to the same level of seniority you achieved in your former industry.
But before you declare that it’s too late for you to shift your career trajectory, consider the stories of these three Brandman University alumni. They each found that going back to school was the key to a successful career change.
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3 Brandman University alumni who found success with a midlife career change
1. The police officer and Army veteran turned state senator
James I. Manning worked as a police officer before enlisting in the U.S. Army. His initial plan was to serve three years of active duty followed by three years in the Army Reserves. “Twenty-four years and three months later, I retired,” he quips.
During his time in the Army, Manning began thinking of how he could work for his soldiers instead of thinking about how they worked for him. This led to many successful missions, but he didn’t want his impact to end there. After retiring from the Army, Manning used his leadership experience and organizational skills to inspire young college students as an adjunct professor. He later chose to head back to school himself to earn a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Brandman University.
“I would recommend Brandman for a quality education to anyone,” Manning maintains. “I know the faculty is absolutely committed to a quality education. They’ll make sure you get what you’re coming for — the knowledge you need.”
After earning his master’s degree, Manning gained experience working as commissioner on the Eugene Water and Electric Board and serving as president of numerous local foundations. Eventually, he came upon an opportunity to impact his community on a much larger scale. Manning, whose platform prioritizes education, successfully ran for a position in the Oregon State Senate and was appointed in 2017.
“Oregon is 47th out of 50 in the nation for high school graduation rates. We do a disservice to ourselves and to future generations if we don’t provide more opportunities,” Manning says. “I was one of those children. I came from a very challenging background. I was homeless at times, without shoes on my feet. I know what it’s like to struggle.”
He plans to use that same service model he developed in the Army while working with his constituents as a senator. “It’s not about me,” Manning notes. “It’s about serving the people.”
2. The diplomat turned nurse
As a young girl growing up in Nigeria, Jacinta Aernan knew she wanted to become a nurse like her father. “I was always fascinated by how he helped treat people and how their faces would light up when he finished or spoke softly to them while he was treating them,” she says. “All I wanted was to be like him.”
But things shifted as Aernan got older. After earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in humanities, she found herself working as a diplomat in Nigeria. During this early stage in her career, Aernan never felt truly fulfilled.
“I was not very satisfied with what I was doing, even though I loved it,” she recalls. “I began wondering what my purpose really was.”
Aernan eventually decided to volunteer at a hospital, where she discovered the sense of passion she’d been seeking. After going back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, Aernan moved to the United States and worked as registered nurse for a community hospital in San Bernardino, California. Even with all she’s accomplished thus far, Aernan has big goals.
“I know that I have only scratched the surface of nursing, and an advanced degree will give me the opportunity to learn and explore more ways to help people,” she explains. This is why she chose to go back to school to earn her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Brandman University. Aernan has also started thinking about focusing on issues close to home.
“I feel the urge and the need to look into the mental health situation in Africa — Nigeria in particular,” she says. Her goals are to find sustainable ways to provide better care for patients with mental illness, to advocate for people with mental illness and to focus research on how mental health relates to diabolic practices in Nigeria.
3. The firefighter turned educator
Scott Jaeggi spent 15 years serving his community as a firefighter before a career-ending injury forced him to reevaluate his professional options. While it originally felt like a devastating blow, Jaeggi was eventually able to take what he’d learned in his career and use it to ignite students’ minds.
He first transitioned to teaching part-time at Rio Hondo College’s Fire Academy while balancing work as a fire inspector with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Before long, Jaeggi’s love for teaching grew — but he was at a standstill with his career options.
“I reached a point in my career and life where I wasn’t able to move forward without obtaining a bachelor’s degree,” he recounts.
It was at this time that Jaeggi chose to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Studies at Brandman University. The program allowed him to build upon his existing technical skills with a robust interdisciplinary curriculum. Jaeggi was able to transition to a full-time teaching position after earning his degree in 2014. Furthering his education has also opened the door to promotion opportunities.
“I wanted to get to the director level where it’s easier to collaborate and make a positive impact on programs,” Jaeggi explains. “I couldn’t do that without my Brandman degree.” In addition to teaching full-time, he also now serves as the Battalion Chief at the Morongo Valley Fire Department.
A midlife career change could be in your future
If you’ve found yourself daydreaming about the possibility of pursuing a new venture, let our three alumni stories serve as the reminder you need that a successful midlife career change is possible. And choosing a quality school like Brandman University to further your education can help you make it happen.
Before you take the plunge and commit to a new career path, carefully consider all aspects of the potential shift. Learn more by visiting our article “6 Things to consider before making a career transition.”
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