Five Questions to Ask Yourself before a Mid-Life Career Change
Do you like your job? For many Americans, the answer to that question is a big "no." Around 70 percent of us hate work or are actively disengaged from our jobs. This figure doesn't get any better with tenure. Among the over 45 age group, 80% of workers have considered changing careers to eliminate the Monday morning blues. Disappointingly, only 6% actually do.
Proactively looking for new and more fulfilling ways of working can ignite a new-found passion for work and stop you from feeling bored, unhappy or worn out. Yet, while Millennials may be quick to make a change, workers in midlife often feel that it is too risky to embark on a new career. Rather than stepping out of their comfort zones, they put their heads down and accept the long, hard slog towards retirement.
It doesn't have to be that way however. Here are five questions which, when answered, should give you the confidence to leave a job you hate - before it's too late.
1. What really matters to me?
Research tells us that people want different things from their careers at different stages in their life. While younger career changers may be motivated by challenge, by midlife, authenticity takes predominance. Doing work that means a lot to you personally often brings the greatest rewards.
Ask yourself, what really matters to you? What would you wish to leave as your legacy? How do these values translate into the career options you are exploring? If you're stuck for inspiration, think back to what you loved to do as a child. A recent article in the New York Times demonstrated how childhood dreams can inspire a truly rewarding second career.
2. What skills and abilities do I possess that I could take to a new place?
Many midlifers are fearful of making a change because they think they are not qualified. This is a mistake. While it is true that the careers landscape has changed, and is continually changing, people fundamentally are using the same skills, talents and abilities as they always have. Communication skills, problem-solving skills and a strong work ethic will always impress an employer. It's worth making a list of these skills and figuring out how you can package them into something that's attractive to companies.
3. What do I need to know about this new career?
Getting lots of information is essential - otherwise you might end up as underwhelmed in your new career as you were in your old one. Ask lots of questions, get some work experience under your belt, and ask to shadow someone. Figure out how the worst day in a possible new career compares to the worst day in your current career. And don't jump ship until you are certain that it will be a good move.
4. Am I financially strong?
To make a career switch you need to be financially stable. Midlife is a time when out-of-pocket expenses may rise significantly, especially if you are paying for your children's college tuition or directing more of your money into retirement savings. It's essential that you keep a reserve fund to help you through the career transition. Otherwise, you might not be able to afford re-training or, heaven forbid, your health insurance.
5. Will anyone hire you?
Sorry to give a reality check but it's a bad job market in some careers right now. If you have a burning desire to become a flight attendant, or a desktop publisher, or a florist, be aware that these jobs are quickly disappearing. You may be competing against hundreds of other candidates, and they all may be more qualified than you are. You might have to relocate to get a job, or you might have to work part-time. Could you do that?
A better way of looking at it is to consider what's going on in the world. Smart technology, demographic shifts, and any number of other things could have an impact on jobs in your area. Stay as informed as you can, and be open to new ways of working or careers that you might not have thought about before.
The bottom line is, there's a lot at stake for midlife newbies. Mortgage payments, credit card debts, dependent children and your own fear can all ax a possible career change. Against this background, reinventing yourself can seem like an impossible task. But with a lot of research and a robust plan, anyone can step off the established career path and find meaningful work that they enjoy.