The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.Steve Jobs
It’s January which means you may be thinking about New Year’s resolutions. In addition to losing weight, reading more books, and maybe de-cluttering your closets, a career change may also be at the top of your list. That’s because the pandemic has forced all of us everywhere to reassess their relationships with work. As a result, our values and priorities have changed over the last two years. What we need now more than ever is flexibility, freedom, and most of all, fulfillment.
Life dealt me a career blow when I lost my job as a result of the pandemic. Like so many others in all walks of life, COVID shifted lives in more than ways than one. From a career perspective, I looked at ways to reinvent myself. If you are in your 40’s or 50’s, like me, you may also be wondering if it’s too late to make a midlife career change. Consider that there is a long list of people who have done it successfully. John Grisham, the best selling author, was once a lawyer and political figure, until he wrote his first novel, “A Time to Kill” at age 33. And the rest is publication history. Likewise, legendary comedian, actor, and author Phyllis Diller quit her day job at age 37 to pursue standup before performing her first comedy routine on stage. Just two years later, she appeared on The Tonight Show. And let’s not forget Julia Child, who wrote her first cookbook at age 50 after holding positions in advertising, media, and intelligence.
So, if that little voice inside of you is saying things like, ‘I’m too old,’ ‘People will think I’m crazy,’ or ‘It’s not the right time,’ it actually may be the perfect time to make a shift. Here’s how to make a midlife career change and do it successfully.
The famous Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right,” illustrates how important attitude is in determining success or failure. To accomplish any lofty goal, you first need to believe in yourself. Negative self-talk holds us back from taking positive action. Self-shaming ultimately undermines our belief in ourselves, which then shatters our self-confidence. As Brené Brown puts it, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” So, the goal is to lower the volume of your inner critic and amplify that of your inner champion.
One way to silence your inner critic is to meditate. Meditation will help you raise your awareness so you can shine a light on that negative self-talk and change it. Then stop comparing yourself to others. Instead, remind yourself that you are whole, worthy, and capable. Finally, try starting a daily self-gratitude journal. Every day write down things about yourself that you are truly grateful for. Some examples might include:
By journaling, you’re taking the time to acknowledge the good things in your life, thanks to your continued commitment and effort.
My ‘why’ was that I was unemployed for over a year. For others, their ‘why’ may be to create a better work-life balance, work from home, or try another career just because it’s more interesting and within their creative wheelhouse. Understanding your ‘why’ will shine a light on the types of opportunities you should pursue. For example, is the stress you are experiencing at work interfering with your well-being? Maybe it’s time to consider a less lucrative position with more flexibility. Do you have an idea that you’ve always wanted to bring to life? You might be ready to start your own business. Is your industry contracting or growing obsolete? Maybe a career that leverages the same skills you have now is the best option. Use this time to reflect on your career and what the ideal job looks like for you.
Think about the skills you have and the areas you want to develop. Don’t forget strengths like problem-solving, adaptability, project management, and the ability to motivate a team. These are key skills that translate well to almost any career. Next make a giant list of all your personal and professional accomplishments to date. You’ll be surprised how much you’ve achieved over the years when you document everything in one place. Keep this list nearby to remind you how far you’ve come.
Once you have an idea of what profession you’d like to pursue, start investigating. Find out what qualifications you need by looking at a few different postings for the positions you’d be interested in. Make a list of what training, education, or experience they require. Then find the most affordable ways to get those qualifications. If you need to spend some money on formal education or training, build it into your budget. Harvard University, for example, offers online courses that cover a wide array of subject areas, including business, computer science, and education. But remember, you don’t necessarily need a lot of money in the bank to change careers. You just need enough to take those first steps. You also don’t necessarily need to go back to school full-time. Other options include taking classes at night, looking for a company that will train you on the job, or taking courses online through sites like edX or Coursera. You will also want to talk to people in the industry to ask for advice and understand the pros and cons of your chosen career. Once you start making connections, it will also make it easier to find a job because you will have a network of people looking out for you.
Creating a personal brand helps employers see how unique you are. Personal branding is about communicating your identity and showing what sets you apart from others in your field. It encompasses your skills and talents, along with your personality and style. A couple of significant components of your personal brand are your résumé and LinkedIn profile. You’ll want to update both to position you for your new career. Be sure to include concrete examples and quantifiable accomplishments. Also, make sure your online presence is consistent with your résumé. These simple strategies will boost your visibility, credibility, and authority while preparing you for a midlife career change.
It can sometimes feel as if our options narrow with every passing year. But making a midlife career change could mean that the second half of your life will be more meaningful and fulfilling than the first. Yes, it’s going to take time, patience, and perseverance. But ultimately, if you can believe it, you can achieve it.