How to Change Careers over 50 with John Tarnoff

5 Minutes Read

Episode 75

John Tarnoff joins me today to dive into how to change careers at 50 or older. He is an executive and career transition coach, speaker, and author who supports mid and late-career professionals in defining, planning, and achieving more meaningful and sustainable careers.

Breakthrough Executive & Career Transition Coach and Career Strategist for Mid-Late Career Professionals. I specialize in helping clients develop sustainable, meaningful and purposeful careers, including second-act careers beyond traditional retirement.

Johns says, “Stop chasing open positions and start building relationships.”

If as many as 80% of open positions are filled through referrals, don’t you want to be the person who gets a personal introduction and recommendation to the hiring manager or recruiter?

Don’t miss this episode!

Three reasons why you should listen to the full Episode if you are wondering how to change careers at 50:

  • Learn how to overcome setbacks and turn them into successes.
  • Getting fired is not shameful; it’s an opportunity.
  • The three steps to reinventing your career.


Episode Highlights

Who is John Tarnoff

    • Author of Boomer Reinvention: How to create your dream career over 50.
    • He is also an executive, career transition coach and speaker.
    • He worked in film entertainment for over 35 years and was fired 39% of the time.
    • He reinvented himself at 50, earning a master’s degree in counseling psychology.

Multigenerational appeal

    • While John started focusing on his cohort being baby boomers, he soon discovered that his message resonated across multiple generations.
    • The conversation around starting, stopping, pivoting and failing applies no matter what age you are

No one talks about being fired

    • In our conventional mindset, we believe that being fired is shameful.
    • John says that there is opportunity in being fired; it’s not shameful, nor is it fatal.
    • It’s all about finding the right fit.

Not knowing where to start

    • Starting is the toughest part. It’s making a commitment and diving into the unknown.
    • Psychology tells us that we are fight-or-flight creatures.
    • We have an innate resistance to change.

Habit building helps us with change

    • Most of us grew up with a mindset that we were unable to change once we were adults.
    • A process called neuroplasticity indicates that we can change our minds on a physical level.
    • The best way to condition yourself is by starting small.

Getting fired doesn’t get easier

    • You need to stop blaming yourself, accept it and move on. It’s part of the recovery process.
    • You can look at things positively or negatively. It’s about reframing the mind.
    • Although you may be feeling lousy, make a mental effort to put these feelings aside and think about the next step.

What is the next step?

    • It's not to revise your resume.
    • t’s not to look at job postings.
    • The real next step is to be reflective.
    • Start a list of pros, cons, and what was fun about the job you just left.

The Three-Step Framework

    • Value proposition – What’s the usefulness of the work that you do? What value do you provide? What problem do you solve?
    • Message – How do you deliver this message? How do you talk about your value in a way that is authentic, persuasive, and enthusiastic?
    • Network – This is the most important element. People need to stop chasing open positions and start chasing relationships instead.

Success and failure

    • John has always been an early adopter when it came to technology and multimedia.
    • He came up with an idea for an interactive animated character with artificial intelligence.
    • He started a company that raised millions of dollars in the bubble.
    • When the bubble collapsed, so did they.

Should you change careers at 50 by going back to school?

    • John needed to figure something out, and he couldn’t go back to the movie business.
    • At 50, he decided to go back to school at the University of Santa Monica.
    • He enrolled in a counseling psychology program.

John’s outlook changed

    • Counseling, psychology and philosophy are based on taking 100% personal responsibility.
    • Using self-forgiveness as the primary vehicle for healing and change.
    • John’s interest changed from the development of movies to people and their stories.

The Pivot

    • John landed back in the business at DreamWorks Animation.
    • This time around, he was in a people role, not a production role.
    • He says it was a phenomenal job where he was able to grow the human capital at DreamWorks.

Leaving DreamWorks

    • John left DreamWorks because it was no longer a good fit.
    • He went to them and asked whether there was anything left for him to do, and they said no.
    • Although he had revolutionized entirely how they deal with their staff, they were going in a different direction.
    • They parted ways on great terms, and John went on to pursue coaching and training.

There’s magic in networking

    • Applying for jobs online is not the way to get a job.
    • People need to stop chasing open positions and start chasing relationships.
    • This way, you can leverage your network of like-minded people to help you in your career transition.

The hidden job market

    • Some would say that this is where 90% of hiring takes place.
    • Businesses run through referrals and internal promotions. This is where you want to be.
    • People should come to you as the person who can help them solve a problem.
    • There may not be a job posted, but one can be created. This is how John got his job at DreamWorks.

They don’t hire skills; they hire people

    • Keeping your skills updated is important, but it’s not the solution.
    • People are hired to be a good fit for the organization and the team.
    • Soft skills are equally or more important than technical skills and should not be underestimated as part of your value proposition.

Being overqualified

    • Don't undermine and undervalue what has brought you to where you are.
    • Just because you can do the job doesn’t mean that you should or that you’re the best fit.
    • If you’re applying for a job that you just got let go of, you’re overqualified.
    • Take a step back and figure out what problem you solve and what you actually can provide.

How does Jon want to be remembered?

    • He wants to be remembered as being a great listener.

3 Powerful Quotes from this Episode

Find your best fit
9:16 – “Getting fired is not shameful, it’s not fatal. In a world that’s moving fast, it’s just about fit. You just need to find your best fit.”

21:10 -“I think kind of the key points of the framework for me start with the value proposition, message, and network. So if you think about the flow, what you want to be able to do is, define what you do. What’s the usefulness that you provide in the work that you do? What’s that value that you can narrow down? And then how do you message that? How do you talk about that? How can you describe this in an authentic, persuasive, enthusiastic way and communicate to others? What exactly is the value that you provide?”

29:27 – “You got to stop chasing open positions and start pursuing relationships. And you have to start chasing relationships while you still have a job. So that when you need another job, or you want to change the job, you’re into a better one. You have your referral network of like-minded connections to help you make that transition. And that’s where the magic happens is in the network.”

About John Tarnoff

John Tarnoff is an executive and career transition coach, speaker, and author who supports mid and late-career professionals in defining, planning, and achieving more meaningful and sustainable careers.

Fired 39% of the time during his 35 years as a film producer, studio executive and tech entrepreneur, he learned to turn setbacks into successes in a volatile business. He reinvented his career at 50, earning a master’s degree in counseling psychology to share his career lessons with others going through similar challenges.

Since leaving entertainment in 2010, John has coached individuals and groups and led career workshops for university alumni, including UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Corporate coaching clients have included Bank of America, Bridgewater Assoc., Levi-Strauss, Softbank, TD Ameritrade, and Thrive Global.

His book, “Boomer Reinvention: How to Create Your Dream Career Over 50,” launched on CBS This Morning in 2017 and became an instant Amazon #1 bestseller. The book continues to support older career seekers through a clear, practical methodology. It outlines 5 steps and 23 strategies to successfully recover from losing a job, strategize a re-entry into the workforce, or develop a plan to start a new business.

Connect with John

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Darrell Evans

Darrell Evans is a serial entrepreneur, investor, and Co-founder/CEO of Yokel Local Digital Marketing Agency. He and his teams have helped businesses generate over $300M+ in revenue online. Every month, he leads virtual workshops teaching actionable strategies and tips from his experience helping companies market, grow and scale. To attend an upcoming workshop, click here =>