It’s another Monday morning and you’re sitting in your usual spot, sipping bitter coffee, and listening to the EVP drone on about sales objectives. Ten minutes into the meeting and you’re thinking how excoriating it is to sit here. Your mind begins to wander and your thoughts key in on pursuing your passions. You might even be wondering how you got to this place. When you took this job, five, ten, maybe twenty years ago, you planned on retiring from this company.
Pursuing your passion sounds great! The reality is you have got a mortgage, children, or ageing parents to worry about. It’s not just about what you want anymore. Besides it’s kind of scary leaving the comfort of a job you could do blindfolded for something you don’t know if you would even enjoy.
What you are feeling is perfectly normal. Now a days, most people switch careers multiple times. That makes more sense than choosing a career, in our early twenties, and expecting to remain in that career until retirement. Some people do, but the vast majority of us end up changing careers at least twice in our lifetime.
How do we make a career shift after 40 with minimal disruption? Any life transition involves disruption. That is the first piece to understand when shifting careers. Acknowledging that change requires creating and living in chaos, for a while, is huge! Once you make peace with that, then you have taken your first step towards making a career change.
The next step involves matching skills to interests. There are a number of online assessments you can take to help you identify your skills and interests. What many of my clients found helpful was to make a chart containing four things:
- Their current skills
- Skills they would like to acquire
- Careers that sound exciting
After you have your list the real fun begins. See how many of your current skills match up to your interests. Which careers match the skills you wish to acquire? Once you begin doing this, you will find unlimited possibilities. Do some research, interview somebody in the field, think about it, and just sit with those careers for a while.
Often times a career shift involves additional education. This is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for career shifters. It can be fearful going back to school or attending college for the first time as an older adult learner. Starting slowly will help combat that fear.
Recognizing that your study habits have changed since the last time you were in school is important. Pulling all-nighters is just not feasible when you are holding down a full-time job and trying to meet the demands of a growing family.
I recommend “chunking” your study and school work. Chunking is figuring out everything you need to do for each class each week and then scheduling a half to an hour every day to work on those assignments. For example if you have two chapters to read every week. You schedule twenty minutes every day until you have completed your reading. Approaching studying this way helps reduce stress frustration, and allows balance in your life. Nobody can read two hundred pages in one night and retain the information.
Building a sound support system is extremely important. We all have days when we need somebody to encourage us. Having a supportive group of family and friends, who you can talk, complain, laugh, and cry with during your career shift is imperative. These are the folks that will give good advice or rescue you when you are working too hard. They will see things you don’t.
Remember you have options and you can find happiness in your career. There are a number of people, like myself, who have successfully shifted careers.