Editor’s note: Have you ever had a sudden idea or feeling that’s so great or overwhelming that it becomes your sole focus? It’s like you thought you were happy until you had this idea about how you could be so much happier?
And then as soon as you have this idea you really wish you didn’t because you know it’s going to change your life forever, and life change is a huge, scary inconvenience?
Yes? Well, congratulations, you’re having a mid-life crisis.
Just kidding. But if this big idea has to do with your work, then you may be on the brink of a midlife career change.
You might be bored, you might have a newly discovered passion or you might just want to spend more time with your family, but you’ve realized that what you’re doing isn’t what you want to do.
This desire to change careers happens to a lot of people — it’s hard to do the same thing every day for 40 years without needing to switch things up every now and again — but just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s comfortable.
To help you evaluate this huge, nerve-wracking life decision, Selena Dehne, a guest contributor for TheWorkBuzz, asked Kristin Cardinale, author of “The 9-to-5 Cure,” for her advice. Here’s what Cardinale had to say.
Selena Dehne: What should a person do or think about when contemplating a midlife career change?
Kristin Cardinale: First, clearly define your priorities. Know what the keys are to feeling accomplished, passionate and fulfilled.
Next, have a big-picture goal for your career and your lifestyle in mind. From there, begin to compartmentalize that vision into an actionable plan. Knowing that you want to make a change is the first step in the process, but be sure not to get stuck there. Take the next step by identifying specifically what you would like to see in your next career, taking into consideration the type of work, environment, schedule and intensity level of the field or position that you have in mind.
Also, know what you are hoping to achieve this time around that is different from what you have already done up to this point. What are the gaps in your previous career endeavors that left you feeling unsatisfied?
SD: How can someone change careers without going back to school or starting over?
KC: First, inventory all of your traditionally marketable skills. Create a laundry list of any nontraditional skill set you may have obtained through life experience, military training or while in pursuit of a hobby. Oftentimes, these nontraditional skills offer new opportunities in career fields that you may not have previously considered. Be willing to try out multiple career avenues simultaneously until seems to “click” for you. Success comes from trying out new ideas until you find what works for you.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of volunteer training and internships. Nonprofit organizations and corporations often provide on-the-job training opportunities that would otherwise be too pricey for you to afford when you are testing the waters in a new field. Additionally, these opportunities allow you to access decision-makers within the organization who get to see you in action and may consider you for future opportunities ahead of an unknown applicant. Access is power.
SD: What would you caution a career changer from doing?
KC: Don’t give up too soon on a great idea. New endeavors take time to blossom. Give yourself permission to have a few failures, learn from them and come out of the experience stronger, smarter and more confident.
Don’t forget to keep the big picture in mind. This is an easy mistake that many newcomers to career change make, and it can spell disaster for some people. To keep your new career path clearly in focus, create a written list, outline or plan that you can refer back to on a regular basis to be sure you’re still on track. Getting caught up in the day-to-day activities of your new career is necessary, but don’t forget to remind yourself along the way about why you made this career change.
Don’t ask too many people for their opinion. If you know in your heart that it’s time for a change, listen to what your intuition is urging you to do. You know yourself better than anyone else. Remember, career change, especially in midlife, goes against the traditional framework with which we are all so familiar. As a result, some people may try to persuade you to just “ride out” your current career path despite the circumstances rather than to reinvent yourself. However, midlife is the perfect time to take the skills and accomplishments you have earned up to this point in your career and charge boldly in the direction of your dreams for this next, best stage of life.
Thinking about making a career change? Why? Let us know in the comments section, below.