4 stories you might be telling yourself that keep you stuck - in a career that no longer fits

Feel like your career is stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels? If you’re telling yourself any of these four stories, you’re immensely reducing your potential to do more satisfying and fulfilling work.

To release the wheels of your career, you need to understand which of the stories you’re telling yourself are keeping you stuck. Read about the types of stories we like to repeat…over and over again.

To release the wheels of your career, you need to understand which of the stories you’re telling yourself are keeping you stuck. Read about the types of stories we like to repeat…over and over again.

To stop repeating unhelpful behaviours in our career, we need to make changes. But we humans find change very uncomfortable. Our brains see it as dangerous and coax us to stay with the familiar. Read more about your brain and career change here. 

That’s why years can pass before you get to your tipping point where things either get so bad that you have to change or you get so attracted to a new idea that you feel compelled to make a change. 

To fast-track your journey to your personal tipping point, you first need to recognise the stories that you’re telling yourself. The stories that are keeping you stuck. 

Four types of stories (that keep you stuck)

1. Impossibility stories

Most of the major breakthroughs in science have come about because someone decided that a certain feat was possible. It was a memorable moment watching Kipchoge break the 2hour marathon record live with my family, huddled around the laptop, marvelling at what humans can do when they decide to try.

Telling ourselves stories about the impossibility of an idea is a sure way to tell our brain not to bother trying anything different.

I get to hear lots of these stories.

Here are just a few examples: 

  • I’m 50 and I know I’d have to take a step back in order to make a change. 

  • I can’t afford to change career or doing anything different - I have a mortgage to pay.

  • My boss would never let me try out something new.

  • My company doesn’t allow people to take a sabbatical.

  • I can’t afford to pay for a coach to help me change career, I’d have to do it alone.

  • The work is killing me  but I can’t stop now. 

  • I’d never earn enough if I made changes. 

  • I’m too old to change career.

  • You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

  • I thought about X but it wouldn’t work because…

  • I’ll do it in my 60s. 

  • That’s the kind of thing people only do when they retire. 

  • People like me don’t do things like that…

You don’t need a Psychology degree to know that these people are telling themselves stories that will keep them stuck

…exactly where they are

…for a very long time

because they’ve convinced themselves that any change is impossible.

2. Blame stories - two varieties

There is plenty of finger pointing going on in the blame stories we tell ourselves. Attributing fault is not helpful in designing a way out of a situation. (We all know this if we have a partner - but we still do it so naturally!)

There is plenty of finger pointing going on in the blame stories we tell ourselves. Attributing fault is not helpful in designing a way out of a situation. (We all know this if we have a partner - but we still do it so naturally!)

a) Blame stories about “them”

This type of story-telling barely needs an introduction - these are the stories you hear in the pub and in kitchens all over the country in response to the question “How’s work?”

  • My boss is such a X.

  • They don’t want or value me or my skills.

  • The company culture is wrong for me.

  • This company is trying to run me into the ground.

  • The clients constantly ask for more but I’ve got nothing more to give. 

  • They’re not treating us like humans.

  • They're just not listening.

  • They just want to control me.

  • They don’t appreciate anything we do.

  • I always wanted to be X but my parents...

b) Blame stories about me

This type of story-telling is less public. Only really good friends hear these stories. Mostly we tell them to ourselves, secretly, quietly, in our own heads. But they erode us from the inside out.

  • I’ve lost my mojo.

  • I’ve nothing more left to give.

  • I’m not the same…after the divorce or after the X.

  • I don’t have the skills they want.

  • I don’t fit anymore.

  • I can’t give them what they’re asking for.

  • I’m not very good at X anymore. 

  • I’m just going through the motions but my heart’s not in it. 

Whichever variety of blame stories you might be telling yourself, they keep you stuck in the past. These stories keep you focused on whoever or whatever caused the problems or messed you up

They don’t motivate you or help you make changes - even small ones. 

They simply keep you stuck. 

3. Invalidation stories

Someone is always wrong in these types of stories - sometimes it’s us and sometimes it’s them. These stories often involve the word “should”.

Someone is always wrong in these types of stories - sometimes it’s us and sometimes it’s them. These stories often involve the word “should”.

Sometimes we decide that we are wrong. Or that they are wrong. Or that our feelings are wrong. Or that their feelings are wrong

Here are some examples:

  • They shouldn't ...(any words that come after this are invalidation stories)

  • They shouldn’t treat us this way.

  • They don’t believe I’m the right person to do X. 

  • They wouldn’t support me. 

  • They’re stupid, cruel, uncaring, dictatorial, authoritarian, selfish, profit-over-people etc.

Or

  • I don’t have what it takes. 

  • I should be happy with what I’ve got.

  • I’m not an entrepreneur. 

  • I’m not MD material. 

  • I’m not a X personality - it wouldn’t work. 

  • I don’t come from X background - so it wouldn’t work. 

  • I’m not clever enough. 

  • I’m not good enough. 

  • I’m not X enough. 

4. Zero-accountability stories

I pretty much handed over the responsibility for my career to my employers for so many years - it took quite a while to realise that I needed to take it back into my own hands.

I pretty much handed over the responsibility for my career to my employers for so many years - it took quite a while to realise that I needed to take it back into my own hands.

It’s surprisingly easy for us to avoid taking full responsibility for our own careers (especially if we have handed them over a few decades ago to big corporates). 

I should know, that’s exactly what I did with my own!

But we own the choice

Sometimes we don’t have choices about how we feel and think (although with training, it’s perfectly possible to change our internal thought processes which impact our feelings).

But we have absolute choice over our actions as far as career is concerned

Here are some examples of choices I’ve either taken myself or they’re client stories:

  • Choosing to stay in a company even if the work is deeply unsatisfying (because we need that stable income to pay the mortgage or the school fees or the big holidays).

  • Choosing our daily reactions to work situations.

  • Choosing to keep saying “yes” to extra work requests even though we are drowning. 

  • Choosing to stay with a company whose values don’t match ours long enough to get to our bonus, pay-out. 

  • Choosing not to attend networking events in a new industry that you’re interested in.

  • Choosing to stay where you are, even though you can feel that the toaster is heating up after your 50th birthday. 

  • Choosing to avoid looking around your business and realising that the floor is emptying of people your age and choosing to do nothing about it. 

  • Choosing to do nothing in case X idea doesn’t work. 

  • Choosing not to learn about sleep management techniques - even though you are becoming more and more sleep-deprived. 

  • Choosing not to learn about personal stress management techniques - even though your stress levels are through the roof. 

  • Choosing to dream about a magical future, where you receive a call tomorrow morning with a new job in an industry you love - without even having updated your linkedin profile. 

What stories are you telling yourself most often? 

Once you figure out the kinds of stories that you’re telling yourself about the problem of being stuck in a career/job that no longer fits, you’re ready to take the next big step towards unsticking your career. 

That next step is to Change your Problem stories into Solution stories

Read about that next time. 

Book in for one of my (free) 30 mins Light at the end of the tunnel calls where I promise to give you at least two personalised recommendations to begin your career overhaul -whether you choose to work with me or not.



Can starting a business alongside full-time careers be fun? I catch up with two gin-makers who think so.

2 years ago, when researching my book, I met Kate Gregory who founded a gin distillery with her good friend Helen Muncie - with limited funds alongside their full-time corporate careers. Read the original article.

I caught up with them both to see how life has changed and was thrilled when Kate made me the best gin of my life (recipe to follow).

Kate Gregory and Helen Muncie from The Gin Kitchen - who founded their gin distillery in the evenings and the weekends, alongside their corporate careers. Their career change story is the first featured in my book X Change: How to torch your work treadmill.

Kate Gregory and Helen Muncie from The Gin Kitchen - who founded their gin distillery in the evenings and the weekends, alongside their corporate careers. Their career change story is the first featured in my book X Change: How to torch your work treadmill.

When I first met Kate, the Gin Kitchen had moved from their kitchen into their first premises - a shed behind a pub in their local town, Dorking Surrey.

Two years later, I drove into a little enclave of black barns on the outskirts of Dorking and creaked open a huge door into their fully-fledged distillery on the day that the new still was producing its first batch. There was also a beautiful barn with a comfy office and their own bar (above), storage facilities and a shop.

It was clear that things had moved on in the Gin Kitchen world but exactly what has happened over the last few years.

The personal and business highlights:

  • All of their gins won Silver Medals in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (and were placed higher than our closest competitor!);

  • Being invited to a trade fair in Singapore and ultimately now exporting there;  

  • Being listed as the Spirit of the Month in Fortnum & Masons...twice in their first year;  

  • Building their own bar - “a destination for gin-lovers”; 

  • Bigger premises where they could do tours, hold events, create personalised gins and… “have we said have our own bar?”

  • Making customised gin for other companies (Dashing Dog for Fortnum and Mason; Lovely Lingfield Gin) or for special occasions like weddings (I do gin

  • Buying a much bigger still (see photos of the new giant still and the two original copper stills); 

  • Employing our own mixologist who is professionally qualified to make high quality cocktails.  

  • Being able to afford to bring in people with other skills to allow them to run the business more like CEOs rather than having a hand in everything.

  • Transforming from hobbists into professional gin makers

Observations on the growth journey from a gin-making, side-business to running a substantial gin distillery. 

As always, I was interested in how this obvious growth had impacted Kate and Helens’ views on the world of work and what they’d learned on their new career journey. Here’s what they told me.

  • Defining success from the start

We always had an idea of what good looks like to us, right from the very beginning.” says Helen as Kate instinctively opens up a document on her phone to read me some of their original goals. 

When we were in the experimental stages of setting up the business, we just wanted to make one bottle of gin that we liked.

We then hoped for 100+ likes on social media and a brand launch in a local bar. Later we envisaged orders from a few local bars and to be featured in a magazine.

Our longer-term dreams involved winning medals, being listed in more venues and making our competitors worry!

  • Choosing the right people 

(Kate) Making good decisions on the people we choose to employ has been key to creating the business we always wanted to create.” 

Not only in terms of bringing in specialists to allow them to focus on running and growing the business but also in creating opportunities. Kate and Helen employed someone to help them with the events side of the business. This person has had such an impact that events have grown to almost a third of their overall revenue. Their tours are full and they’ve sold out their Create your own gin in a day courses for the next year. 

  • With growth comes risk

(Kate) “In the beginning we could take risks because the risks amounted to a few hundred pounds. Now our size means there are so many more opportunities but the risks amount in multiple thousands.”  

  • Corporates and family

(Kate) “It's very hard to balance a high-level corporate career with children, especially when you're a single parent with no access to childcare. You can't get to meetings or travel easily when you have to be back in time for the school run. Our lives are very integrated now.” 

Helen laughed and suggested that one of her older children might be coming to them for employment soon!

  • Experimental mindset

Both Helen and Kate’s careers were in the field of innovation so they both love that they can experiment constantly and are often surprised by the results. 

(Helen) “Some of the investments that we thought would lead directly to ROI didn’t and others where we had low expectations, blew us away! So, we continue to experiment all the time which is really satisfying.

  • Who gets paid first? 

(Kate) “When we were small, we only had to pay (or not pay) ourselves. Now, we’re very clear on who gets paid first - the staff, taxes, our suppliers and then finally - us. While we are bigger and more successful, our costs are bigger and we need to keep growing to keep getting paid.” 

  • Staying connected to the local community

Kate suggested that the local community has been instrumental in their growth journey. 

“We launched in a local bar, used local artists to design the artwork on our bottles, rented the outhouse of a local pub, tested our gins on local people.” 

“We were outgrowing our previous premises when someone mentioned in passing that a local farmer had a few outbuildings that might be good for us.” That passing comment has enabled the Gin Kitchen to grow their brand, their revenue, their offering and the farmer’s revenue.  

  • Controlling destiny

(Helen) “Our identities and self-esteem are very tied up in our work and that feels really satisfying. We both feel that we have taken more control over our destiny.”

Recipe for the best Gin & Tonic ever

  • Here’s that recipe I promised for the best gin I’ve ever tasted. Helen and I are drinking it in this photo - I put it down for a second to take the photo.

Heaven in a glass!



Lots more stories to inspire your career change

Kate’s story of moving from Defence & aerospace expert, to full-time gin maker is the first story in my book X Change - How to torch your work treadmill. Read it to uncover the patterns behind happier career change and get 20 different stories of individuals who designed more satisfying work, their way, get your copy here.

Kate Gregory - pointing our her story in my book X Change: How to torch your work treadmill. I gave her story a bit of a Mission Impossible theme given her previous career in Defence & Aerospace.

Kate Gregory - pointing our her story in my book X Change: How to torch your work treadmill. I gave her story a bit of a Mission Impossible theme given her previous career in Defence & Aerospace.

Is your job sucking the life out of your life? A 3 minute exercise that could change your future, this week.

It’s great to feel valued in your company but what happens when you are giving up time with family, friends and down-time to feel valued at work?

Older and wiser?

Last year, a friend’s husband joined a very young technology company.  He is the most experienced employee in the company (yup - I mean oldest!) and the only employee with enough technical experience to trouble-shoot the plethora of problems being thrown at them on a daily basis.

Coincidentally, he is the only employee over the age of 40.

The twenty-somethings have amazing skills but not enough experience to see the bigger picture to be able to anticipate potential problems. 

So what?

He therefore carries an over-night bag with him to the office every day to jump on a plane any time a problem is too big for the talented youth to deal with. This month, he took at least one emergency (totally unplanned) plane rides across Europe each week

And again, so what? 

As his company lurches from one emergency to the next, his wife and children are getting lonely and perhaps just a little used to operating without him, even at the weekend. 

Worse still, when he does get home, he is so exhausted that he struggles to have the energy to have much fun with his family. 

This is the reality of life for us all, some of the time. But if this kind of work relationship extends more than a few months, it can suck the life out of our real lives and trigger burnout.

The example above is extreme due to the young entrepreneurial nature of that business but there are definitely more mature businesses that continually suck the life out of our lives outside work. 

This is fine… if work is your raison d’etre. 

Ok - so work is sucking some of the life out of your life? It’s time to try something different…cue “The one thing” exercise.

Ok - so work is sucking some of the life out of your life? It’s time to try something different…cue “The one thing” exercise.

“The One thing” exercise.

If you’d rather be spending your free time climbing a mountain, riding your bike, volunteering for your favourite charity, cuddling your young kids, taking your older kids to an Ed Sheeran concert or... dancing naked in the sun, it’s about time you asked yourself one question...

What is the ONE thing that you WILL be doing a great deal more of in ten years that you just don’t have enough time to do now?

  1. Write it down on a piece of paper and put it in your inside pocket, in your laptop bag, on your bathroom mirror or beside your phone charger. Somewhere where you will see it many times over the next few days. 

  2. Then just let your subconscious absorb it and play with it while you sleep, while you work, while you shower, whenever.

Here's are some of the “one things” from my Big Re-think programme over the last few months. Forgive my hand-writing.

Some of the results from “The one thing” exercise I ask my clients to do at the beginning of The Big Re-think programme

Some of the results from “The one thing” exercise I ask my clients to do at the beginning of The Big Re-think programme

 

Over the next week or so, if you have chosen a place where you will see and touch this piece of paper regularly (which should be getting pretty scrappy by then) some things will happen:

a)    You might find yourself thinking about your future more often.

b)   You might find yourself thinking about your present situation more often.

c)    You might even find that you have discussed/planned or actually done a little more of the activity that you wrote down on that scrap of paper.  If you haven’t don’t worry but keep going.  You are just very stuck in your busy work pattern.  Make sure you place the piece of paper somewhere where you touch it multiple times a day.

Wake up moments

Here’s the crunch…

Very few of us have taken the time to narrow down what we REALLY WANT in life so it’s bloody hard to make decisions that allow us to create our ideal future…or even our good enough future.

What often happens is that you ‘wake up’ having wasted a few years during which your company has been at the helm of your entire life instead of just your working life.  

  • You've booked your holidays around quieter times at work.

  • You've missed nights out with your partner due to prioritising something at work.

  • You've missed all your planned exercise slots for more than a week…again.

  • You've also not been much fun at the weekend because you’re totally knackered from your work week.

This very basic handwritten “note-to-self” exercise over a week or two will give you some insight into how your life’s auto-pilot often doesn’t take into consideration your longer term goals.

By choosing to define one very specific long-term goal to spend more time on X, you’ll focus on making time for X (both consciously and subconsciously) in the present which can transform your future. 

What will you choose to focus your mind on this week?

Related articles

To get more ideas on re-designing your work to make sure you spend more time doing exactly what you want to do both today and in the future, sign up to my newsletter and book into one of my free 30mins calls where I guarantee to give you at least two personalised recommendations to kick start your career redesign - whether you choose to work with me or not.  

The insanity of changing career at 40, 50 or 60...surprising celebrities who did it

Crazy Erin Drawing

A recurring internal conversation performed in my head for a few years before I hit my tipping point in my corporate career

Changing career at my age is one step shy of lunacy. 

Why change at this time of my life?

Why not just sit tight?

Better to do a job that you don’t enjoy until you feel ready to retire and then start really enjoying life with all that free time? 

Who LOVES THEIR JOB anyway?

That attitude might have worked for our parents. It might work for you in today’s climate if you work in a company surrounded by 50 and 60 year old peers.

But it didn’t work for me, after a certain point.

Blinker removal

I can’t remember the specific day but in the last year or so (of my 19 year head-hunting career), I took my blinkers off and took a fresh look at the world around me and asked myself one question:

Does my current business value extensive experience?

Do it for yourself now.

Have a look around your office right now and have a think about your business as a whole. 

  • Define the age profile of your peers 

  • Define the age profile of your team

  • Define the age profile of any international counterparts. 

  • Define the age profile of your customers

There are some exceptions but for most companies, the playing field starts to look a little sparse - even in the 45+ demographic.

Check out these UK statistics:

According to a report published by the Department of Work & Pensions, out of 10.2 million people aged between 50 and the state pension age, 2.9 million (28%) are out of work. Of the 2.9 million, only 0.7 million see themselves as “retired”, yet 1.7 million think it is "unlikely that they will ever work again".

Let’s consider that for a moment…1.7million?

Crikey.  I don’t know about you but that statistic FRIGHTENS THE LIFE OUT OF ME.!

I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I might say or even feel that “it is unlikely that I will ever work again”.  Even writing it down gives me the heebie geebies. 

There is something about this phrase that feels so powerless. But apparently 1.7million people ticked that box. 

What a senseless waste of talent and experience.  

But what if there was a different way? 

What if there was a different way to think about the rest of your career? I know you think it’s risky but if others have done it before, and describe themselves as happier after the change…maybe it’s possible for you?

What if there was a different way to think about the rest of your career? I know you think it’s risky but if others have done it before, and describe themselves as happier after the change…maybe it’s possible for you?

What if you took your own career back into your own hands? 

What if you could change career and do something that you would find more fulfilling for the long-term rather than sitting it out, waiting and watching the ever-thinning 45plus demographic in your company?

What’s that I hear you say?

You don’t know anyone who has changed career in their 40s or 50s?

Of course you do.

Here are some fairly famous people who took control of their careers even though they were half-way through a completely different career.

·        Vera Wang was a figure skater and journalist before entering the world of fashion at the age of 40.

·        Arnold Schwarzenegger – musclebound Hollywood actor to governor of California aged 56.

·        John Grisham was a lawyer for the first half of his career before he crafted a writing career writing legal thrillers.

·        Toni Morrison was a teacher before she published her first novel at 40 and became the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature (for Beloved)

·        Harland (Colonel) Sanders was a manual labourer before bought his first restaurant at 40 where he perfected his ‘finger lickin good’ chicken recipe and franchised it aged 65.

·        Ronald Regan transformed from Hollywood actor to Governor of California in his early fifties and then on to US president aged 69.

·        Julia Child wrote her first cook book aged 50 after careers in advertising, media and a stint as an intelligence officer.

·        Ray Kroc didn’t buy McDonald’s until he was 56 and had spent his first career as a milkshake-device salesman.

·        Donald Fisher was 40 when he opened his first Gap store with his wife in 1969 with zero previous retail experience.

·        Paul Newman, the actor, was 57 when he founded Newman’s Own Sauces, one of the first food companies to use all natural ingredients.

·        Susan Boyle was 48 in 2008 when that audition for Britain’s got Talent that went viral was recorded. Her net worth has been estimated around £30mil.

·        Linda McCartney was 50 when she launched her vegan food company, after her first career as a photographer.

·        Levi Roots was a reggae musician before his 2007 Dragon’s Den appearance which launched his multi-billion pound Reggae Reggae sauce business. He was 49.

The two things that everyone in this list had in common was that they wanted MORE from their work and that they felt BRAVE enough to give something different a try.

Other stories - lots of them

If you can’t name a few people in your close network who have redesigned their work and are happier for it - don’t worry at all! I know lots of them. I interviewed 100 of them while researching my book X Change: How to torch your work treadmill…


X Change: How to torch your work treadmill. The secrets behind the stories of 20 individuals who changed career in their 40s, 50s or 60s and describe themselves as happier.

X Change: How to torch your work treadmill. The secrets behind the stories of 20 individuals who changed career in their 40s, 50s or 60s and describe themselves as happier.

Some of my clients want to completely over-haul of their career but don’t know where to start.

They know that they have more to give. But they don’t know where to start. They need a partner-in-design who’s been there, understands what they’re going through and can help them design the next stage of their career making sure that it’s more fun, more fulfilling and more satisfying.

Ready to take the first step?

Book in for a free 30min call (free) with me where I promise to give you at least two personalised recommendations on how to begin your own career overhaul.

Related articles:


distance between insanity

Changing career in my 40s - was it worth the pain? (Download Career Change Balance Sheet template)

In this article, I compare 7 important areas of my life before, during and after my career change.  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. And, I give you my simple method to assess the impact of your current career on your wider life. 

Normally I do a little work each day on holiday - this year not. But I did reflect on whether my career change was worth it. These beach huts were beside a 50metre sea pool on the Atlantic Coast of France. My husband raced each other to the giggles of our daughters...and a few locals enjoying the last days of summer.

Normally I do a little work each day on holiday - this year not. But I did reflect on whether my career change was worth it. These beach huts were beside a 50metre sea pool on the Atlantic Coast of France. My husband raced each other to the giggles of our daughters...and a few locals enjoying the last days of summer.

I don’t usually switch off from work on holiday but this year I did.

After the first week, the laptop remained shut and my brain melted into slower, clearer thinking. I even commented to my husband “My brain feels empty for the first time in years!”  

(Aside) His eyebrows reached his hairline in disbelief suggesting that there was ample evidence that my brain had experienced many moments of “emptiness” over the 15 years since we met.  I countered his suggestion by informing him that losing my passport before a family trip to Australia, arriving three weeks early for the West End show Matilda and ordering 22 cucumbers instead of 2 are signs of a very full brain - not an empty one...? 

Anyway, after some clear-brained reflection, I took time to assess the impact changing career has had on me and those around me. 

What emerged was my Career Change Balance Sheet - an evaluation of the state of the important areas of my life before, during and after changing careers. The good, the bad and the ugly. You can use it too. 

What is my Career Change Balance Sheet?

It’s built upon the premise that the only way to avoid bimbling along until we arrive in a career cul-de-sac in our 50s (or earlier...if you are an advanced human) is to assess our current situations clearly and decide which changes to make.

So many of my early conversations with individuals who want to change career in their 40s, 50s or 60s are shrouded in strong emotions. The Career Change Balance Sheet offers a way to do the necessary thinking that precedes career change - in a clear and analytical way. 

Scared senseless

What does my Career Change Balance Sheet allow you to do?

If you’re just starting out on your career overhaul, it will help you to:

  • acknowledge how you’re feeling now AND get clear on the specific problem that’s hindering you doing more satisfying work;  

  • understand which areas of life are being most impacted by the work problem;

  • highlight if any priority imbalances;

  • begin to think about next steps; and

  • give you something tangible to open discussions with partners and family.

If you’ve already begun your career overhaul, the Career Change Balance Sheet will help you:

  • evaluate how you’re doing throughout your career change journey (that can take longer than you initially thought (LINK). 

  • assess if your newly-designed career or career experiments are achieving what you hoped

When you’ve completed it, it can become your motivation to take action.

  • To decide what’s important now (and what can be tacked later). 

  • To make small tweaks (and test their impact).

  • To design new experiments (and think through if they could resolve any issues)

  • To prioritise which problems and/or opportunities need attention first. 

Why you need to write your thoughts down somewhere?

I’m scared senseless that I’ll end up in another career cul-de-sac if I take my eye off the ball, so I’m constantly assessing where I am and how it feels. BUT, they are just fleeting thoughts until I write them down.

Writing down my thoughts seems to give them more…importance?

If your thoughts are important enough to write down, they are important enough to do something about.

psssss: I’m aware that many of you will just close this tab now. That’s ok. You’re just not ready to take action. You know where I am when you’re ready.

I then go back over my notes several days or weeks later to make sure that I haven’t either demonised or rose-tinted any particular situations. 

Then I decide on area that needs most improvement. And tackle it. 

I may never stop doing this because everything becomes so clear when I see it in writing. And actually, it becomes more do-able because I just pick one area at a time.

How I began my Career Change Balance Sheet.

I took seven parts of my life and assessed the situation 

  • a) before I made my career change 

  • b) in the years when I was figuring out my career change and 

  • c) in the years since I set up my business.

The areas I assessed were (in no particular order): 

  1. Mental Health;  

  2. Fun; 

  3. Sleep; 

  4. Physical Health; 

  5. Finances; 

  6. Volunteering; and 

  7. Home life

Here’s a visual of the results from my personal career change balance sheet - the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Careeer change Balance Sheet
Career Change Balance Sheet Pg 2

The surprises for me after reviewing my balance sheet: 

  1. The impact of being a full-time mum and a full-time student meant that my social life was decimated for 18 months. I also said “yes” to co-chairing a small charity before I understood what was required in my MSc. Saying “no” is a lesson I’ve learned in my 40s but only after being on the brink of failure. It’s something I’ve become very good now. Better late than never.  

  2. I’m surprised at how much I prioritised sleep all the way throughout the change process - but I credit this as one of the smartest things I did - and will ever do. I know myself and if you ever want to torture me - use sleep deprivation, I’ll blab on the day two!

  3. I’m surprised by how my priorities have changed in terms of finances. When I look back, so much of my former salary was being spent on our full-time nanny, on big nights out, on gorgeous things and expensive holidays - all of which masked the problem…for a while.

  4. The BIGGEST Surprise: And the change that I’m most proud of (remember Irish Catholic upbring means pride doesn’t come easily) is my daughters’ attitudes to the idea of work. (see below or at the bottom of the Balance Sheet).

I feel like I have given them something that money can’t buy.

The biggest unexpected surprise was the impact that changing careers has had on my daughters. Their view of the idea of “work” has been transformed and I think this will vastly improve their future relationship with work. Fingers crossed.

The biggest unexpected surprise was the impact that changing careers has had on my daughters. Their view of the idea of “work” has been transformed and I think this will vastly improve their future relationship with work. Fingers crossed.

Are you ready to make an honest evaluation of your current career and its impact on the wider areas of your life? 

If so, download a copy of my Career Balance Sheet template, grab a pen and start assessing your current situation. 

Then, if work needs an overhaul and you’re not sure where to begin, why not book in for one of my free 30min calls where I promise to give you at least two personalised recommendations to get your unsticking process on the move.


Do you want to be on the same commuter train in your 60s? And a glimpse into my husband's future.

An off-hand comment by my husband on date night, gives me food for thought about our future careers.

Choosing a future you definitely DON’T want

About five years ago, in my last corporate job, I combined a work day in London starting with an 8am meeting in Holborn, a normal work day and a few drinks with my husband before making it back home for the 9pm nanny hand-over. 

On both train journeys, I noted a group of suited and booted gents in their late 50s-early 60s. Each had a couple of M&S beers for the journey home and were having a good laugh. These men are now indelibly imprinted in my brain, solely because of my husband’s casual comment as we jaunted off the train:

“God, I hope I’m never one of those guys.” 

I was flabbergasted - for two reasons.

  1. My husband is one of the least judgemental people I’ve ever met.

  2. These gents appeared perfectly happy with their lot.

Sometimes deciding what you DON’T WANT in your future can be very motivating in the present.

Sometimes deciding what you DON’T WANT in your future can be very motivating in the present.

Choosing life priorities defines behaviour

However, I had realised that we had agreed our life priorities early in our relationship.  

Over the years we had known each other, we have comprised on some life decisions to enable our love of travel. 

For example,

  • Neither of us have many designer clothes. 

  • Neither of us have super flashy cars…or at least not since he helped me realise how much money I was wasting on my corporate company car allowance. 

  • We chose a house and a mortgage that we could afford if one of us got ill/pregnant. 

Before children we would go on weekend breaks around Europe at the drop of a hat, gaining me the office nickname “Judith Chalmers”, the 1980s TV travel personality. 

I was secretly proud.  

When we had young children we carried on with the last minute jaunts until school holidays messed with both our spontaneity and our budget! 

Now, like many parents we book most of our holidays up to a year in advance to make sure we don’t pay over the odds for the holiday we choose.

Each of us chooses our priorities in life. 

If we don’t make a choice, someone else makes it for us. 

My husband is lucky enough to have known early on that he definitely doesn’t want to be on the commuter train when he is 60.  

Which means that every day, he makes choices to do (or not do) things that fit with his goal. 

You can be sure that you won’t see him in a bespoke Desmond Merrion suit, Patrick Cox shoes and a Tom Ford man bag on any commuter train any time soon…but that image makes me smile.

Our futures are designed by our actions today.

If staring down the barrel of this style of commute for another decade or two doesn’t appeal, it might be time to make some different priority choices today.

If staring down the barrel of this style of commute for another decade or two doesn’t appeal, it might be time to make some different priority choices today.

Ensuring that you take the early train to work and the late train home when YOU WANT TO, not because you have to requires concentration on your future...today.

One of my favourite books on this subject is Essentialism - the Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.

Other articles you might like:

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What’s stopping your career change in your 40s or 50s…How to reduce the risk.

This week a client equated his feelings of being in the wrong career for years to having his soul-sucked out of his body by the “Dementors” from Harry Potter.  We laughed at the time but the image made a big impression on me.  

Wrong job vs wrong career

Being in the wrong job hurts.

It’s like a sharp pain that only disappears when you change jobs.  

It’s short-term.

Being in the wrong career, however, is a whole different kettle of fish.

It’s feels like a great weight is bearing down on your body, endlessly eking the joy out of your work AND often your life. 

Being in the wrong career feels like long-term pain and in my book research, when left unattended, it brought on other symptoms like these in some of the individuals:

  • recurring low-level illness;

  • sleep deprivation;

  • a general lack-lustre feeling;

  • reduced interest in exercise;

  • lowering of libido;

  • depression;

  • anxiety; and

  • sometimes a disconnection with family members.

If that’s true, why do we accept it…for years?  

In one survey, 43% of professionals aged 45-54 wanted to change careers (London School of Business & Finance research).  It’s fairly easy to change careers when you are in your twenties. But once you’ve invested 15+ years in a career, it’s much more difficult.    

Midlife is a natural time to reflect and evaluate what exactly we want from a career.

Midlife is the time to decide if we’re prepared to do what is required to get what we want.  

I know midlifers who are not at happy enough with their work but think career change is impossible for them. If that’s you, it might be useful to know you’re not alone in thinking.

Top 10 reasons successful midlifers give to stay in careers that don’t fit anymore:

1.      “I’ll never be able to earn the same salary again.”

2.      “I’ll have to take a low-paying job to begin with and I’m too old to start at the bottom.”

3.      “I’ve only ever done X.” (insert current career)

4.      “My partner/friends/colleagues would think I was having a midlife crisis.”

5.      “No-one would employ me to do something different.”

6.      “I don’t know what I’d do, if I didn’t do this.”

7.      “I enjoy a great deal of flexibility and autonomy. I doubt I’d get that in another job.”

8.      “It’ll take me another 20 years to become good at something.”

9.      “I work part-time and no other employer will let me.”

10.   “If I changed now, I would waste the huge investment in my current career.”

I’d like to add a final one which no one has ever said to me directly but it is a very common reason to stay in a career which is wrong – “It’s easier to stay where I am.” 

But that is a whole different story for another time. 

Even just thinking about career change can make some of us feel like we’re standing on shaky ground.

Even just thinking about career change can make some of us feel like we’re standing on shaky ground.

Let’s be honest…we’re talking about FEAR

All of the above reasons to stay in a career that no longer fits have their basis in fear.   Fear has a particularly negative impact on the brain.

Psychologists and biologists believe that the primitive “flight-fight-freeze” response to danger is alive in us all and is not limited to dangerous physical situations but to situations where there is perceived risk.  

To the human brain, changing careers when you have life responsibilities such as a mortgage to pay or a family to support feels risky (at best) and dangerous (at worst). 

brain sees career change as dangerous..png

What happens to the brain when it thinks you’re in physical danger or at risk? 

The brain shuts down some of its operations to allow the critical ones to continue.  This results in a paired-down version of you:

  • where optimism disappears;

  • the risk of something awful happening is intensified; and

  • the creative, problem-solving you is turned off (or at least turned down).  

In other words, you dive into risk-scanning mode where you constantly scan the environment for anything that could be dangerous or risky – thereby highlighting only the risks and pitfalls of changing career (see the above list).

I’d bet money that you know at least one midlifer who seems unhappy in their career and even though they talk about doing “something about it” regularly, they can’t seem to figure out what to do firstThese “flight-fight-freeze” response to danger might be apparent in their behaviour.

Behaviours (conscious and unconscious) which often indicate that you’re in the wrong career.

Our brains view career change as dangerous which forces us into three different types of natural reactions - Flight, fight or freeze. Sometimes we don’t even recognise our reactions but our behaviour will make it obvious to those around us.

Our brains view career change as dangerous which forces us into three different types of natural reactions - Flight, fight or freeze. Sometimes we don’t even recognise our reactions but our behaviour will make it obvious to those around us.

Flight behaviours:

  • Asking headhunters to “get me out of here”;

  • Resigning without a plan;

  • Unexplained, frequent, low-level illnesses;

  • More sick leave days than ever before in career;

  • Trying to get signed off work…for any reason;

  • Intensive holiday planning (beyond their normal holiday excitement);

  • Impulsive behaviour;

  • Buying business domain names for future businesses;

  • Spending rainy day savings on random business ideas that don’t appear to be well-thought out.

Fight behaviours:

  • Applying for lots of jobs that seem very similar to your current job;

  • Applying for any job that is not your current job;

  • Bad-mouthing the current boss, or team or company to show that you are “open to new opportunities”;

  • Digging deep to work harder in the belief that this tough period will end magically with a happy conclusion.

Freeze behaviours:

  • Day-dreaming of handing in a resignation letter;

  • Writing and carrying a resignation letter in your laptop bag - every day;

  • Waiting until you have a million dollar idea for your future business while getting less and less effective at your day job;

  • Wishing and hoping that someone will email your with a new job via Linkedin tomorrow morning;

  • Ignoring Sunday night, Sunday afternoon or Sunday morning blues;

  • Praying for redundancy;

  • Obsessive Netflix watching to block out the reality of a career that doesn’t fit anymore;

  • Emotional eating or drinking to forget.

  • Ignoring the reality that your role is physically and mentally draining the life out of you;

  • Digging deep to work harder in the belief that this tough period will end magically with a happy conclusion.

  • Attempting to convince yourself that your current career is “not that bad” – but the thought of doing it for another year (never mind decade) makes you feel ill.

If you are experiencing these Fight, flight or freeze feelings, there are so many ways to reduce the sense of danger around re-designing your work. Here are some ideas.

If you are experiencing these Fight, flight or freeze feelings, there are so many ways to reduce the sense of danger around re-designing your work. Here are some ideas.

How to reduce the “flight-fight-freeze” reactions in your brain?

1.      Stop trying to focus on the elusive end point. 

Instead focus on the start point by asking yourself “which specific bits of my current career do I really enjoy doing?”

Write a list.

Imagine doing lots more of those tasks on a daily basis.  

2.      Start some easy but real research.

Do you know anyone who has changed careers successfully – even if they haven’t made a radical change?  Talk to them.  Talk to friends, friends of friends, family members or even look up celebrities who have changed careers.  How did they do it? 

If you really can’t find anyone, contact me and I’ll connect you to someone who loves their new career or better still, I’ve done the hard work for you in my book X Change: How to torch your work treadmill where you’ll read the stories of professionals like you who designed more satisfaction and fun into their careers.

3.      Don’t assume you need a total and utter career change to feel more fulfilled. 

Remember your last good day at work and write down why it was better than recent days, weeks, months or years.  

4.      Open your mind to possibility that you could earn AT LEAST the same salary doing something you LOVE.

After you've read X Change: How to torch your work treadmill you can see that some of the individuals retained the same salary or higher after the early transition period.

Why not have a detailed look at your finances to understand the minimum viable income you would require in the short-term to give you freedom in the early days? It amazes me who infrequently individuals do this when thinking about changing careers. Read this story from one of the midlife unstuck community members of how she found freedom after understanding her detailed financial situation here.

5.      Read real case studies or autobiographies of individuals who have changed careers. 

It couldn’t be easier. Check out my “Jam-makers” career change stories for an ever-growing list of midlifers who are making their 40s, 50s and 60s the jam years of their careers.

Once you’ve demonstrated to your brain that changing career has not been at all dangerous for a whole range of people throughout the globe (and has even enabled them to live much more fulfilling and satisfying lives), your brain will begin to allow you the optimism (and realism) to imagine how changing career might not be actually dangerous for you

It might actually liberate you!

Are you ready to torch your work treadmill? Book a call with me now.

C

Other related articles:

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How to choose a career coach (even if you’re not sure you need one yet.) 

When you’re feeling stuck in a career, industry or job that no longer fits, a career coach can be the life-line that helps you identify and evaluate possible new directions. 

Even though career coaching is not the norm yet for senior professionals - at least not in Europe - it’s definitely a growth market. If you were to do a google search for a career coach in your city, you will have tonnes of options.

If you do a google search for “career coach” in your city, you’ll be overwhelmed with choice but without a personal recommendation, it’s difficult to find a career coach that suits you and your specific requirements.

If you do a google search for “career coach” in your city, you’ll be overwhelmed with choice but without a personal recommendation, it’s difficult to find a career coach that suits you and your specific requirements.

But how do you find one that works for you? 

There are low barriers to entry in the murky world of coaching so anyone can give it a go.  Some are amazingly talented and some are...not.

When I went through my own mid-career crisis some years ago, I might have bitten off your arm for the telephone number of a career coach who came highly recommended.  

But as I felt so ashamed of my successful but increasingly unhappy career, I didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t ask anyone for help so I missed out on a great opportunity to make my career change less painful, less expensive, less stressful and far speedier. 

I reckon a decent career coach could have saved me at very least £20,000 in career change costs so I’ve put some thought into a few recommendations to help you go about selecting the best career coach for you and your personal situation.

My top tips on how to choose a career coach: 

Choose a career coach who is EXCELLENT at doing one thing - working with one particular style of person, one particular career problem or opportunity. It takes confidence to specialise.

Choose a career coach who is EXCELLENT at doing one thing - working with one particular style of person, one particular career problem or opportunity. It takes confidence to specialise.

  • Does your specific problem sit within their specialist niche?

You wouldn't choose a builder for your Grade II listed building if they’d only worked on new builds, would you? 

Choose someone who is REALLY good at doing one thing, or working with one particular style of person, problem or opportunity.

It’s my strong opinion that a great career coach must have chosen a niche  - otherwise you might be paying them to learn on the job!

Examples of specific niches:

  • Industry - intimate experience of the idiosyncrasies of the industry you are interested in or want to continue to progress within could be very useful.

  • Level - early, mid-career, executive level positions all have requirements that are different which impact coaching niches.

  • Situation - if you can assess the specific problem that is making you feel career stuck as coach with specific situational experience can be very helpful. Examples include cultural acclimatisation after entering a new country, returning to work after maternity leave, entering new industries, setting up a first business, enhanced leadership techniques, managing different styles of teams, entering new levels of seniority or specific skills like persuasion or emotional intelligence.

For instance, I specialise in working with individuals in their 40s and 50s who feel stuck in their successful but unfulfilling careers and want to consciously design more satisfaction into their future work.  That’s a very tight niche that fits my experience, knowledge and passions.

  • I don’t know a thing about the problems or psychology of millennials so that’s definitely not my niche. 

  • I’m not experienced at coaching individuals on their way up the corporate ladder so neither is that my niche.

  • I’d never be chosen to coach teams towards high performance…you get the gist!

Full disclosure:  I have worked with very advanced 30 somethings who felt stuck in a career that doesn’t fit but the characteristics of their problem and my ability to help them solve them are matched perfectly…and I try not to discriminate against the young!

A career coach who doesn’t appear to really enjoy their work is a worry. But a career coach who is 100% joyful in their work might not be attractive either.

A career coach who doesn’t appear to really enjoy their work is a worry. But a career coach who is 100% joyful in their work might not be attractive either.

  •  Do they walk the walk?

Beware the stress and anxiety coach who looks stressed and anxious. Or the money mindset coach who drives a 14 year old banger. 

Do some research to figure out if they are taking their own medicine.  Are they practising what they preach? 

It won’t take long.

A 10 minute whizz around their website, watching their videos on social media, reading their blog etc should give you the feeling that they are walking the walk but are being honest about their failings as humans.

Perfection doesn’t exist.

As an example, I tell potential clients that on average, I use a combination of my Superpowers 60-70% of each day. Not 100%, I hear you ask?

I also tell them that if I wasn’t a solopreneur, I’d have outsourced my super weaknesses a long time ago to allow me to use my Superpowers 90% of each day.

But, I love being my own boss and before I outsource anything like marketing, PR, admin or book-keeping, I do it myself for a while so that I understand what good (and bad!) look like. This helps me then select someone much better than me to do it. 

But 60-70% of fulfilling work every day is not bad for a career satisfaction designer, eh? 

  • Do you like them enough to be regularly vulnerable in front of them?

Any decent career coach offers some form of check-me-out call which is a two-way process. 

It’s highly likely that if you feel career stuck that you will need to be openly vulnerable - as it’s the only way you’ll be able to see things from a different angle and begin to figure out potential next steps. 

By asking and answering questions in a short telephone call, you’ll be able to test how sensitive they will be to your situation, to get examples of similar individuals they’ve worked with and to figure out if their style works with yours.

In case you’re wondering, I call my “check-me-out“ call “The Light at the end of my the tunnel” call.  I do lots of these each week and only one or two will end up working with me.

Why? Because it’s got to be the right fit for both of us.

It really bugs me when coaches don’t put their prices on their website - time is precious. I think it’s best to give potential clients the information they need to decide whether you offer good value for them, or not.

It really bugs me when coaches don’t put their prices on their website - time is precious. I think it’s best to give potential clients the information they need to decide whether you offer good value for them, or not.

  • Do they offer value for money...for you personally?

When you’re hiring a decorator do you let them charge by the day? I did it once and was astounded by the cost in the end. And I wasn’t happy with the outcome. I didn’t need to learn that lesson twice.

Of course, coaching is much more complex than slapping a bit of Farrow & Ball chalk paint onto a wall - it’s difficult to quantify benefits at the out-set. 

Instead, I really like it when the coach does the thinking for you and openly offers a range of packages with different outcomes and processes listed so that it’s possible to clearly see how each might benefit you.  

Then you can decide if it’s good value for your personal situation...or not.  

I also really like it when coaches who give access to their prices on their website (as I do). It feels like a huge commitment to pick up the phone to ask a coach what they charge. Don’t you think? 

I’ve personally never charged by the hour as it feels like I’m charging individuals more for moving slowly through the change process. That makes me feel a bit...itchy. 

Choose a career coach with a personality that matches yours. I’m direct but kind, action-driven, energising, self-deprecating but you-appreciating, but mostly I like to laugh.

Choose a career coach with a personality that matches yours. I’m direct but kind, action-driven, energising, self-deprecating but you-appreciating, but mostly I like to laugh.

  • Do they have a sense of humour?

This one might be just me…

But, If I’m going to be working with someone for several hours a month for 6 months on my Big Re-think programme, it’s just more fun if we have a laugh every now and then. 

I used to be a bereavement volunteer for an amazing charity called CRUSE and my time with them reaffirmed for me the idea that grief and humour are located right beside each other.

In the beginning, it always astounded me how much laughter (and tears) our sessions were filled with until it became the norm. Just because you might be talking about some painful stuff with your career coach, doesn’t mean that it always needs to be serious. 

Or maybe that’s just me? 

What I’ve learned about career change (after interviewing 100 midlife career changers)

100.jpg

Over the last two years, I met people who’d lived about 600 months when they decided to change careers. To do work that mattered more, to them and others around them. And in less than an hour, I fell in love with each of them, just a little. 

They offered me lessons in career change that impacted my outlook, my work...and my life. I can barely remember how I was before I met them.

And here are a few of those lessons that might help you too.

  1. We generation Xers are in our 40s or 50s now and we need to work. It’s where we hone our self-esteem, our self-worth and our funds to enjoy life, in our own way. For better or worse, we’re going to be working for a very long time. 

  2. There are many partners in law or accountancy firms who “can’t afford to retire”. Even though they earn £750,000+ per annum! So, I guess they made a decision one day, that stuff was more important that freedom and fun? 

  3. “Safe” doesn’t exist in corporates - especially after a 50th birthday. So, we need to design a career that could last a long time, because it needs to. Especially if we have dependants - old or young.

  4. Fear is everywhere but we can train ourselves to squish it long enough to try something. A little experiment that won’t change the world. But might just change our world. 

  5. Security is as addictive but it’s a habit that can be broken, with no need to go cold turkey. We don’t need to risk it all to be happy but we do need to take the blind-fold off. 

  6. So many of us successfully sleep-walk into a career coma which ends in a frightening career cul de sac. And the only way out, is to switch off autopilot and put your hands on the wheel. Scary as it seems. 

  7. No-one values you or your career beyond what you can do for them, this year. So we’re left holding the career bag with our name engraved. And need to carry it creatively for the next decades.

  8. If your job is eroding you, your mind will tell you in a whispered warning.  If you don’t listen, it will begin to shout from weird parts of your body. And if you still don’t listen, it’ll scream at you all the way to the hospital.  

  9. An ever-present urge to escape usually means we’re not thinking straight. We believe the only way is to throw the baby out with the bath water. It’s not. But we sometimes need help to differentiate the baby from the bath water.

  10. Confidence grows with action. And shrinks with inactivity to keep us stuck. Hop on a tourist bus to a new rough destination, then hop off and see how it feels.  Small steps. Low bar. Ace it. Then bigger steps. Higher bar etc. 

Still reading? Thank you - Here are a couple of bonus extra lessons.

  1. There’s a way to use design thinking to tweak work with life and test reactions. Test reactions within you and yours and then test reactions commercially. Before signing off on final designs.  

  2. Time is more precious than anything else. What if we counted it in months, or days or even hours? So that we might not waste another hour doing work that didn’t matter enough. To us or those around us.

I met 100 people who had lived about 600 months before they decided to change careers, to do work that mattered more.

They took a pen to their work to design it differently

And began their first draft of the next chapter of their work story

Before another month evaporated.  

If you liked this you’ll love this…

X Change: How to torch your work treadmill, retire your boss, dump the ingrates, torment the passive-aggressives, escape the toxic office, get your fierce on and design the career that lets you live, love and laugh after 40. 

Who's leading your midlife career change dance...fear or confidence? And does career coaching help?

Rare, new midlife research suggests career coaching helps late career reinvention, but it takes time and involves a zig-zaggy dance between confidence and fear. 

Dance fear confidence.jpg

Career change is a growing area of interest, but I really struggle to find interesting research on career change...at our age!

So, when I happened upon a new piece of research with a tight focus on both career coaching and individuals in the second half of their careers, I couldn’t wait to get my get on the phone with Laura Walker. She conducted the research and she’s on a mission to change the way organisations value midlife talent. Read more about her at the end of this article but here are just a few of the study highlights.

Lots of midlifers I speak to for the first time tell me they’re not sure career re-design and reinvention is possible for them.

Lots of midlifers I speak to for the first time tell me they’re not sure career re-design and reinvention is possible for them.

Late career reinvention is...

After conducting interviews with midlifers who were engaged in coaching to support “late career reinvention”, Laura describes some of the common features of that change process: 

  • Late career reinvention is a messy process that involves many twists and turns including a significant occupational and psychological change. 

  • Late career reinvention is a process that can take somewhere between 3 and 8 years for those interviewed; and 

  • Late career reinvention is usually only recognised as “career reinvention” in hindsight meaning that the midlifers didn’t always start the coaching process with re-invention in mind.

Three elements of “late career re-invention”

Laura’s research found that late career reinvention involves three key elements: 

1. Discovering: Helping individuals to “get out of their own heads”

Helping an individual think more holistically about how they can become more of themselves and potentially improve the integration of their life and work.

Examples might include:

  • helping them to re-define their purpose;

  • helping to figure out who they are now and who they want to be in the future;

  • delving into practical issues around potential change;

  • understanding any limiting beliefs or unhelpful behaviours hindering change;

  • understanding risks such as family, identity or status;

  • re-defining success. 

2. Systemic readiness: Getting everyone and everything ready for change

Rather than just the individual’s willingness to change, these midlifers suggested that one of the most important elements of coaching during this stage was to make sure everyone around them was ready for the implications of the change.  

Interestingly, the research also suggested that often individuals needed to have experienced enough dissatisfaction to prompt the change. This aligns with my idea of the career change tipping point

3. A dynamic dance between fear and self-confidence

I love Laura’s idea here of career reinvention playing out as a dance between fear and self-confidence and it’s something I see play out in my work every day. 

This zig-zaggy, back and forth dance where fear leads and confidence follows and then they reverse seems to play out multiple times over the course of the career reinvention process. 

Laura suggests some of the fears that played out for the midlifers in her research included:

  • Fear of staying stuck forever;  

  • Fear of turning into their parents; 

  • Fear of not being able to pay the bills;  

  • Fear of not being good enough; 

  • Fear of feeling and showing vulnerability. 

But thankfully, confidence swanned in at various points to keep the show on the road!

In my experience, for change to occur, both fear and confidence play ongoing roles. 

On the edge of failure - an alternative suggestion

I recently listened to Seth Godin suggest that, rather than individuals feeling alive by working for their favourite charity or doing deeply worthy work, we feel alive by standing on the brink of failure and taking positive steps to make failure less likely.  He suggests this dance between failure and success could be the deep fulfillment that we are all seeking. 

I need to retreat to my introverted padded cell to think that one through but in the meantime...

Career change at our age isn’t often easy - it can be good to have a partner-in-design to help you through the fear and confidence dance.

Career change at our age isn’t often easy - it can be good to have a partner-in-design to help you through the fear and confidence dance.

Conclusions for you

If you’re still reading, you may be considering embarking on your own career reinvention or may have already made a start but became a little stuck.

So, here are some conclusions to add to your thought process: 

  • Be gentle with yourself, safe in the knowledge that reinvention is a longer game than you initially thought. 

  • Understand that it’s completely natural to swing between deep periods of fear and high confidence when reinventing your career.  Actually, both seem necessary partners for the reinvention process to take place.

  • Research in midlife careers is limited, so choosing a coach who specialises in the uniqueness of career re-design and reinvention at our age is advised.  


Finally, many of the participants in Laura’s research described their coach as “an unbiased, challenging supporter” alongside existing support from family, friends and colleagues. 

If you feel you and your career could benefit from an “unbiased, challenging supporter” or a partner-in-design, it’s worth seeking out someone who understands the idiosyncracies of career reinvention in midlife. 

Tired of thinking and ready to take action?

Click here to book in for a (free) 30min “Light at the end of my tunnel call” this week, where I guarantee to give you at least two personalised recommendations to kickstart your career reinvention.

Find out about Laura Walker, who led the research highlighted above: 

 https://midlifecareers.co.uk/best-insight/ 


Other related articles:







The one thing I lacked (that would have shaved years & at least £20000 off my career change costs)

5 years ago, I first noticed a slow, dripping tap of career dissatisfaction. But it took me years to figure out the one thing I lacked to enable me to fix it - and save lots of money and painful, wasted energy at the same time.

If I’d invested time and energy (or paid someone to help me) in this one thing, I could have turned off my slow, dripping tap of career dissatisfaction years earlier.

If I’d invested time and energy (or paid someone to help me) in this one thing, I could have turned off my slow, dripping tap of career dissatisfaction years earlier.

The dripping tap numbed my wins and my losses. 

Flattened my fun. 

And coloured my days slightly grey.  

But I shoved the fear of big change around next year’s corner. 

A prison of my own making

The career I’d gifted 20 years of my youth to, had morphed into a prison of my own making. From this prison, my window of opportunity felt like it was shrinking the closer I aged towards 50.

I’d worked hard. And saved hard. Maybe even enough for a great escape - but not without a plan. 

Plan A was definitely fading.

To be frank, so was I. 

Another year passed but no plan magically materialised. Because I still had no idea where to start. 

Escaping from my self-made, comfortable career prison took me about 4 years but it shouldn’t have.

Escaping from my self-made, comfortable career prison took me about 4 years but it shouldn’t have.

A leap that nearly broke me

When the dripping tap switched to full flow, I jumped from Plan A without a parachute, of any colour. And crash-landed at university, trying to master psychology. 

Far from a soft landing, it was the hardest year of my life!

Not kidding.

The wrinkles on my brain and my face slowed my learning. 

I donated every ounce of energy to getting great marks - all the time believing I was on the brink of failure. I did well and felt proud, for two minutes, before the fog of reality returned. 

I STILL had no Plan B to go forth with.

And STILL didn’t know how to start one. 

I STILL didn’t know anyone who had one - or one that excited them.

STILL didn’t know where to start figuring out what I’d be good at, or (whisper) maybe even great at. 

I STILL didn’t know how to get paid to do work that I might love.

But mostly, I STARTED to wonder if I might look back on my career with regret asking “What if?

The unusual question that changed everything

Then, I whispered to myself a tough question: 

“How am I going to live a life, with the freedom to do work that makes me feel great AND work that matters so much I get invited onto BBC1 Desert Island Discs?

That’s how I knew I still had hope

I just needed my Plan B. A bloody great one! 

Big B.jpg

So I put my newfound research skills to the test and scoured the globe to learn everything possible about career change.

And created a methodology to design bespoke Plan Bs Plan Bs for individuals, like me, who’ve got plenty left in the tank and don’t want to waste another minute wondering.  Plan Bs designed around personality and unique talents, combined with lifestyle and freedom desires.

And I implemented my own Plan B - doing work that’s fun and that matters.

Incase you’re wondering, I’m quite a way off being invited onto Desert Island Discs! BUT I’m a heck of a lot closer than I was 5 years ago.

2 years ago.

Yesterday. 

Check out my “Where to Start” guide to career change at your age and talk to me about designing your Plan B

 









How to tell if you're in the wrong career (Hint: Flight, Fight, Freeze behaviours)

Let’s face it, some of us just need a new job to re-invigorate our relationship with work.

Others feel a deeper level of satisfaction.

We instinctively know that a shiny new office, a different commute and fresh faces won’t touch the sides of our work dissatisfaction, if we are still doing a similar job in a similar industry.

Flight - Fight - Freeze. Common reactions to being in the wrong career.

Flight - Fight - Freeze. Common reactions to being in the wrong career.

The blame game

Close to the end of my first career, I answered a few head-hunting calls of my own and after several great meetings, I went cold on them and couldn’t quite articulate why.

I can now.

I realised the problem wasn’t my company, my boss, my commute, my industry or the culture.

THE PROBLEM WAS ME.

I simply didn’t want to do the job that I’d spent 20 years getting really good at anymore.

I instinctively knew that I’d bring my giant bag of work unhappiness (a weird concoction of boredom, under-challenging work, frustration with them, frustration with me…and the list went on) to any other similar role in the same industry.

I was ever so slowing fading out.

Wearing down.

Losing my mojo.

Off came the blinkers!

That’s when I began to notice things I’d never noticed before. I opened my eyes to my own behaviour and the behaviour of others around me.

Every week of my old career, I had the privilege of talking to c50+ midlifers.

Midlifers who were not as happy as they wanted to be in their work.

Midlifers who would take my head-hunting call.

I’d also had the privilege of talking to lots of work colleagues, some of whom were not as happy as they wanted to be.

I started noticing behavioural patterns in individuals who were in the wrong career.

Not all of these behaviours were being displayed consciously.

You might recognise some of them in you.

3 types of behaviours that demonstrate you might be in the wrong career:

The Flight Response is just one reaction to being in the wrong career.

The Flight Response is just one reaction to being in the wrong career.

Flight:

  • Asking headhunters to “get me out of here”;

  • Resigning without a plan;

  • Frequent unexplained illnesses;

  • Expending a great deal of energy attempting to get signed off on sick leave;

  • Intensive holiday planning (beyond their normal holiday excitement);

  • Unusual impulsive behaviour;

  • More sick leave days than ever before in career;

  • Buying business domain names for future possible businesses;

  • Spending rainy day savings on random business ideas that don’t appear to be well-thought out.

Getting annoyed, showing frustration and being angry are all wrapped up in the Fight Response to being in the wrong career

Getting annoyed, showing frustration and being angry are all wrapped up in the Fight Response to being in the wrong career

Fight:

  • Applying for lots of jobs that seem very similar to your current job;

  • Applying for any job that is not your current job;

  • Bad-mouthing your current boss far and wide in an attempt to let other divisions know that they are open to new opportunities;

  • Making sure the world knows that you used to do great work…when things were different.

  • Displaying pissed-offness in almost every work conversation (more than the usual grumpiness associated with people our age!)

  • Endlessly bad-mouthing work colleagues, bosses, other divisions, your division, the industry, and the list goes on.

The freeze response to being in the wrong career often revolves around self-talk so it’s harder to notice in others.

The freeze response to being in the wrong career often revolves around self-talk so it’s harder to notice in others.

Freeze:

  • Carrying your resignation letter in your lap-top back and constantly day-dreaming of the moment you can hand it in;

  • Waiting until you have a million dollar idea for your future business while getting less and less effective at your day job;

  • Continually convincing yourself that your current career is “not that bad” – but the thought of doing it for another year (never mind decade!) makes you feel ill.

  • Wishing and hoping that someone will email you with a new job via www.linkedin.com tomorrow morning;

  • Ignoring Sunday night blues;

  • Ignoring the fact that your role is physically and mentally draining the life out of you;  

  • Digging deep to work harder in the belief that this tough period will end magically with a happy conclusion.

  • Praying for voluntary redundancy to be offered;

Later, when I learned more about the psychology of work, I discovered that career change is viewed by the brain as DANGEROUS and it prompts these three types of reactions.

You can transform it into a less fear-filled activity by bringing it to the forefront of your mind. Dealing with it consciously, you might find the idea of changing career or maybe just re-designing parts of it ABSOLUTELY EXCITING and FREEING.

How to reduce the Fight-Flight-Freeze reaction so that you can move forward…

  1. Start by researching individuals who’ve already changed career successfully, which tells your brain that career change is possible…without being eaten by wolves. Here’s a fabulous mini-book to get you started.

  2. Read about, chat to or interview more people like you who have changed careers for the better. This allows the brain to get very comfortable with the idea.

  3. That comfort will then give you the freedom and mental space to begin to build a great Plan B that will allow you to do work that you might really enjoy, for a very long time.

How it feels to have moved beyond Fight, Flight or Freeze

Here are a couple of quotes from midlife professionals who faced up to their natural Flight-Fight-Freeze human reaction to change, and so freed themselves to do work that they now love.

“It feels great being creative all day. We feel happy, proud and confident in what we have produced and we are having such a lot of fun along the way.”

Kate Gregory - Ex Aerospace & Defence Career to Gin Distiller
I love my work now. I learned that I am never going to retire. I’m going to be carried out in a box."

Andy Eaton - International FD to small business owner

Then what?

If' you’d like a partner-in-design who has worked with hundreds of midlife professionals to help them design more satisfying and fulfilling work, why not book in for one of my 30min “Light at the end of the tunnel” conversations? These calls are currently free and I guarantee to offer you at least two personalised recommendations to kick-start your career overhaul -whether we work together or not.

Life’s too short to do work that doesn’t make you happy


What does a 21st century midlife crisis look like?

Does it exist? Is it a male phenomenon? Has it changed over the decades? Is it just about blowing a load of cash on a Porsche or is there something deeper?

About 5.30pm on a Tuesday, a few weeks ago, whilst standing half way down my garden (the only child-free zone I could find) I ended up chatting on the phone to the amazing journalist Zoe Williams about the modern midlife crisis.

An old-fashioned midlife crisis used to involve the purchase of a fast car.

An old-fashioned midlife crisis used to involve the purchase of a fast car.

It might have been a normal day for Zoe but not for me.

When she opened the conversation with “Hi, it's Zoe Williams from the Guardian”, I smiled one of those smiles that starts in your toes and ebbs towards your earlobes at the speed of light. “Hi, Zoe Williams from the Guardian!” I squeaked in reply.

Apparently I squeak when I meet someone I’ve admired for a few decades - who knew?

When I first came to UK, I remember reading her articles in the weekend sections of the broadsheets - often hungover after an expensive night drinking cheap wine in London. We were similar ages and she spoke to my generation as if she was inside my head.

So, 20 years on, she was still a journalist and a great writer and she was calling me!

To be fair, it was a bit of a mad time. I was two weeks away from publishing my first book X Change: How to torch your work treadmill, when I saw a request from her on twitter looking to talk to someone who:

  • identified as female; (yes)

  • knew something about the midlife crisis; (yup)

  • and ideally had experienced one of her own (Hell yes! I created a business because of it!)

My hand shot up faster than a five-year-old trying to impress Miss Honey.

In our half-hour chat, Zoe probed my mind like the experienced journalist she was. In return, I tried so hard to impress her that by the time I got off the phone, I had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT I’D SAID.

A nail-biting few weeks followed.

Imagine my stomach churn when, my whatsapp friends got in touch to say they’d been reading about my midlife crisis in the Guardian!

Holy hell! What had I done? What had I said?

They forwarded me the article and my blood pressure returned to normal as I read Zoe’s brilliantly-researched, cleverly crafted article several times to allow it to sink in.

Sure, I had been probably a little too open about my own melt down around 43. But I’m always honest about that and talk about it regularly on video, in talks, in this blog and in my book.

Zoe had very kindly mentioned my new book so people started getting in touch that day. So many new people checked out my website and signed up to my “It’s not too late and you’re not too old” newsletter that I almost wept with joy.

Please do read Zoe’s article in The Guardian:

But, if you’re stuck for time and just wanted to know what I said, here it is:

  1. Sometime in our 40s or 50s we have to start working a heck of a lot harder at liking our bodies than we used to. Probably due to the impacts of metabolic slow-down, illnesses or sheer bloody exhaustion! Some people view this as their midlife crisis but it’s much bigger than that.

  2. Midlife crises of the Porsche-buying variety are old hat for most of our modern society. Midlife men in Lycra is the modern form but, let’s be honest, some men just love cycling fast in tight clothes talking about power-to-weight ratios. My lovely husband is one of them so I need to tread gently here!

  3. In my opinion, the new midlife crisis manifests itself as a career crisis in our 40s/50s which has become comfortable to talk about in recent years. The timing of this seems to also coincide with the modern 50-year-old corporate toast phenomenon which I’ve written about a great deal.

Midlife Men in Lycra don’t signal midlife crisis any more than buying a Porsche. Some men (my husband for instance) just like wearing tight-fitting clothes while cycling and discussing power-to-weight ratios. Other men (my younger brother for instance) just like Porsches ;)

Midlife Men in Lycra don’t signal midlife crisis any more than buying a Porsche. Some men (my husband for instance) just like wearing tight-fitting clothes while cycling and discussing power-to-weight ratios. Other men (my younger brother for instance) just like Porsches ;)

Here’s the article again - have a read and let me know if you agree or disagree.

If you couldn’t give a monkeys what we name this feeling of dissatisfaction that you’re experiencing and want to crack on designing your way out of it, why not book in for one of my “Light at the end of my tunnel” calls? In 30 mins, after hearing your story I guarantee to give you at least two personalised suggestions to kick-start your career overhaul so that you can stop wasting time doing work that you don’t love.

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Yet another scary career experiment..how to prepare for your first podcast

Had I lost my mind? Why the heck would I deliberately put myself out of my comfort zone and face potential rejection and criticism while recording myself stumbling about in a conversation in front of people I don’t know?  

165million potential podcast listeners - that’s why!

If I believed in my message enough, I’d be prepared to put myself through a bit of pain to get my message out to many more people? To do little experiments that might be a bit uncomfortable and expand the reach of my message? Wouldn’t I?

I’m always talking to my clients about moving out of their comfort zone to try new ideas and to show that it doesn’t kill you, I write about them as honestly as I can.

But, sometimes I miss the safety of hiding behind a giant FTSE 250 business!

4 years ago I left my corporate career behind. Escaped to do a MSc Psychology. Then created my first ever business (Midlife Unstuck) to help other professionals in their 40s and 50s design more satisfaction into the second half of their careers.

But 2 years in, I hit a bit of a wall getting my message out there and decided to throw myself to the media wolves and narrow in on a PR strategy. For too long, I’d been hiding behind social media spreading my message - oh so slowly - which has been fruitful but very slow going.

I’m a fan of experimenting with your career and I like to practise what I preach, so after pitching successfully to the wonderful journalist Zoe Williams, I was grateful for a few mentions in one of her Guardian articles on 21st century midlife crisis.  

Confidence heightened, I decided that podcasts might be a way to get some more eyes (well…ears actually) on my business.

But I was scared.

Still am, if I’m being honest.

Me and my fear

  • Introvert 👍

  • Struggle to talk in straight lines 👍

  • Would prefer to interview rather than be interviewed 👍

  • Don’t like being the focus of attention 👍

  • Anxious about sounding like a “too-big-for-my-boots, arrogant, know-it-all” 👍

  • Need to grow my business so that I can keep doing work that I love forever  👍

So where to start?

I keep battling with this fear of putting myself out there so I set challenges to help me get out of my own way.

I keep battling with this fear of putting myself out there so I set challenges to help me get out of my own way.

Frightened that I might stop if the going got tough, I made myself a promise that I would pitch to 25 different podcasts before deciding whether they were worthwhile or not for my business.

I wrote the promise in big letters on my office whiteboard, added it to my This is my era 90day planner, told my kids about it (they’ll never let me forget!), made it the wallpaper on my phone and started an trello checklist.

The research stage - it’s easy to get stuck in this stage because it’s not painful and I like planning. But planning isn’t doing…

The research stage - it’s easy to get stuck in this stage because it’s not painful and I like planning. But planning isn’t doing…

Then I went about making it happen.

The Research Stage (safe, safe, safe)

  1. Earplugs in.  Listen to lots of podcasts in your genre.  Seek out podcast categories that work for your business and create a starter list of smaller, newer podcasts in a category where your message would be well received

  2. Make a rough list of 25 podcasts that your message would be useful to the listeners. HINT: Don’t put Oprah or Pat Flynn on your top 25 list - that’s a sure recipe for failure before you’ve even started!  You can work up to them after your experiment has ended and you’ve perfected your message.

  3. Pick one that you particularly like. Listen to at least three or four episodes, review the titles to learn more about the listener interests. Follow the podcast host on all their social media to understand more about them. Comment if you feel strongly on one or more of their posts.  Write a 5 star, very specific, honest review for their podcast.

A short pitch highlighting how your message might help their listeners is key.

A short pitch highlighting how your message might help their listeners is key.

The Pitch (exposing, vulnerable and down-right painful!)

  1. Email your pitch to the podcast host-using the smallest number of words possible covering these three points:

    1. Who you are (just the bits that are specific to their audience);  

    2. Which of their podcast episodes you liked most and why;  

    3. What benefit your expertise might offer their listeners and whether they think you might be a good guest.    

  2. Repeat Research Stage (3) and Pitch Stage (1) until you get a “YES - I’d love you to come on the show!”

  3. When you have your first “Yes” start to prepare clear answers to their standard questions. Jot notes down on the key pieces of your work that you really feel would benefit their listeners.

Ok - time to get your shit together to make sure you do yourself justice in front of the mic.

Ok - time to get your shit together to make sure you do yourself justice in front of the mic.

The Recording (less painful but nerve-inducing nonetheless)

  1. Make sure you have the correct recording link that the host sent to you to hand (saves you sending a panic email to the host 5 mins before the start time (which I’m embarrassed to say I did!)

  2. Sort out your recording kit - often just a pair of standard iphone earphones with a microphone is fine.  I used Jabra earphones with built-in pull down microphone which I already owned. But some like to have the stability of a separate mic and get a blue snowball microphone.

  3. Make sure you’re in the strongest internet spot in your home/office and have closed the windows to reduce noise.

  4. Keep your bottle of water and your preparation notes close to hand.

  5. Plan and prepare your introduction story lasting a few minutes.  This is when the host allows you an uninterrupted few minutes to talk about yourself and your business. Easy to waffle here but it’s better if you have your story succinct with the most relevant parts for their audience.

  6. Listen really carefully to the host to answer their questions specifically.

  7. Ask a few questions of the host during the recording, as you would in a real conversation. This also gives you a moment to breathe.

  8. Perfection is boring. In life we occasionally stumble, say the wrong word, need a second to think and say inappropriate comments. They can be edited out if it’s a disaster but the more it sounds like you and the host are having a conversation, the more natural it will feel to the listener.

  9. It’s unlikely you’ll feel relaxed but you do need to smile so that you sound relaxed.

  10. Laugh and interact like the wonderful human you are and reap the benefits of having your message broadcast from the rooftops.  Share and market the podcast jointly with the host AND in your own world.

A word of gigantic word of thanks here to Michelle Reeves, author of The Happiness Habits Transformation and host of The Ideal Life Club podcast.  I didn’t tell her at the time but she offered me my first ever guest spot on her podcast.  

Michelle is a masterful interviewer who made me feel like I was the most interesting person in the world (which is definitely one of her Superpowers).  She gave me time to breathe in between questions by commenting or summarising what I’d said and generally made the experience far less like childbirth than I thought it was going to be...I would even go so far as to describe it as fun!

If you are reading this as a virgin podcast guest, I encourage you to give it a go. Why not join me on my 25 podcast pitch challenge and let me know how you go?

If you’re reading this as someone who is considering designing more satisfaction into your work, know that these sort of out-of-comfort-zone experiments are necessary…

Unless, of course, you want to stay where you are.

Listen here to my first ever podcast - then drop me a line to tell me what you think.




























6 skills to help future-proof your career (and earn a good living into your 50s and 60s)

In this article, you’ll learn what aptitudes you need to either learn or hone in order to increase your potential to earn a very good living over the next few decades.

By 2030 (I'll be 58yrs old then!) 800 million jobs are expected to be lost due to automation and the robotic workforce, according to a study on the future of work by the Mckinsey Global Institute. The research was performed across 46 countries and 800 occupations.

So what?

We’ve all seen this happen over our working lives in low-wage occupations (annoying automated call centres, smart cleaning systems, advanced analytical tools, humanless order-taking etc) but what about our high-wage occupations?  

To future-proof our careers, we need to specialise in the very special, high-value human talents that are very difficult to automate or replicate by technology.

To future-proof our careers, we need to specialise in the very special, high-value human talents that are very difficult to automate or replicate by technology.

Can CEOs/MDs roles be automated?

Mckinsey Global Institute specifically estimate that 20% of most CEO’s workload could be automated today by adapting current technology and that percentage is only going to increase each year. But, the line in their report that got my brain fizzing was “Capabilities such as creativity and sensing emotions are core to the human experience and are also difficult to automate.”

So, I picked up Dan Pink’s “A Whole New Mind” again, in which he predicts that career success in the future will rely on our right-brain skills (see below) rather than our logical left-brained skills which got us to where we are today.  

Why?

Because right-brain aptitudes are very hard to automate, so these will be the aptitudes that will offer us high-value work in our late stage careers.

The left-brained activities will be automated.

According to Pink, the Top 6 right-brain aptitudes that hold the power to future-proof our careers are:

  1. Empathy

  2. Using stories to persuade and communicate

  3. Big picture thinking

  4. Design

  5. Humour, laughter, game playing

  6. Seeking out and connecting purpose and meaning?

FB 6 human skills diff to automate.png

How many of your daily activities utilise these aptitudes?

If the answer less than four or five, I’d urge you to work out ways to learn these skills, practise them until they become natural enough to build into your daily work.  This new learning, combined with all of your experience to date, has the power to future-proof your earnings for the next couple of decades.

If you’re already using many of them, keep honing them until they become some of your Superpowered offering that lets you stand out from the competitive marketplace, now and in 20 years time.  

Quick and dirty analysis - my former career v my new career

In my 19 year corporate career,  I used only two of these aptitudes daily (EMPATHY and SEEKING OUT PURPOSE & MEANING) so the writing was on the wall.

I’ve analysed that I'm now using five out of these six right-brain aptitudes in my daily work.  That said, many of them are newer skills that I’m constantly learning more about by reading books, watching Youtube, consuming Ted Talks and generally experimenting with them in my daily work and life.   

Today, (oddly perhaps?) the PLAY element of work is the trickiest one for me to build into my work. Thankfully, my two daughters are helping me out with that one! I’m also in the process of learning more about DESIGN which interests me but I feel way behind the curve having had very little exposure in my life so far.

Should you worry?

There is no need to be in any way worried about the next decades of your career - if the work that you love AND your Superpowers include skills that computers find hard to perform. But even if they don’t, there’s time to learn them and layer them into your future work.

Impacts of right-brained aptitudes in interviews for left-brained roles

In my old world of head-hunting, my specialism could have been described as seeking out the perfect left-brained Finance Director to help companies grow financially.

I saw the left-brained activity forming the basics of a role profile. But, I found those who were able to display high-performance in right-brained aptitudes in interviews were much more successful.  

Success came more often to:

  • Those who could empathise with the specific people problems within the business;

  • Those who could convince the CEO/MD/HRD of their personal fit by telling impactful head and heart stories in a way that fit with the company culture;

  • Those who demonstrated their bigger picture vision of finance and connected it to the design of their roles (and their teams’ roles) to import greater meaning into the purpose of their finance team.

  • Those who appeared to be more fun to work with!

FB Past, present, future.png

Past, present and future for executive roles

In the past, left-brained skills were base level requirements for many senior roles. Right-brained aptitudes were a differentiator.

Currently, value is placed on the combination of left-brained and right-brained aptitudes.

In the future, right-brained aptitudes will be base level requirements.

To earn a good living well into our 50s and 60s, we need to have all six of these skills in our experience tool-kit and have honed them into our Superpowers.

I bet my entire career on it!

If you’d like some help with over-hauling your career, figuring out your Superpowers and getting a plan in place, take a look at a couple of ways I can help you.






The first emotion you need to embrace to begin your career change (even if it hurts like hell!)

In this article, you’ll discover the emotion that has the power to keep you stuck forever (when you avoid or numb it) or drive you towards freedom through action (when you embrace it).

To admit this emotion to your friends and family can hurt like hell at first!

To admit this emotion to your friends and family can hurt like hell at first!

I’ve conducted some very niche career change research. Over 100 people who describe themselves as happier after re-designing their work have kindly allowed me to dig around their change stories.

Every single one of them, no matter what their career was before or after they made changes, experienced one emotion at the beginning of their journey that freed them to do work that made them happier.

Which emotion?  

  • Bravery?  Not always

  • Fear of taking risk? Not always.

  • Anger at feeling stuck? Not always.

  • Anxiety around change? Not always.

  • Worry around potential failure? Not always.

  • Status anxiety? Not always.

So, come on, which emotion did all 100 experience at the beginning of their change?

They all experienced enough vulnerability to say to themselves:

“I am stuck somewhere I don’t want to be and I don’t know what to do about it!”


Then, here’s what happened:

Firstly, by acknowledging their vulnerability in this way, they freed themselves to review their situation from a different angle.

Then they swapped their emotional problem for a knowledge problem - which is a heck of a lot easier to solve!

How others actioned their new knowledge problem rather than hiding their vulnerability:

Each of the 100 successful career changers acknowledged that their vulnerable position and then began solving their knowledge problem in 100 different ways. Here are just of few of them:

  • David initiated a quiet conversation with a trusted HR Director colleague who offered some valuable advice.

  • Ges got in touch with a local career coach for the first time in his life, in his 50s.

  • Kate researched how difficult it might be to actually make her own gin

  • Liz signed up for a bread-baking course to try something new

  • Lindsay began to research an industry that she loved - the wine industry

  • Elizabeth took a break from work to travel and re-evaluate life goals

  • Clare started to draw again after a big gap to see if her talent came back to her

  • Andrea used her redundancy pay-out to create her 6 month writing experiment

  • Charlotte visited trade fairs to get to know a new potential clients at weekends

  • Duncan down-sized to save up enough to buy a company

All of these activities were only possible after these successful career changers embraced their vulnerable positions in a way that allowed them to take action.

Instead of staying stuck doing work that wasn’t making them happy…

They chose to embrace their vulnerability to allow them to move forward.

They chose to:

  1. Stop complaining about work that didn’t fit.

  2. Cease feeling powerless or trapped.

  3. Take little steps to feel a little more control of their work lives.

  4. Learn something new to fill in the blanks of their knowledge problem.

  5. To give something new a try.

Actioning vulnerability means doing something that moves you from the “I don’t know what to do about it” situation to knowing a little more. And then a little bit more. And then, you guessed it, a little bit more.

Any downsides to acknowledging your vulnerability?

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Of course!

It can take time.  

It certainly takes effort.  

It leads to action.

It requires a great deal of personal honesty

And (this is a biggie) if you’re the kind of person who always has the answers - it can hurt like hell to say to your partner, children or friends “I’m somewhere I don’t want to be and I don’t know what to do about it”.

BUT…

If you follow up that earlier statement with “so I’m going to do some research to figure it out” you may not actually burst into flames!

You might even become the envy of your friends and inspire change in them.

But who cares what other people think?

There is so much proof in psychological research that embracing your vulnerability can release a whole different range of emotions - happiness, freedom and maybe even joy.

Even if you did burst into flames, might it be worth it to experience work that released those emotions?

If you’re interested in the topic of vulnerability - check out Brene Brown’s Ted Talk.

Your first step?

If you’re getting close to deciding to show a little vulnerability by admitting that “You’re somewhere you don’t want to be and don’t know what to do about it” why not jump on a Light at the end of my tunnel call with me?  

In a 30min phone call,  I guarantee (whether you decide to work with me or not) to give you two personalised recommendations to set you on your way. Oh, and...it’s free!

What have you got to lose?

If you are ready to take your first step to receive two personalised recommendations - click the link/image to book in for a 30min “light at the end of my tunnel call” this week.

If you are ready to take your first step to receive two personalised recommendations - click the link/image to book in for a 30min “light at the end of my tunnel call” this week.

50 year old “Corporate Toast”: the silent career trend we all know about but don’t talk about…and what to do about it.

“The whole truth is that 50+ year olds are an endangered species in big corporates.”

I’ve written hundreds of articles on how to design more satisfying midlife careers but I realised recently that I’ve made a mistake.  

I haven’t made it crystal clear why professionals in their 40s and 50s NEED to start taking action if they’d like to continue working beyond their next few birthdays.  

This mistake became very clear when one of my clients asked my opinion on career options post-50 within big corporates. 

I drew breath before responding

“If you are in your 50s in a big corporate, get ready to be toast!” 

Not my most eloquent moment but a characteristically truthful one, nonetheless.

After nearly 20 years of watching silently as big corporates did everything in their power to recruit “high potentials” whilst at the same time doing everything in their power to negotiate quietly with the 50+ contingent to leave, it felt exhilarating to say out loud what I knew to be the truth. 

That whole truth is that 50+ year olds are an endangered species in big corporates. 

Ageism has simply not been tackled by big corporations, in organisations. The only people who would tackle it are of a similar age and this would do nothing but highlight their vulnerability.

These endangered 50+ year olds are usually positioned in general leadership and/or very specialist roles where they have been shrunk-to-fit. Both positions are extremely time-limited.  

No matter how “high potential” you were considered in your 20s and 30s, if you are facing or have already faced the “BIG 5-0” birthday within a big corporation…your days are numbered.

4 varieties of 50 year old corporate toast

4 varieties of 50 year old corporate toast

Continuing the corporate toast analogy, in my experience, there are four dominant varieties of 50 year old “Corporate Toast”:  

  1. The “Golden-toasted” variety:

The luckiest of these rare creatures have amassed a pension fortune for when they decide that they’ve been perfectly toasted. They can press their own eject button at any time if the company starts to turn up the heat setting. They have almost full control of the toaster.

This allows for a speedy and relatively burn-free exit as long as they are self-aware enough to pop themselves out before the company does - ego and identity intact.

2. The “Almost-toasted” variety:

These self-aware leaders have their fingers crossed that they’ll be able to keep working until their pre-determined point when they can afford to release themselves. There are two different pairs of hands on the eject button so anyone could press it at any time.

These “almost-toasted” varieties hope to have enough time to leave the toaster with a lovely glow (ego and identity pretty much intact) and a bag of either pension/redundancy/exit treasure.

While all fingers are crossed for a hopeful lucrative exit, their impact on the business is very slowly declining - making the eject button ever-more attractive.

3. The “I’m-in-the-wrong toaster” variety:

These leaders have a long-term focus and often enjoy work for its own sake. They are clear that their future lies in smaller businesses (or their own business) and have already begun to think through options and perhaps even test those options out.

They have always been great at serious networking and taking actions so that it won’t be a shock when their toaster’s heat setting is turned up. They fully understand the toasting game.

Often they very proactively position themselves for their future, long-term career and many have job offers before the toaster pops them out so that there is a neutral impact on ego and identity.

Many forgo possible redundancy packages as the long-term benefit of 10+ extra years of an enjoyable career (almost) on their terms is so attractive. Time on the golf course is not their goal.

4. The “Almost-burned” variety:

The trickiest situation is that held by the 50+ leaders who are keeping their heads down so that they can continue to be amazing at what they do for as long as they can. The short-term looks fabulous, doesn’t it?

They feel valuable and valued. They enjoy work but have no time to have a serious look beyond the toaster to see what’s happening. They haven't had time for networking, don’t have relationships with executive search businesses because they haven’t needed them.

But someone else is controlling their career toaster setting and has been turning up the heat without their knowledge.

When this variety of toast burns, it will scar deeply and will take a great deal of time, effort and support to recover from. Ego and identity will be bruised for years to come.

If you’re in the Almost-burned category, what you just read will hurt like hell.

I’m sorry.

I write this article not to instil fear but to highlight the necessary CHOICE element in our midlife careers. 

I feel so strongly that we, as individuals, cannot change the realities of the corporate world today. But we can start to change the realities of our personal career situation today. 

We can choose to either accept our special variety of toast, to change to a different variety of toast, to swap our toaster or to design our own toaster.

If you are planning to retire in your early 50s to your yacht to sail the Caribbean, I have nothing to offer you…I make a great Negroni though!  

However, if you are in any of the other toaster situations please consider taking a long, hard look at your career longevity and work enjoyment from a different angle.  

In my humble opinion (based on insights gained from over 1500 leadership interviews over the last 10 years plus intensive psychological research into the ingredients of a fulfilling career), taking time to evaluate how you could purposefully redesign your career to fulfil more of your life goals is time well spent.  

Choose not to be toast. 

Choose to let your midlife become the jam years in your career.

Here’s my personal story of how I chose not to let myself be toasted by a corporate career.

If you’re not sure where to start, download this free guide that will give you my recommended first steps to taking control of your career.  



If you need help getting started, sign up to the You’re not too old and it’s not too late career change newsletter and download my free Beginner’s Guide to Successful Career Change in your 40s and 50s - Where to Start eBook.

If you’re ready to start designing your way out of your toaster, book in for a 30min (Free) Light and the end of my tunnel conversation with me now, to kick-start your happier career.

 

Attitude to money impacts career freedom. A true story and lessons learned.

Our attitude to money and financial considerations have a huge influence on our ability to change career or to design our work differently to how we've designed it in the past.

In this guest article by the lovely Sue Marshall, she tells her story of career change with a focus on how her attitude to money had the ability to both keep her stuck and set her free.

Sue Marshall - a career re-design story with a focus on attitude to money.

Sue Marshall - a career re-design story with a focus on attitude to money.

My historical attitude to money

I’ve never really been focused on making money. It just wasn’t that interesting to me.

I’ve always been motivated by working with people that inspire me and doing a job that excites and challenges me.

I felt that I was incredibly lucky to be able to get paid for working incredibly hard, doing work I enjoy.   

That’s not to say I’m financially unaware – I’ve always maintained a tight grip on household expenses to ensure that the basics are covered. But let’s just say I just didn’t have a very extensive financial vision!  

I knew I wanted to be mortgage free by 50 but that was about it.

Neither my husband nor I come from money, so – once we’d covered the bases, we were pretty blasé about spending.

We both had final salary pension schemes and a ‘survival’ fund of a year or so, so we felt quite virtuous.

Until, that is, things changed. The gap from the point our funds ran out and normal retirement date became gradually more terrifying.  

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Mind the Gap…

When you know something’s not quite right you can bury your head in the sand, or you can make something different happen.

I was worn out.

All that working incredibly hard had taken its toll.

So, I became an ostrich. I continued to work stupidly hard because I had no ‘off switch’ – but my heart was no longer in it.

On the odd occasion I did lift my head and ask myself, ‘What on earth are you doing?’ I remembered The Gap, thought: ‘you’ve just got to keep on going!’ and carried on.   

The Fear

I’ve never felt fear like it.

It was paralysing.

I just kept telling myself to set it aside and keep on powering through. I knew I was hurting myself but I couldn’t stop.

The Moment of Clarity

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After a very busy week, I went to see my personal trainer full of aches and pains to see if she could help me loosen up. She sent me to see my doctor.

After a lengthy series of blood tests, examinations and scans I was diagnosed with stress, anxiety and appendicitis.  

An appendectomy followed.

As I was coming around, I remember being delighted that I didn’t have to do anything remotely useful for weeks: that was so not me!

It was right then that I realised something had to give.

Reaching out when opportunity comes knocking

My lucky star hadn’t completely deserted me: whilst I was convalescing, I received an offer to cash in my final salary pension scheme.

A friend recommended a financial advisor who helped me work through that idea and I went ahead: yes, I would lose money on the deal, but it would allow us flexibility over the next 10 years or so.

It probably took a good five months or so to really understand our financial position and our options – my financial advisor became my best friend! If you don’t have one, I suggest you find one, or be prepared to learn about pensions, tax, investments….

Knowledge was the key to reducing my fear

Looking back, I can see that the fact that I didn’t understand our financial position at all was keeping me in that state of fear.

When I learned that I could move my final salary pension to somewhere more flexible...the fear reduced enough to allow me to start to really track our spending!  

Knowledge about career financials

What I discovered

I discovered that WE COULD MANAGE!

Yes, it was a big shock to understand how much we spent on birthdays, Christmas, food and drink. Also, the ‘hidden’ costs of kids who we thought had left home!  

But the biggest discovery was that we could balance things.

And we also have a financial model we can play tunes on:

  • What if the stock market tanks?

  • How much CAN we spend?

  • What if my husband retires this year, next year, at 65?

  • Can we survive if my business makes a loss this year, next year?

  • When will the money run out if we spend x, y or z annually?

We now have a lovely warm feeling about every penny that we bring in because we can now see how it will help us live a little differently.

What I learned that may be useful for others in similar situations

  • Although it’s terrifying at the beginning, becoming more aware of financial patterns, spending and the potential impact of decisions actually reduces the fear

  • Understanding your run-rate/cash-burn is super important so you know how long your savings and investments will last and how/when/if you can access your pension.

  • Go looking for the gaps: the more uncomfortable, the more important it will be for you to address them.

  • For those with partners: initiating dialogues with your other half is important! This one is a bit embarrassing: my grip on the family finances was pretty well total, so the fear was all mine as well. The knowledge and the fear are now shared and everything is so much easier now we make joint decisions.

  • We’ve been transparent throughout with our kids. They have both benefited from the experience – our daughter (25) works, lives and SAVES in London and our son (22) is now fully accountable for his finances in his final year at Uni. (I can’t tell you what a relief that is!)

What I know for sure:

  • Knowledge about our finances gave me my power back.  It allowed me to understand that we have many more viable options than I thought we did. My husband and I have conversations with a deeper understanding of our financial position.  For instance, if one of us wants to retire sooner than we had planned we can talk through the impact and make decisions together. We now know how different our lives could look under a variety of circumstances.

  • We now collaborate in financial decisions more than ever and we’ve happily curtailed our spending in all sorts of ways.  We even tell one another before we buy clothes now! Our decisions are linked in a way that they haven’t been in the past.

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Changes in me

  • Whilst I wouldn’t wish that period of my life on anybody, in many ways it’s been a gift.  I’m back to being me – and I look after myself these days: I haven’t got to please people or dilute myself to fit in. Financial knowledge has been key to reducing my fear, allowing me to be objective and helping me make decisions that ultimately freed me.

  • I’ve also changed my money mindset: I value it more and have respect for the opportunities it can open up. I’m more grateful for the things I have, and my ability to pause to consider what I really want has increased.  

  • I’m still working on the ‘off switch’ but I’m more able to stop and smell the roses and appreciate things like a walk in the woods rather than delivering to deadlines which are self-imposed these days.

But most importantly, I’m back doing work that I love in a way that feels like me!














Top 10 Stress Triggers (which can lead to burnout) and a 10min exercise to figure out what you need to change first

Recently, I spent a nail-biting 55 minutes watching my younger daughter attack ice-skating like Bambi in a ring with Rocky Balboa.

Zipped-up and buttoned-in to her ski-gear, she launched herself onto freshly-smoothed ice, unaware of the severe walloping that lay ahead for her.

She managed 6.5 seconds of upright bambi-skating before the first of...22 face-plants! Undaunted, she laughed and stood up to re-launch after 21 of her 22 falls.

The 22nd fall took her down...and out.  

She slunk to on the ice, head hung low. Another uncontrolled novice then skidded into her back and left a mark that the safety police counted as her knock-out blow. Bambi exited the rink.

I breathed an exhausted sigh of relief. She was a little broken and a lot annoyed (sadly, she hasn’t avoided her feisty Irish genes!) that she’d been benched and missed the last minutes of play.

So what has this got to do with happier careers?

I noticed myself feeling all puffed up and proud of her attitude and tenacity.  But that pride made me stop to ponder...

  • How often do we push ourselves beyond sensible boundaries, whether it’s feels right or not?

  • How often to we applaud the tenacity in the face of adversity when a retreat might make more sense for our own physical safety and mental sanity?

  • And why the heck do so many of us wait for that knock-out blow to force us to stop taking the beatings our work seems to keep handing out.

Over the last few years,  I’ve been inadvertently researching STRESS AND BURNOUT as they come up a great deal in my interviews with happy career changers (and clients) as the triggers for change. (Read this article - the tipping point to help you decide if you are ready for career change yet.)

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True stories of stress-related burnout

  • Karen Walker had to retire to her bed for six weeks and be cared for my her lovely husband after a promotion found her working outside her Superpowers for too long. She has since co-founded her company Now’t Poncy with Julian her husband and makes sure she uses her Superpowers every day.

  • These two anonymous guest posts Re-claiming Middle-aged Me and What if your first career is the wrong on? show the devastating effects of burnout.  Both are in much better places now and I feel honoured that they were happy to share their stories with me.

In an ideal world, we’d exit our work ice-rinks, or our boxing rings WAY before it gets bloody. But there are many obstacles that get in the way of us making change and keep us stuck doing the same things as we’ve always done.  

*Check out this article if you want to know the biggest hindrance to career change

From my on-going research, some of these might be surprising to you as contributing factors to stress-related burnout.

Top 10 reasons for LONG-TERM STRESS & BURNOUT

(given by successful career changers)

1. A role that doesn’t play to our unique SPECIFIC STRENGTHS (I call these your “Superpowers”);

2. Promotion into a role that EXPOSES YOUR SUPER WEAKNESSES (I call these your “Kryponite”) so often that we have to work ridiculously hard to make sure no-one notices;

3. PERFECTIONISM – us, our boss, our culture or our industry;

4. An UNSUPPORTIVE CULTURE or one that CLASHES WITH OUR VALUES – for too long;

5. Relentless UNREALISTIC TIME FRAMES;

6. A RADICAL CHANGE IN CULTURE MATCH following a take-over/buy-out/new owners/new boss;

7. AMBIGUITY around what success looks like;

8. Insufficient personal CONTROL OVER WORK demands, for too long;

9. Doing WORK THAT DOESN’T MATTER TO US, for too long;

10. UNCLEAR LIFE PRIORITIES (allowing others to choose them for us).

Work life is never perfect and stress is normal for short periods.  

But long-term stress brought about by any combination of these factors over long periods can be debilitating. An in certain circumstances can lead to burnout.  

Ideally, we’d make decisions on what needs to be changed before it becomes long-term stress and/or burnout. But lots of us don’t PAUSE long enough for a re-think and instead wait until the time when one little straw can break the camel’s back.

There is another way.

THE PAUSE EXERCISE

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I know you are too busy for this. I know you haven’t got time for this but you will not regret it, I promise you. Set a timer for 10 minutes.

GRAB A PEN.

Split a blank page into 4 sections with the below titles in each section. Quickly, write the first things that come into your head.

  1. The elements of work that I want less of in my future.

  2. What I want instead.

  3. The activities at work that I enjoy doing.  

  4. The activities that I want to do more of in my future work.

Be specific.  Be very specific.

At the end of 10 minutes you have the bare bones of a career overhaul starter pack which will give you:

  1. A hint of what your better future could look like; and

  2. A short-list of the priority areas you need to begin to get a grip on before any of them come close to being your knock-out blow.

Sometimes this PAUSE exercise can be enough of a jolt to prompt action.  I hope it is for you.

If you’d like help and a scientifically tested methodology on figuring out your next steps, it might be time to have another look at The Big Re-think or The Discover my Superpowers programmes.  Both offer you an experienced guide to make sense of why you are where you are and a partner-in-crime to help you get out of your own way on your journey to doing happier work.