Changing Careers in Midlife
By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC
Midlife is a lot like being a teenager again—only with more wisdom. We may not stay out all night and run with a wild crowd, but many in their 40s and 50s experience the same restlessness and yearning for change. We’re still asking questions about what we want to be when we grow up, but the questions are deeper, more profound. This time we won’t settle for less than what makes us truly happy.
This is especially true for the work we do. Yes, we want to pay the bills, support a family, save for old age. But, many of us now want our work to be meaningful and make a difference. We ask ourselves if not now, then when? What better time to act on those unfulfilled dreams? Work is one of the most profound ways we live our true selves, and now is the time to start doing that.
Yet, it can seem as if there’s a chasm between the knowing and the doing. We know something’s not right with our job or career path, but we tell ourselves to live with it. We set goals but feel too overwhelmed with daily life to try something new. We worry that to make a change to follow a dream would be selfish, especially if it means a loss of income, or upsets our family and friends.
In fact, every person living out his or her dreams gives a gift to the world—a gift because it inspires others to do the same.
“We often hesitate to follow our hearts, to grow, because of perceived barriers,” writes Carole Kanchier in Dare to Change Your Job—and Your Life.
Breaking Down the Barriers
Her book is one of many resources that help break down those barriers, the two biggest of which are fear and confusion.
Fear. We think: I’m too old to change. If I switch jobs now, I’ll have to start over at the bottom. What if I fail, then what? Fear is normal, and it’s important to acknowledge it. There are numerous tactics to help you through the fear. The most powerful may be looking to others who’ve gone through life/career changes.
Confusion. Many of us are more clear about what we don’t want than what we actually do want. We may have lived out others’ expectations of us for so long we’re not even sure what actually makes us happy. Or we’re not certain how to turn our many talents and skills into meaningful work.
Coaches are an excellent resource to help you ask the right questions to sharpen your focus and goals. They can guide you to imagine and create real work that isn’t just a job, but a whole new life.
Whether it’s a new career or small shifts in how you work, making a change in midlife can bring new energy and joy for life. Like being a teenager again—only better.
You may find these resources helpful:
1. The Pathfinder by Nicholas Lore
2. Live the Life You Love by Barbara Sher
3. What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles
4. Second Careers, New Ways to Work After 50 by Caroline Bird
10, Careers after 50
Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications