Career Take 2
Career Take 2

Career Take 2

 

By:

Nancy T. Bell
Nancy T. Bell
CFP®, CDFA™

Wealth Advisor
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Career Take 2

How to reinvent yourself midlife.

The second half of your life can be better than the first. This is the encouraging reality for those of us who feel stuck in the muddled middle of our lives. Perhaps you feel trapped in the doldrums of a job you no longer relish. Your passion has ebbed. Your sense of purpose is all but gone. You have lost momentum and are just going through the motions.

If you are in a mid-life funk and afraid to make a change, take heart. You have the capability to redefine yourself.

The great sage Confucius and other Chinese philosophers tell us that there is no one essential self that we need to find and then remain for our entire life. Rather, we can change our selves, constantly forming and reforming who we are as we react and adapt to people and circumstances.

We’re not used to hearing this perspective, but it can be very helpful for those of us who are facing the second half of our life, and wanting to change our job or start a new career.

Starting Over at Midlife

Our youth-obsessed culture makes us feel that at 50 we’re too old to start all over again. The prevailing question is “Who’s going to hire me?” If you were a stay-at-home mom, for instance, years out of the workforce may make you feel unqualified. If you are in a successful career, your perceived salary expectations may work against you.

The thought of repackaging yourself is no doubt terrifying. But it’s doable — and oftentimes rewarding.

How do I go about doing that? While everyone takes a unique route, here are a few essential guidelines.

Look Before You Leap

The first step, though patently obvious, is to look before you jump. Make sure that you’re being realistic. In my opinion, the “do what you love and money will come” approach is somewhat of a myth, unless you are literally someone who is unhinged to material comforts and financial security. This idealistic approach doesn’t work for most people who look to live comfortably in their later years. Most hobbies are not lucrative enough to sustain a desired lifestyle. I frequently encounter people who want me to tell them that they can afford to retire now when, in fact, they need paid work over the next 10 – 15 years in order to prepare financially for retirement. This is where updating your financial plan to include your dreams and goals can be a valuable first step.

Get Clear about What Is Most Important to You

When you make a mid-life career shift, you may have to rethink your core values, because over the years, you’ve compromised those values in order to fit into your current job or career. In the midst of the battle, particularly when you are in a job that is miserable, your value system gets skewed by the culture you live in. You’re told promotions, bonuses, and titles are important, and you begin to believe it.

Find Out Where Your Values and Skills Intersect

Once your values are in place, make a list. First, identify your strongest skills, and then identify the things that light you up in your current position. Then, make another list of the deal breakers—things you don’t want to do anymore. This list doesn’t need to be built overnight but over a period of time in which you begin to imagine what’s next.

Re-engineer Your Skills

You might be able to find a more satisfying job that harnesses your skills and is closer to your passions than your current career. I encourage individuals to figure out how their current skill set could be re-engineered for a different opportunity and to start thinking of this shift in terms of the second half of their career. Work experience has strengthened your knowledge, which many younger applicants don’t possess. There are plenty of places, companies, and positions that could benefit from the work ethic and experience of 2nd-career employees.

Surprise! You Might Not Move

When you have a clear sense of what you might like to do, set out to see what the world has to offer. Informational interviews will confirm your drive to change careers, or they might reaffirm your current career. You might simply have to find the right place to do what you already are doing.

If that’s not the case, you’ll have to ask yourself if you’re willing to take a significant cut in income to literally learn something new. You’ll have to wrestle with how much the peace of mind provided by your current income is worth to you. Your financial planner can review your short and longer term financial goals to help you sort through your options to help with this decision.

If you find that financial security is paramount, you’ll likely want to hold tight. Making a complete career change might not work for you—at least not now.

Take 2: A Success Story

While starting over isn’t easy, there are success stories. I spoke with a 72-year-old psychologist who provides a very hopeful example. For the first half of her life, she was a teacher. She even went back to school and got her Master’s in mathematics. After a few years in education, she realized it wasn’t a good fit and switched gears. For a couple of decades, she and her husband owned a bed and breakfast, but after a difficult divorce, she was left financially devastated. At the age of 52, when her kids were finishing college, she sought the advice of a career counselor who told her – with the help of a career test – that she was well suited to be a psychologist. She soberly realized she would be in her mid to late-fifties before she graduated with the degree.

The counselor said, “Well you might as well be 56 with the degree doing what you love, rather than without the right education and still looking for a job.” She went to graduate school and has been a psychologist ever since.

When I ask her if it was worth it, even though she’s 74 and still working, she responds, “Yes! I don’t need to be in a big fancy house. That’s not important to me. At this stage in my life, I have the time to spend with my grandchildren, working when I want while doing a job I still enjoy. I have enough money and I feel like I am in control of my finances. I’m living a great life.”

She answered the very questions every person needs to ask before making a mid-life career shift: What is most important to me, and how do I get there?

The route—one that begins at reflection, is followed by planning, and ends with a bit of risk-taking—may not be a straight-shot, but it just might take you to places you’ve only dreamed of and can enjoy for the remaining years of your career.


Tags:  Career, Career Assessment, Career Counseling, Career Shift, Changing Jobs, Encore Career, Financial Planning, Financial Wellbeing, Job Searching, Meaning, Midlife, Purpose, Retirement, Second Career

Note:  The content of this article is for guidance and information purposes only and is not intended to be construed as advice. Information provided is not intended to provide investment, tax, or legal advice.