A newspaper published this query for a career column, inviting replies. Here’s the condensed version:
I’m in my mid-40s, in a fairly stable government job, earning a comfortable salary. The problem is, I’ve reached a plateau. Opportunities for promotion will be scarce. Do I gamble on starting a new career or business? Or do I stick it out?
Readers pointed out all sorts of options. They noted (correctly) that it’s hard to switch from government or nonprofit to for-profit. They suggested he cash out and move to a place with a lower cost of living. They suggested lateral moves.
From my perspective, this letter describes the classic “quit or grit” choice I’ve been talking about for a long time. That is, quit the job or grit your teeth. And for many people, those are the only options.
Here’s another way to think about this challenge:
(1) Everyone over 40 (certainly by 45) needs a side hustle. The only exception: if your job is all-consuming and you’re earning enough to sock away a substantial amount each month. Work with a financial advisor to maximize earnings. Start with this book by Chris Guillebeau: Side Hustle.
Or visit CreativeLive.com for online courses; do a search on “side hustle” as well as “starting a business.” (I’m not an affiliate; they keep changing the rules but you may be able to get $5 off your first purchase with the code “JOINUS”).
(2) Think of your job as a vehicle to help you move to your dream … sort of like Cinderella’s coach, which serves the purpose today but ultimately disintegrates. Does your company pay for education and training? Do they offer free workshops that help you build skills? Find out what’s offered and start attending.
Just be aware that signing up for entrepreneurship training on the company’s dime can trigger a red flag for HR. Instead, take skills you’ll need in a corporate or entrepreneurial setting, such as accounting and salesmanship.
I’ve got several suggestions on this topic through my ebook, 10 Things To Do When You REALLY Hate Your Job. Click here.
And also my Udemy course: The Great Career Escape (which covers the material as a course). Click here.
(3) Don’t assume you can hang on forever. Your company might decide to change or remove your job; you’re especially vulnerable if you’re paid highly in comparison to others at your job level. And you might reach the desperation point, where you find yourself sabotaging your own success.
If you’re in this position, or know someone who is, please check out my Career Strategy Session. Clients often call because they simply need an outside perspective. Friends and family will listen — up to a point! — but they may not be familiar with the situation. And your time with them often will be extremely scarce. My clients usually walk away with a new perspective and an action plan. Get the details and sign up here.