Careers Are Sometimes Made - Not Born

By: Francine Silverman


I’ve always been interested in the early lives of famous people. Did they know what they wanted to do when they were children?

My guess is that actors, artists and athletes have an inkling where they are heading even if they have to struggle to get there. But what of those without visible talent who nonetheless become household names?

Some well-known radio personalities are classic examples of folks who started life without a clue that they would land up in broadcasting.

Sean Hannity, one of the most recognizable voices of American conservatives, did not start off life as a radio host. He grew up on Long Island, dropped out of college and worked as house painter in Rhode Island in 1982. Five years later, he was living in Santa Barbara, Ca and working as a house contractor. It was the time of the Iran Contra affair and he was mesmerized by the news. He would call radio shows in support of the Reagan administration’s actions and noticed that other people who called in would respond to him and not the on-air host. That’s when he realized it was time for a career change.

Garrison Keillor was initially a slow reader but after developing a knack for reading, he couldn’t stop. He also loved to write and was determined to become a professional writer. The only reason he detoured into radio was because when he got out of college it was a better way to make a living.

Diane Sawyer grew up in Kentucky in the shadow of her talented older sister. Diane was an insecure loner who spent her time reading Emerson and Thoreau. After graduating Wellesley as an English major, she returned to Louisville and talked her way into a job as a “weather girl” at a local ABC affiliate. Thinking that her lack of meteorological expertise made her extraordinarily boring, she attempted to enliven her reports by quoting from appropriate poems. It was this initiative and composure that earned her a promotion to full-time correspondent.

Even Ross Perot didn’t know he would become a billionaire. It wasn’t his dream or his goal. In fact, even in later years, he said that he was most proud to have made Eagle Scout. Perot grew up in Texas and early on showed a flair for selling. But he loved the sea and after high school enrolled in Annapolis where he was a middling student.

Still, he loved the Navy and while aboard ship, an executive from IBM invited him to look him up after his discharge. He did and was working at a desk job when he read Thoreau’s quote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” and made up his mind to quit and strike out on his own.

These examples illustrate two points:

(1)   That careers are sometimes made through a fluke or good timing.
(2)  That it’s so important to put yourself out there because you never know who will notice you and help change the direction of your life.

© 2006 by Francine Silverman. All Rights Reserved.

Francine Silverman is author of Book Marketing from A-Z (Infinity Publishing 2005) and publisher of Book Promotion Newsletter. http://www.bookpromotionnewsletter.com