Has this ever happened to you? On your way to work, you start to wonder, “Is this is all there is?” You no longer love what you do every day, the spark is gone. You wake up in the middle of the night thinking about how unhappy you are with your work. You spend time fantasizing about something completely different that charges your life, something more fulfilling and in line with who you are now.
This sounds like a cliché – midlife career change – but it’s real for many when their interests and focus grow and change over time. While these feelings can be scary, changing careers in your 40’s, 50’s or even 60’s can be exciting and give you more opportunities than you ever thought possible.
The million-dollar question? How can you manage your own personal midlife career change? We’ve laid out steps below that have been proven to help folks work their career changes successfully, no matter your age or experience.
How to Work With Your Midlife Career Change
Below are some general stages that tend to define the need for a midlife career change. There can be additional parts to the process, but, generally speaking, everyone experiences these.
Acknowledge the feeling – make friends with the uncomfortable realization you’re no longer happy doing the work you’re paid to do. Your career is a large part of identity for both men and women and letting go of that image and feeling of security will challenge you. However, until you admit you’re ready, you can’t create a new and more accurate career persona.
Explore what you may want to do next – maybe you’ve always loved aviation and would love to be an airplane mechanic or a nurse. Perhaps you’ve always had a passion for baking. Or maybe you’ve realized that teaching young children is what you want your life to be about. To gain confidence, find doorways to experience these potential passions and let them fuel your interest.
List pros and cons – now it’s time to get real. What’s the upside? Now the downside? What is it about a career change that would make your life – and possibly your family – happier? What routes can you take to achieve your goal, and what roadblocks might appear along the way?
Shadow someone in the career field – find someone in the career field to which you’d like to transition and ask if you can tag along for a day to see the reality. For some careers, this may not be possible due to security or confidentiality concerns but be creative and figure out how to see what it’s really like to do something different!
Make a plan of what’s needed to start that new career – write down the steps and goals you need to achieve to move into a new career. Discuss with family and friends or others you may know who’ve made a similar career change. You may need may consider earning a new degree, or some additional coursework, to qualify for your dream career.
Face your fears – what’s holding you back? Are you concerned about not making as much money? Do you think you may be too in debt to make a change? Will you need to move to a new location? Write down all of your fears and address them. Get others to discuss options with you, especially if this change impacts your family. Be honest about your fears and let them help you resolve the anxiety around a big change.
Get help from others – look around you – friends, co-workers, family members – all of us feel the need to change, to be happy and do meaningful work. You are not alone and may be surprised how many of your friends and colleagues feel the same urge for change. Form a loose support group and coach one another through the decision-making process. It’s tough to do this alone, but you don’t have to!
Work your career change plan one step at a time – be patient as you walk through each step in your career change plan. Remember to be flexible enough to change your plan as needed, based on what you learn and experience through this challenging time. You may make great progress for a while, then experience a setback. It’s OK to pause and reevaluate, even to change gears – just keep going!
Experiencing a midlife career change is, in reality, a fairly normal experience. Considering such a change can give you the opportunity to incorporate your passion and personal interests into your work. A well-developed plan will help you resolve certain issues before they arise. Navigating change always takes time and effort and the transition to something new and exciting is worth the challenges you may face along the way.
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