MidLife Career Transitions Need Not Be Stressful!

I quit my corporate career at age 49. Launching a new career in your mid-life – well, age is truly a number, so pick your ‘middle age’ — can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. I am on my fifth start-up since then in my mid-60s. I would have certainly done things differently, now that I know what I know, but I was clear about one thing: if I didn’t step out into the arena then, then when?

So, it all comes down to your outlook on life. It is important to carefully consider several factors before embarking on this new journey.

1. Passion and Purpose: What is the true reason you are contemplating this change? Are you passionate about something you wish you had pursued in your more youthful days? Are you looking for that elusive purpose?

This is where your outlook on your life is key. Many of us are programmed to think that we have that one unique purpose. Tiger Woods was born to be that unique golfer. Tom Hanks was singularly focused on an acting career. Pick a celebrity, and you would probably say, they are “living their true purpose”.

That is the furthest thing from their truth. These are just our perceptions, based on one of the only measures of success: money/wealth. The truth is each of us is a uniquely gifted individual, and your life’s purpose is finding your own meaning in what you do with life. A career change can be an opportunity to deeply explore your own life and find meaning in all that you do each day.

2. Fretting over Transferable Skills: Life has brought you here and you are contemplating a change. I would like to proffer this: before you start stressing about the fact that your skills may not fit today’s environment, take a deep breath.

Start by saying to yourself: You are exactly where you are meant to be.  Everything you have learned in the past is serving its purpose. You are in this body for a finite time. Delight in the fact that you are going to bring a lot of your wisdom to the new career, and it has little to do with very specific tasks. Whether it is today’s rapidly changing technology, or the fact that a younger person can do a job much cheaper than you, that is not a cause for stress.

For me, every new technology is an opportunity to bring my experience to harness the new thing. I am uniquely able to see the forest for the trees and do something far quicker than I had ever imagined. Embrace, rather than resist. You save yourself of much stress and time.

3. Financial Implications: Hopefully, your experience of decades has taught you that money as a measure of success is limiting. Your fulfilment with yourself, rather than tying up your own identity in your “work” or career, probably has new meaning. Perhaps you are experiencing what most people experience in their mid-life: shift in partner relationships, empty-nest syndrome (if you have children), loss of connection, feeling of loss of personal identity, longing for childhood dreams… you get the picture.

While you are concerned about your financial security, you must recognize that there is no such thing. When you truly feel passionate about adding value to others, money finds you. You give so much, that you receive manifold. Of course, make your financial plan and be sensible.

My mistake was this: I did not value myself enough. And when you do that, you are not valued by others. Why? Because that is the energy you exude. And people are simply a mirror of how you feel.

4. Accepting discomfort: Embarking on a fulfilment – based career change requires that you find courage to take uncomfortable actions. We are creatures of habit and comfort. We gravitate to what’s comfortable.

But if you know anything about personal growth and professional development, what did you ever do that was so comfortable, you got amply rewarded?? The fact is this: all growth is uncomfortable. Anything worth pursuing in your life, requires you to tap into that part of you that feels uneasy on the one hand, but you get goosebumps when you imagine the achievement of that dream, on the other.

For instance, if you imagine yourself being a dynamic and effective speaker but are not willing to go through the uncomfortable (only because you think it is hard) act of practicing, getting coached, doing it over and over, you are not serious about your dream of being a speaker.

So, value your dream. If the comfort or protection of your lifestyle outweighs that top-of-the-world feeling of achieving your dream, you are not that serious about your dream or making a career change.

5. Finding courage to connect. Making new connections is not simply about networking. It is about being truly and genuinely curious and live in wonder. When you tell yourself, “I don’t know”, you open yourself to new opportunities.

You are old enough to know that pretending you know the answers to questions, or not asking questions because you might be judged, is a fool’s game. True learning comes from being open.

In your new career, you may need to find new types of people, or connect with a community you had not encountered. Over these past 18 years, I have met incredible people in many walks of life. If I had stayed on in the same corporate circles, my exposure to new wisdom, new skills, new experiences would not have been possible. I have met over 400 start-up founders, hundreds of authors/writers, teachers, coaches, entrepreneurs, all of whom have left me wiser. And more fulfilled.

6. Health and Wellness: I think of the “second half” of my life as a chance to become even more aware of what true wellness means. While a career change may be deemed to be “stressful” (how I resist that word!), it is an opportunity to begin to connect with who you are.

You become acutely aware of the fact that if you do not have good health, you have nothing! Your body is your only connection to this planet: it is how you experience life. It is crucial for you to find every way to prioritize good health.

This may be utterly obvious. I have myself prioritized comfort / lifestyle protection over my dreams at times. And you only proliferate lack of fulfillment. None of your life matters if you do not give importance to sleep, movement, and “inner” work.


Additional Resources:

1.    Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia.
Ikigai is ‘reason for living’ and examines the intersection of passion, profession, vocation, and mission (what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs and what you can be paid for). The world would be a happy place if we could only find our unique selves and lived it!

2.    Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life By Richard Rohr.
By far one of the best books, I have read in recent times. Essentially, the author write that the first stage is to create a strong container for identity, whereas the second stage is to fill that container with the content of our deepest and fullest self. A must-read

3.     The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life by Marci Alboher
This book is geared specifically towards older workers who are considering a career change and offers advice on how to find meaningful work in the “second half” of life.

4.    LinkedIn Learning – LinkedIn Learning offers a variety of courses on career development and job search strategies, as well as courses on specific skills and industries that may helpful.

Want more such articles, write back to me to let me know!

Here’s to YOUR power!

Raju Panjwani

Raju Panjwani

Raju has lived in the US for over 43 years. As a John Maxwell Certified Coach and Speaker, and a no-excuses focused coach, Raju is passionate about helping business owners tap into their vision and realize their potential. He has taught the Dale Carnegie course, curated and developed several hundreds of hours of training, participated in exclusive masterminds, and coached several leaders.

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