Once you’ve been working ten or more years, you qualify as a mid-career professional and/or mid-life career changer. Chances are you are ready to view your work a new way. Maybe you don’t bounce out of bed in the morning ready to go off for work, the way you used to. Maybe you find yourself pursuing new interests.
Or maybe your workplace has changed. You get a new boss. The working conditions change. For instance, I know a college professor who became frustrated with the new emphasis on “objectives.” He spent more time writing objectives for his syllabus than actually teaching the classes.
One thing’s for sure: you get LOTS of advice. Here are 3 pieces of BAD advice:
(1) Begin with a thorough process of introspection. Take tests to find out where your interests lie.
The reality is that your interests and perceptions shift as you explore new opportunities. Definitely take an inventory but don’t get locked in this step. Often you don’t realize your criteria till you explore specific career paths. For instance, one of my clients realized she didn’t want to be chained to a desk with fixed hours … after she explored a field she’d considered seriously. “Free to come and go” hadn’t been on her list till someone said, “I rarely get away for more than a few minutes during a busy day.”
(2) Discover your interests, skills and aptitudes. Find matching careers. Put them together.
I’d recommend reading Herminia Ibarra’s book, Working Identity. Career change rarely happens in a straight line. Research shows that most jobs are found by serendipity.
(3) Companies will be needing more [managers, accountants, you name it … ] so you will be in good shape.
First, news reports are so aggregated that you can’t use them as planning tools. Second, companies have ways to redefine their needs or even seek sources from overseas.
Finally, who cares? Even if accountants are in demand, and you dust off an old accounting degree, you may not get a job…and if you do, you may hate it. That’s the whole point of career change.
So what’s good advice?
Keep moving.And remember: career success is like pro football but career change is like playground basketball. Don’t stick too hard to the plan.
While there are many career change books that can help, often a better solution is seeking the help and guidance of a professional career counselor who can direct you through the process of self-assessment. A career counselor has access to resources such as interest and personality tests that can help narrow down your focus and develop a plan of action.
Working with either career change books or a career counselor, your goals should be to identify your interests, abilities, and values. You also want to examine your career history, the meaning of the role of work in your life and issues such as work/family life, dual-career couples and retirement planning. A professional counselor can provide access to a variety of standardized interest, personality and values tests and inventories that can help clarify these issues for you.
Once the process of self-assessment is completed and a specific career path has been decided, you are ready to start a job hunt. Many mid-life career changers are surprised to find that today’s employers are much more receptive to hiring individuals who have a sense of their work needs and the strengths that they bring to the organization. This sense of taking personal responsibility for the direction of your career, rather than relying on the organization to do it for you is valued in today’s marketplace.
A mid-life career change can certainly seem frightening and daunting at first, but many individuals find it to be an exhilarating and empowering experience. Done correctly, a career change can bring you a sense of control over your life and excitement about the opportunities that lie ahead – a new lease on life.
Greg Peterson says
I stumbled upon your blog through serendipity, and I’m glad I did. Your last sentence sums it up nicely, and having more control over your career gives you power and confidence about your future. So many clients I’ve worked with felt stuck and powerless, and it’s so nice to see the transition to “knowing themselves” and being in charge of their careers. Having a free agent mentality is much different that thinking that this is all there is for you. Does it always work out perfectly? No it doesn’t, but even then, thinking outside of the box is so freeing. Thanks for your words of wisdom.