Career changers often call a coach when they’re feeling desperate. “I want a stable job where I won’t have to worry about layoffs,” they say. “Where should I look?”
“Try forty years ago,” many career coaches want to say. “Just find a time machine and turn back the clock.”
Talk to any 21st century stranded midlife career-changer and you realize the game has changed. Yesterday’s rules prepared us to be passengers on a large ocean liner that promised a smooth voyage. Today we realize that ocean liner turned out to be the Titanic and we need to keep ourselves afloat on a small life raft if we want to survive. I don’t know anyone who’s immune.
Even doctors and lawyers experience career chaos. “Myra,” a successful forty-something oncologist, lost her position in a high-profile medical group following a merger. All the other medical groups were going through the same changes, so she couldn’t get a job. She finally borrowed money to set up her own practice from scratch.
Many lawyers seek legal escapes from their law practices. They’ve become disillusioned with the legal profession or they’re losing clients. They’re moving to smaller offices.
Those who survive a stormy sea, clutching a life raft, need to learn to swim. Rescue may come in the most unlikely form and may lead to an unexpected adventure. You’ll stay afloat if you remain determined to survive, thrive and grow, no matter what.
Career-changers who face the future with an attitude of “I can handle anything” are the ones who win today. Tossed into the ocean, they’ll improvise a set of oars and keep up their spirits till they figure out what to do next. Those who feel betrayed (“I thought I was set for life”) flounder around for weeks, months, even years.
Linear planning rarely makes sense today. Researchers now realize that most people find their life’s work by serendipity. Those who have a flexible outlook, who can seize the unexpected opportunity, can count on reaching a safe harbor. More importantly, they know how to transform a port in a storm into their next home.