Dennis Smith had a law degree before he took a job as news director. Keller Watts worked in a medical lab before switching to meteorology. And Walt Grayson was an ordained Baptist minister before he became a full-time weatherman.
Smith, Watts and Grayson, all three employees of WLBT-TV, the NBC affiliate in Jackson, are among a growing number of mid-life career hoppers whose career paths have been marked by twists and turns.
“Television is, no doubt, an exciting field,” said Dan Modisett, general manager of WLBT-TV. “No two days are ever the same. There’s not a routine. Especially in the news department, you’re going to learn something new every day. And you feel like you’re making a contribution by informing, sometimes alerting, people. Plus, there’s instant gratification where you can produce a product for thousands of people to see immediately.”
Connie Rhodes, vice president of Jackson Temporaries, said one reason people often switch careers in midlife is because they desire the flexibility they do not have in their current careers.
“They’re older, they want to spend time with their families, and they’re looking for a way to do that,” Rhodes said. “They often associate a career change with a way to achieve that goal.”
Another reason? Job burnout, she said.
“People sometimes get tired of doing the same thing over and over,” she said. “They want to try something different.”
In the case of Channel 3 morning co-anchor Jack Hobbs, he’s had dual careers since 1975. After he wraps up the morning show at 7 a.m., Hobbs heads to his job in marketing and advertising for Army recruitment. Paul Williams, morning meteorologist, pastors at Tinnin Road Church of Christ. Even TV 3, Inc. president and CEO Frank Melton started out as a social worker.
“The mental hospital that Frank worked at in college was next to a TV station,” said Dan Modisett, general manager of WLBT-TV. “After he finished his work at the hospital, he’d hang around the station and that’s how he got his start in television. But he never lost his zeal for social work.”
Many times, when people switch careers, they make less money, said Tracy Hodges, manager of the professional and technical division of ExecuStaff in Jackson.
“You might think that someone middle age, well rounded and with more experience, maybe in accounting or management, and with technical training added to their r