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Seven Famous Career Switchers

Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com Editor

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So great is the number of celebrities who try to make the transition between movies and music or modeling and acting that the trend has become somewhat of a Hollywood cliché -- and often the source of mockery (we're looking at you, Mariah Carey).  Some public figures, however, take the career-switching road less traveled on their way to stardom. 

The following well-knowns relied on skills from their previous education and experience -- not their famous names or connections -- to carve out successful second careers for themselves.    

Ben Stein
Despite a prestigious background in law, journalism and politics, Stein will probably most be remembered for famously droning "Bueller...Bueller...Bueller."  After graduating first in his class from Yale Law School in 1970, Stein went on to work as an attorney, a professor, a speechwriter for Presidents Ford and Nixon, and a Wall Street Journal columnist before finally moving to Hollywood to pursue screenwriting.  There, he met John Hughes, who cast him in the 1986 film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and became an instant star.  His credits include numerous film and TV appearances, and host of the cable shows "Win Ben Stein's Money" and "Turn Ben Stein On."  Today, you can see him on "America's Most Smartest Model."

Martha Stewart
Stewart left her successful career as a stockbroker when recession hit Wall Street in 1973.  After relocating to Connecticut a few years later, she started a catering business with a friend.  Eventually, she went solo with the business, and, within 10 years, it had become a $1 million enterprise.  Today, she heads Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, an empire that includes Martha Stewart Living magazine, a home and gardening product line sold by Kmart, a television show, dozens of books and various media appearances.

Christina Perrin
Fashion designer Perrin began her career in management consulting and marketing. But in the mid-'90s, she moved from Chicago to New York to pursue her long-time love: Fashion.  Luckily, her business background helped her market her fashion line, and by spring of 1999, she was holding her first fashion show.  Less than a decade later, she is a household name in the fashion industry, and her celebrity clients include Cate Blanchett, Charlize Theron and Faith Hill.

Jerry Springer
Before the nation knew him as the host of the nationally-syndicated "Jerry Springer Show," residents of Cincinnati knew Springer as "Mr. Mayor."  Springer served as a city councilman and then as mayor in the '70s, before he made the transition from politics to journalism as a news anchor and radio personality in the '80s.  Now a household name, thanks to his infamous talk show as well as various film and TV appearances, Springer is still active in politics, serving as a Democratic fund-raiser and political commentator.

John Grisham
John Grisham's background as a lawyer and Mississippi state representative became the foundation for a second career as a fiction writer.  The inspiration for what would be his first novel, "A Time to Kill," came to him while he was observing a Mississippi court case. The book was hardly a success, but Grisham decided he preferred the freedom literature afforded him over the routine of practicing law.  Soon after he closed his practice to concentrate on writing, his second novel, "The Firm," became a bestseller and the basis for a hit movie.  Grisham went on to have similar experiences with many of his subsequent efforts, including "The Pelican Brief," "The Client" and "The Runaway Jury."

Janet Robinson
Often ranked as one of Forbes Magazine's most powerful women in media, Robinson has come a long way since her days as a public school teacher.  In 1983, Robinson left behind a decade-long teaching career to take a sales management position with The New York Times Company, where today she holds the position of chief executive officer.  Robinson, whose proven ability to accelerate advertising and circulation revenue growth helped her climb into the top ranks at the multi-billion dollar corporation, is living proof that determination and hard work can literally pay off.

Alton Brown
The Food Network star spent a decade working behind the camera as a cinematographer and video director before deciding that he'd rather be in front of it.  Convinced he could create an alternative to the boring cooking shows he saw on TV, Brown enrolled in the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vt. After completing his training, he then utilized his film industry knowledge to create "Good Eats," an off-beat cooking show that he now writes, produces and stars in.


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Last Updated: 12/11/2007 - 11:59 AM


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