Have you been wondering if now is the right time for a mid-life career change? One of our members asked me:
“What do I do now? I’ve been in the same job since graduating. I’m now in my mid 40s. I’ve been successful in my chosen career path, but lately I’ve lost my enthusiasm for the job. I know I’m ready for a career change but I’m hesitant to rock the boat at this point in life with kids underfoot and a mortgage to pay for. At the same time, I just can’t see myself doing the same thing for another 10 or 20 years either. I feel stuck. I don’t even know what else I should consider doing. What’s the best career advice can you give me?”
A mid-life career change can seem particularly risky.
You don’t want to lose what you’ve already created, you may have children to look after, a chunky mortgage and you may feel locked into lifestyle choices that you are now reluctant to give up. Going back to school or retraining for a different career may be difficult if you have young children clamoring for your attention, leaving precious little spare time for you to embark on a course of study or to start a new business.
At the same time, you think, “If I’m feeling this bored now, how bad will it be when I’m 50? Can I really keep doing the same thing for another decade or two?”
A career change in your 20’s may have been exciting pre-mortgage and kids. But a mid-life career change now feels risky. After all, what if you start a new career only to find you are equally bored in a few more years?
What can you do to minimize the very real risks of a mid-life career change? How can you ensure that you are making the best choice for maximum happiness?
To start, make sure you are making the best career choice. In your 20’s you can make mistakes, jump fields, go back to school with greater ease. But in your 40’s it is harder because you’ve further established yourself in a particular field or industry. Your resume may say one thing, while you want to do something completely different. Amazingly you can get pegged into a field or career quite quickly in life. I had only been in banking seven years when I was ready for something different. However, recruiters would only send me to more financial institutions since that was my only experience. I felt trapped already at the tender age of 28!
There are five key steps to finding that happy career.
First, the career that is most likely to make you happiest will make full use of your natural talents and abilities. How do you know what you are naturally designed to do?
It used to be a matter of trial and error and a bit of luck to land a fulfilling career. Now, thankfully, we have the latest technology for testing so that you don’t have to guess. You can find out exactly what your hard-wired abilities are even if you’ve never had the experience. We can test for musical ability even if you’ve never touched an instrument in your life.
More often than not, if you have a natural ability and aren’t using that talent, you are very likely to feel dissatisfied and unhappy. Abilities are meant to be used, not kept on a shelf and dusted off occasionally. One of the career assessment tests we use in the Career Change Kit is specifically designed to help you clearly see what your natural talents and abilities are.
Most people think that it should be obvious to spot a natural talent, but the fact is, it isn’t always obvious. Even your closest friends and colleagues may not know what you do best. So please don’t think that you should know this stuff. We can go through our whole lives without expressing our natural talents and not even realize what we were missing — a fully preventable tragedy. This is why I always encourage my clients to take these career tests so we don’t miss anything and can uncover any hidden talents.
Second, the ideal career is also a match for your core values. Your core values are what is most important to you (i.e., travel and adventure, lead and inspire others, play and have fun, design or build, teach or plan). Your values are your passions—the things you’d do even if you didn’t get paid—simply because they add joy to your life.
Third, make sure your ideal career is a match for your personal style. An introvert will never feel entirely at ease in a sales job requiring constant contact with people all day and lots of socializing. Likewise, an extrovert could slip into malaise if required to work alone in a back office all day or even alone at home all day. Extroverts get energized from other people and from events, while introverts recharge alone.
Fourth, your ideal career will align with your hidden motivators or drivers. Do you know what drives you to make the choices you do? Are you motivated by money, power, influence, beauty, harmony, helping others or the quest for truth and knowledge? You’ll be happiest in a career that works with your inner motivations.
Fifth, once you’ve identified your core values and natural talents, you can start experimenting with them. Take a course that would develop one of your top abilities. Design a values-based project that would express one or two of your core values. The more you can test the waters before actually taking the job, the more secure and confident you’ll feel about making this career transition at any age.
These are just a few of the steps along the way to an ideal career, but all of them are important to happiness at work. If you don’t know yourself well, it is surprisingly difficult to make the best career choice. The good news is that you don’t have to struggle to figure all this stuff out. You can use the most sophisticated career assessment tests to make this transition to the ideal career as easy as possible.
If you’d like to learn more about the career assessment tests in our Career Change Kit, click here.
You might also enjoy my book, Coach Yourself to a New Career, which is chock full of exercises to help you identify the work you’ll love!