Updated: Jan 5
Just admit it. Even just thinking about it makes you tremble in fear. Midlife change of careers is terrifying.
You’ve been denying this for so long, hoping that you’re wrong and that the condition would turn for the better.
Unfortunately, no. You’re not wrong. And you know things would never improve. You feel like getting a hard punch in the gut.
This is not how you want to spend the rest of your life.
You want to quit, but it’s like saying that years of your effort to get where you are right now is for nothing. All the blood, sweat, and tears you shed will go down the drain.
And don’t forget the horror of having to start everything from scratch. Again. In your not-so-young age.
Stop right there. Take a deep breath and calm your beating heart. You’re not alone. This guide will take your hand and walk you through the process of midlife change of careers step by step.
It’s a bumpy ride, but you’ll be just fine.
Part 1: Understand where you stand
Why Do People Change Careers?
How do people end up with their job? If we consider that our career is something that we will do for almost the rest of our lives, it’s scary how there are still many of us who choose our career based on what others told us, or by “fate”.
There are tons of students who still don’t have a clue about what they will do with their life until the last minute of having to choose their college major, or even after they graduate.
Choosing Careers Based on Ignorance
Many kids their age haven’t grasped real life yet. It’s just another adventure for them. They just boldly go to where their destiny takes them. How blissful youthful ignorance is.
And after spending most of their 20s surviving the harsh real world, these kids grow wiser and develop new perspectives of life. They already have goals and aspirations of what their life should be. For the lucky few, those goals and aspirations are aligned with their current path. For most of the others, they find themselves in a world that they don’t want to be in.
Reason for Changing Careers
This occurrence is so common that statistics show that the average American switch jobs 10-15 times in their lifetime.
Maybe it’s because they grow different passions, they want to find a more fulfilling and satisfying occupation, or they’re tired of working 9-5, they seek financial stability and can’t find it in their dead-end job.
But it’s also possible that they need to change careers because of company downsizing or closing, unwanted job relocation, poor relationship with their co-workers or managers, ineffective leadership, or feel undervalued.
While it’s better to smile, say c’est la vie, and move on to the next job; making this kind of transition is dreadful for some.
Why Making A Midlife Change of Careers is Scary
One of the very basic survival abilities of any living creature is learning to identify and avoid dangers. We don’t naturally touch fire or jump off the cliff because we know those activities are dangerous. Similar things happen when we have gone through something uncomfortable in the past, we will try to avoid repeating the same experience in the future.
For most people, especially those whose career is not aligned with their passion, their experience of climbing the career ladder from the very bottom is not something that can be categorized as pleasant. They will try their best to avoid having to re-living the whole process.
Different from when they were still young and have nothing else to think about except for themselves, middle-agers have to balance the current work and family life. Changing careers will affect their lives, relationship, and health. The older they are, the more difficult it will be; as responsibilities will increase with age.
But what exactly are the factors that stop most people from chasing their dreams and get out of the dead-end career?
First, a new career might require different sets of skills. To acquire these new skills, one needs additional training/education/school/courses. This equals extra budget, time, and effort. Something that someone who wants to switch paths might not have.
Second, to get the extra time needed, one might need to quit the current job and lose the regular income. Meanwhile, no income means no additional funds for education - what a vicious loop.
Transition time is also challenging. It requires more work, more learning, more time, and more adapting.
The best way to go about it is to work on the current job longer and save to survive the transition time later.
This means it requires good planning.
And planning is what we are going to do.
Do you need to change your career?
But before you take any drastic pivot, you have to make sure that you are sure about making a career change. You need to assess your current career by answering these questions.
1. What is your feeling?
First, ask your feelings. Do you think that you have made all the right choices leading you to your current role/position? But if you still feel something is not right or out of place, then there must be something wrong.
Do you love your job? Is there anything that bothers you at work? Do you feel bored and empty working in your current company?
Are you waking up looking forward to starting your workday? If not, what’s the reason?
Try to find the sources of your troubles and whether this is something that you can tolerate
2. How’s the state of your energy?
Then observe your state of energy. If you constantly feel worn out and exhausted working your current career, it might mean that you used up all your energy resources just to survive the days.
Find out what drains your energy. A holiday may be all you need.
3. How about the current work situation?
This is a simple test. Imagine doing your current job for the rest of your life. Can you picture yourself doing it?
If not, why not? What’s the problem? Can you find a solution or workaround to the problem?
4. What about the money and other perks?
Can the money and other perks you get compensate for the amount of work you give? Granted, not everybody works only for the cash, but this is one of the deciding factors to keep or leave a career.
To reiterate in simpler terms, “What you get should compensate for what you give.”
5. Does your work make enough impact?
Steve Jobs famously said “We're here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else we even be here?” People feel they matter if they can contribute to the world around them.
Do you think that you make a difference? Do you feel your abilities and talents are used in an impactful way in your career? Or do you think that they can make a better impact in another profession?
6. What do I like/dislike about this career?
Make a list, compare your likes and dislikes. Be honest to yourself. And use the result to make an educated decision.
Part 2: Midlife Career Change Tips
Even if all the answers from the previous section leads you to the conclusion that you indeed need a career change, don’t make the abrupt decision. Plan well before taking any action.
Remember, fail to plan equals plan to fail.
Here are several steps to help you go through the ordeal smoothly.
1. Know What You Want
This point is still related to the previous chapter. If you don’t know what you want regarding your career, it means you are not ready to make the change. Yet.
1. Find Out What You Want
So, find out what you want. And be 100% sure, or else, things can and will go sideways. Find out what isn’t right in your current job, and the reasons why you are not happy. This will be the right basis for you to make the change.
The most important thing is, don’t act impulsively. You are making a decision that will determine the rest of your life.
Never, ever, make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.
Think it through, ask for the honest opinions of your family, significant others, and your close friends. Better yet, ask the view of your not-so-close colleagues as they tend to give you more objective insight.
Make sure that you will have no regret. Either because you make the switch, or because you don’t make the switch.
2. Get Clear Objectives
Get clear objectives of what you want to get out of your career. Make a list of what you want your life to be in the next five years. This includes what you want to have and where you want to be.
Don’t forget to create the same list for longer terms, such as ten years, twenty years, and so on. A journey will be more comfortable if you know where you want to go.
Create a mental picture of achieving your career. Imagine what your life would be like. Find photographs or images (and stories, videos, etc.) related to your dream career. Put them in a place where you can access them easily. A pinboard next to your work computer would be a nice one. These items will help you focus.
3. Define Your Non-Negotiable
The only certainty about life is uncertainty. So, be flexible. But with that being said, you have to have your non-negotiable. No matter what happens, these things should be your focus and not be compromised.
Consider: What makes you tick? Is it monetary or material success, or personal satisfaction from getting the work done? What work environment suits you best? Is it the quiet, laid-back office, or the one with adrenaline-pumping high-stakes deadlines?
For example, you might work for an ad agency or go freelancing as a Google Ads specialist, but you should have an income of at least $ XXX every month. Adjust everything else to meet this goal.
4. Do a Self-Assessment
To know what kinds of jobs suit you best, you need to know what kind of person you are. Look at the things that you’ve done and find out which ones do you like best.
Know your personality types, your interest, your aptitudes, and the work-related values that fit you.
Know which direction you should and want to go.
If you need help in creating a map to achieve your dream career and get ideas on your dream job, you can use DreamGravity’s career strategizing tool.