How to stay in a job you don't like...FOREVER! And the exact steps to do the opposite.

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I’d bet money that you know someone who appears “successful” to the external world but internally they dread Monday mornings, feel unfulfilled while at work and head home most days feeling dissatisfied with their contribution to the world.  

But what should they do? Leap into something else or just point their head down and bum up until they have amassed enough of a retirement fund to go and do something more fun instead - as the 80s kids TV programme suggested. 

What it feels like to be in a job that you hate

Someone I know well wrote an article for me explaining in perfect detail how a job that he used to love turned into a job that had begun to erode his motivation, his energy, his family life and ultimately his health.  Read his anonymous story here.  It certainly packs an anonymous punch.

Not all situations are as drastic as the one above but without action low level unenjoyable work can develop into something more serious.  Check out the stories below of mid-life career changers who took action - but not a moment too late:  

·         Charlotte Moore couldn’t imagine continuing in her corporate Social Media Editing role at Tesco after the creative elements were outsourced to an agency.   She wasn’t offered redundancy even though she had all fingers and toes crossed for that outcome following a restructure.  Read what Charlotte did after hearing the news. 

·         Ben Fielding got stuck with a new boss who had “a cataclysmic impact” on his love of his work.  He took charge of his future in an interesting way which gave him focus, a very specific goal and breathing space whilst still paying the mortgage.  Read Ben’s story here. 

·         Andy Eaton realised two things which prompted his departure from a 20+year career.  He realised that over the previous decade he'd spent 50% of his time away from his family on work trips and that the role of Finance Director had morphed into something he didn’t want to be anymore.  Read how logical and creative thinking combined to lead him to his new career. 

From my coaching experience,  mid-professional career changes are always prompted by a specific trigger experience that prompts deep reflection.  In some people, this deep reflection converts to a need for action. 

Note: this need for action is what differentiates actual career changers from people who would "like to do something about their career"  These people haven’t quite reached a tipping point from which action is required.  They are likely to stay where they are until things get bad enough or until they see a perfect idea that excites them.  (Read this article to see if you've reached your career tipping point yet)

Top 10 triggers for “taking action” towards a mid-profession career change.   

  • A big birthday – either on approach or a year or two afterwards
  • Personal illness
  • Medically-diagnosed (as opposed to self-diagnosed) work-related stress
  • Elderly parental illness or the death of a parent
  • Divorce
  • Redundancy
  • Unplanned exit from a long-term company/role
  • Major changes at home e.g. kids moving to big school or university
  • First ever lower than expected performance appraisal
  • A crappy bonus
  • A missed promotion

For the people I coach, all these experiences have prompted a re-adjustment of their expectations from work.   They express a desire to have "more" of something at work (often satisfaction, fulfilment or fun) and less of something else (the crap bits of working life).

The trigger can initiate a different thought process – if this thought process doesn’t cause some action, the circular thought process can sometimes lead to the ever-decreasing circles of a mid-life career crisis.   But, if this thought process is actioned, attached to a structured method and allowed enough time it will result in a clarity of vision for the remainder of a career. 

Why it appears so hard to change career

If you look around you, you will get the impression that career change at any age is bloody difficult! 

Some suggest that natural human behaviour just gets in the way e.g. the fear of change (Read my article on how career change is experienced in our brains) or unwillingness to make the necessary sacrifices or simply being unprepared for the degree of change that is required to pivot into a career.  

But it is more than that.  Here’s how conventional wisdom about career change suggests you go about it.

 “Career Leaping” - the Conventional Wisdom on how to change career (Plan & Implement) :

  1. Be clear and sure about what it is that you really want to do.
  2. Identify roles or fields in which your passions can be linked with your skills and experience.
  3. Seek out advice from those you know well and those who know your new chosen market well.
  4. Implement resulting action steps.

 Never one for sitting on the fence, when asked my opinion on this mode of career change I usually whisper-shout… “WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!”  Here’s why…

According to the conventional wisdom, successful change is a one-chance saloon.  Apparently, you should only make a career change when you know exactly where you are heading.  WRONG AGAIN. If you follow this advice, you are in danger of staying exactly where you are for a very long time…possibly forever!

 Problems with the “Career Leaping” Conventional (Plan and Implement) Career Change model:

1. Clarity:   

  • Most people I meet are not clear about what they want to do with the rest of their career even though they’ve often spent a long time thinking about it.  They can easily tell me what they want to escape from (mind-numbing corporate politics; feeling shrunk-to-fit; under-challenging work; over-requirement to be away from home; futureless internal career vistas; lack of learning opportunities; over-cautious decision-making or organisational short-termism.)  
  • When I ask what it is they do want from their work – they never have a clear answer

2. Link passion with skills:

  • I don’t trust psychological profiles for career change.  All psychological profiles which are commonly used in career coaching are flawed but can give general insights to those who have lost a connection with themselves or have been stuck in an identity for so long they can’t imagine getting beyond it.  Starting point? Yes, but very broad brush.
  • Re-designing your working identity is a must before any change takes place. It frees up creative energy to change career.  Our working identity can be tied up in status, our income, our life-style, our ego, our parenting and the way we were parented. This takes time, reflection, pulling apart and putting back together over time.  This isn’t included in the Plan & Implement model.
  • “Passion” is my least favourite word to use in career change discussions as it more often than not leads us down a fantasy passion path.  To risk everything on something called "passion" is at best...risky.
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3. Seeing advice from people you know and those who know your new chosen industry/field: 

  • People already known to you are invested in you staying in the same spot.   Your partner wants you to be happy but needs to feel secure; your favourite head-hunters are tied to your past in a way that is unhelpful for a career change.  Your colleagues and mentors lack the investment in you as a human to do anything radical with their opinion of you.
  •  The individuals who know you best, are less likely to be able to imagine you with a    completely different working identity and can become more of a hindrance than a help.
  •  You need a new tribe to change career.

4.   Implement resulting actions

  • Banish the idea of linear career. We need to let go of that linear idea of career steps leading to somewhere very specific that we had planned earlier and making pre-judgements on how it will feel when we get there. 
  • Single leaps can be lucky.  But they are more likely to fail or go nowhere.
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A different method of career change – Experiment, Analyse and Refine

  • Experimentation = Action before knowing the answer. 

Rather than leaping into a new career, I believe the only way to know whether your potential career change is the right one is to conduct a whole range of mini-experiments.   This is the only way to evaluate whether a certain change could be right.   Not quite trial and error…rather experiment, analyse and refine. 

By doing a whole range of experiments you open doors that were never open to you before to see if the draught bowls you over.  You edge open doors that were ajar in your mind and then see how it feels with the wind in your face.  You push against some ugly doors to sometimes discover the most beautiful possibilities behind. The limits placed on your experiments provide the only limitations for your future career.   (LINK TO DOORS)

BUT THAT TAKES BRAVERY AND TIME.  

I feel so strongly about this experimentation stage that I have built an extra 3 months into my "The Big Re-think" programme to support individuals through the sheer volume of experiments that need to happen to ensure a successful transition.  Done slowly this experimentation phase could take 3 years but very few of my clients have 3 years to spend – we narrow down the initial experimentation phase to a 3-month period following a 3-month discovery process.  That way the experiments are not random. They are focussed.   They play on the SuperPowers of the individual and they feel exciting.

Single leaps can be lucky.  But they are more likely to bring us back to the same starting point and crucially, they make us feel like a failure.  That’s why you hear stories of people who made a leap and within a short time frame are back in their safe old job.  They were following the Plan and Implement model.

 It’s not perfect - Downsides of the Experiment, Analyse and Refine model of career change

·         A longer, less linear transition process can sometimes leave you feeling that you are not moving fast enough.  But smaller steps combined with quicker analysis after each experiment allows for a richer, more developed and realistic idea of the future work identity to emerge. 

·         The Experiment and Learn technique of career change is challenging and requires resisting the pull of the familiar.

·         It requires tenacity to lift and shift experiments and point them in a different direction, at a different audience or to tweek the experiments.

·         Did I mention that it requires bravery?  But really, how brave is it doing a few little experiments on the side of your real job (that doesn’t fit anymore)?

·         The experiment stage is front loaded – you can’t sit behind a screen and do some lovely, easy research.  You must do stuff.  Make stuff.  Write stuff. Try stuff.

·         You need your brain to be turned on to analyse.

·         You need energy to do the experiments but if you are using your SuperPowers you’ll be surprised by how energising it can be.

·         You very often need someone to have your back, pick up the pieces, re-point to after each experiment, challenge your thought processes until they broaden for themselves, re-frame your imposter syndrome, tone down your perfectionism.

If you don’t test your dreams they remain just that – or even worse, they could end up as pipe dreams.  

Experiments are the only way to test your dreams. Their advantage lies in their small scale, their ability to be squeeze in around your current work and their lack of large-scale risk.

Whilst trigger events are usually pretty horrific when you are going through them, they can become the beginning of a completely new career story - or life story if you want to think bigger.  If you are interested in this idea, it might be worth reading Pamela Slim’s Body of Work. 

Discovering work that fits and understanding why takes time and effort, but it also requires a methodology to discover if you have the skill to make it a reality.  My methodology is called “The Big Re-think” programme.

Planning for the perfect leap is more likely to leave you staying where you are today.   Experimenting and learning, taking action in the form of mini-experiments, analysing the results and refining new experiments very likely to find you in a much better place. 

 How ready are you for action?  

 

 

Reclaiming Middle Aged Me - A story of how a change of business ownership can impact everything

I know someone who recently discovered that one of his untapped SuperPowers is writing insightful, painfully-honest and often-funny articles, opinion pieces and stories.  When I suggested he write a piece about how it felt to "wake up" in his mid-late 40s in the wrong company/culture/career he responded by sending me this article.  I haven't changed a word.  

It's a lonely place to be so please share his story if you know anyone who might be in a similar position.   


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Author:                Anonymous

So why am I writing this? 

Well, I’m on a journey that many others consider but never actually implement.  It remains an aspiration or dream for them, but for any number of reasons (and there are plenty of good ones), it’s never put into practice.

So who and what am I? 

Well, I’m middle aged (obviously) and an accountant by training.  I’ve had a very successful career working as a senior Finance professional in diverse roles within a variety of different industries.  I’m structured, methodical, thorough, sensible and reliable and I take great pride in the quality of my work.  Like everyone, I’ve had good times and less good times during my career, but on the whole I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the ten or so different roles I’ve held.  Most importantly, I’m a husband and a dad with children at secondary school.

So what happened?

Well, I resigned from my last position without a job to go to.  Oops!  That doesn’t quite match up with the “structured, methodical, thorough, sensible and reliable” character proudly depicted above.

So what made this pillar of all things sensible do such an apparently foolhardy thing?   

Well, in summary, I found myself in a culture which conflicted with my personal values and work practices.  In turn, this had a detrimental impact on my health.  Nonetheless, it took me a number of years before I did anything about it.

The cultural change I experienced resulted from my company being bought by new investors with a very different agenda to that I had experienced in any of my previous roles or companies.  Up until this point, I had always worked in environments where management was clearly focussed on the long-term future of the company.  In contrast, the world I now found myself in was very much focussed on the short term.  Specifically, drive profit as quickly as possible to facilitate a quick future sale of the company.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this.  It happens all the time.  The point is, I simply wasn’t suited to the environment which this brought and there were consequential repercussions on my personal wellbeing.  Others will (and did) react in different ways to the world I experienced.  I merely offer an insight into how it impacted me and why I needed to leave.

So, what did reality on the ground look like for me? 

Firstly, there was an explosion in terms of corporate data requirements.  I use the term data deliberately.  It wasn’t information.  Decisions couldn’t be made based on what was being requested.  The immediate impact locally was a reduction in Finance support to the business as focus shifted to the global requirements.  Finance became a data generating function rather than information analysers who partner and challenge the business.  I’d spent my entire career championing the latter, with Finance at the forefront of strategy formulation and decision making.  This was going back to the dark ages where Finance added up rather than added value.  I needed to find my old abacus in order to fit in.       

Key Performance Indicators were introduced at a remarkable rate of knots.  I wasn’t the only one to spot the apparent lack of understanding of what a KPI is when we moved into the hundreds.  Yes, that is plural.  I couldn’t help thinking the word “Key” had somehow become lost in translation.  Unfortunately, this didn’t result in any reduction in numbers.  Nor was there any guidance to ensure global consistency in their calculation and measurement.  What could possibly go wrong?  Some even totally conflicted with each other.  Oh dear.  My structured and logical brain was struggling with this. 

Conflicting priorities became a regular occurrence.  The answer was that everything was a priority.  Relief, there was no conflict after all!  Yet my head wouldn’t accept this.  “This doesn’t feel right” said my brain.  “Where’s the focus?”

Pace came at the expense of rigour and quality.  Mistakes were being made regularly but the requirement was always to hit the deadline.  That was apparently more important than ensuring robustness and accuracy in what was being requested.  Time will only tell what impact this approach will have.  The personal impact on me was that I pushed harder and harder to try and ensure as much rigour was applied as physically possible. Personal pride demanded a quality product and I was going to deliver this at whatever personal cost.  Days blurred into nights and week days into weekends.

The saddest thing I witnessed was the change in behaviour of local peers and superiors.  The dynamics of a professional, talented, dedicated and collaborative team was undermined. Tension, aggression and fear evolved in a short period of time and became clearly evident on a daily basis.  Tension can be beneficial.  Aggression is unacceptable.  Fear is a damning indictment. 

What was the personal cost to me?

During the years I worked in this new environment there was a clear impact on my health and I was on more prescription medication than I care to mention. 

In the evenings and at weekends I was often too tired to engage with family or friends.  I was disinterested, distracted, snappy and reclusive.  I’d lie on the bed for hours on Saturdays with nothing left in the tank.  All physical and emotional energy was sappedThe Sunday feeling of gloom would always manage to rear its ugly head early in the day.  “It’s Monday tomorrow.”  In summary, I was unhappy and life was a chore to endure. 

I knew deep down that things had to change.  I knew my health was being compromised.  I knew this was no way to lead a life.  I thought about leaving, but never did.  Why?  With all the evidence suggesting (OK, “telling” me), I should.  Personal pride played a big role.  Fear of “what next” and “will I ever find another job” didn’t help.  Maybe surprisingly, thoughts of “I’ll be letting the company down” appeared on a regular basis.

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So, what was the final catalyst for my resignation?

Ultimately it was very simple.  A serious health scare.  A wake up call.  But let’s be honest, it shouldn’t have taken this to get me to my decision.

What was the reaction of those closest to me?

My family expressed relief and were hugely supportive.  Apparently they’d been worried for a long time!  My closest friends were equally supportive.  Phrases such as “about time” and “we wondered how much evidence you needed” came to the fore.  I did sort of know this, but pride and duty are powerful traits which can cloud judgment and delay important decisions.

My wider friendship network has been outwardly supportive but in some cases I can see scepticism in their eyes.  Especially those who work in a corporate environment themselves.  Their brains can’t compute what I’ve done.  They’re thinking “he’s mad” but they aren’t vocalising it.

How do I feel now?

A few months have passed and it’s been a bit of an emotional roller coaster.  A huge sense of relief has been combined with feelings of being a bit lost and wondering “what’s next?” when my life has always been so structured.  It can be scary not having all the answers.  I’m out of my comfort zone but excitement about the future is outweighing fear.  I do know one thing for certain though.  It was the right decision.  My health is improving for a start.

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What next?

Nothing is ruled out.  Maybe I do something similar but in an environment which aligns with my values and work practices (very much like the first 25 years of my career)!  Or maybe I do something completely different.  It feels as though I now have the opportunity to pursue the latter and that is what I am currently doing. 

A final comment

I’m sure some people will read this and think I made the right decision.  Others may think I’ve lost the plot.  Irrespective of your views, I encourage everyone to read what palliative nurses say are the greatest regrets expressed by people on their death beds.  Life is short and those at the end of it offer truly valuable counsel to the rest of us.  Then it’s up to us to decide whether we heed it or not.

 

 

 

 

 

Reached your mid-life career tipping point yet? What is it and what to do if you see it coming?

Did I drive my career into a rut overnight? Hell no! It happened slowly over a couple of years of low-level dissatisfaction. Like a dripping tap. I don’t really remember when it started but I certainly remember the point at which I decided that enough was enough…the point at which I’d reached my mid-life career tipping point.

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Did I drive my career into a rut overnight? Hell no! It happened slowly over a couple of years of low-level dissatisfaction. Like a dripping tap. I don’t really remember when it started but I certainly remember the point at which I decided that enough was enough…the point at which I’d reached my mid-life career tipping point

A personal story that fills me with shame

It was on a cold Tuesday evening a few years ago after my 42nd birthday (a lady never reveals her true age).  I’d done the commute to London on the early train leaving home the moment our lovely nanny arrived. 11 hours later on returning home, I ushered my young daughters upstairs to bed immediately, speed-read a story, speed-sung a lullaby and ended up ordering them to go to sleep because “Mummy has an important call to do now!”  They didn’t complain but did everything in their power to make me happy. My shoulders have slumped just remembering it. What was that important phone call? I was interviewing a Finance Director for a UK -wide search which I was leading in my head-hunting role. 

We all have crap days. But I wish I could say that it was a rare occurrence but it happened on a regular basis.  I experienced working mother guilt leaving the office earlier than others and needed to prove to myself (more than to anyone else) that I was working hard enough by working in the evenings.  As it turned out, that particular FD was perfect for the role. I, on the other hand, didn’t feel anywhere near perfect. I had priorities questions in life. I had inspiration questions at work.  I had work fulfilment questions. And I had begun to have life fulfilment questions. That Tuesday was the day I reached my own personal tipping point.  

A "Tipping point" and why it's relevant to mid-life careers

Malcolm Gladwell in his book called “The Tipping Point” describes the phenomenon as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”.  He uses it to describe the point at which an idea, trend or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips and spreads like wildfire.    I see the career change tipping point in a similar way. A career change tipping point occurs when the wealth of evidence to make a change outweighs the mass of evidence to stay in the same role, career or profession full-time.    

After interviewing over 50 successful career changers in their 40s and 50s, one of the first patterns I noted was that they all reached a tipping point in their previous careers where making a decision on priorities was required.  There was almost always a tipping point at which their work became so unsatisfying and made them so unhappy that they felt compelled to do something about it.   Some of the quick thinkers who had begun their thinking process a little earlier described their tipping point as the point at which their new idea became so compelling that they simply felt compelled to change direction. Either way, they all hit a mid-life career tipping point.  

How doing unfulfilling work impacts us all differently.

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Being in a career rut can feel like...

 

a slowly-dripping tap. 

When you feel stuck in a career that isn’t fulfilling, it ever-so-gently ebbs the joy out of your working existence like a slowly-dripping tap. Drip. Drip. Drip. 

-       Some people can zone out from the low level annoyance of a career rut’s dripping tap and continue to do good work without thinking too far ahead and live for holidays and weekends.  Drip. Drip. Drip.

-       Some people find a way to quickly turn off the annoying tap and either change jobs within a company, move to a new company or re-train – this occurs more often during the first ten years of their careers.   Once your career has been established, your life has often been established at a similar rate. This makes mid-life a harder time to turn off the annoying tap without material consequences.

-       For others, the annoying drip becomes ever so slowly louder and ever so slowly more powerful over years - while we put our career happiness on the back burner to prioritise paying mortgages, nursery/school fees and the family holidays (needed to recover and give us the energy to go back to face the nagging drip, drip, drip).

But drips taps and career ruts don’t fix themselves magically.  

Sometimes the “fixing” of career ruts and drips gets outsourced (re-structuring/re-structures/closure of divisions). This can have profound impacts on the individual who has been hearing the mid-life career drips for a while. Sometimes, someone else is brought in to solve the dripping tap problem (company take-overs/acquisitions/mergers).  It appears that feeling stuck and doing work that is unfulfilling to us is very obvious to those around us, even if we don’t admit it to ourselves.  That said, I’ve known many successful professionals who were exited from their company under a range of circumstances who (after the luxury of time and an adjustment of mind frame!) were quoted as saying “it was actually the biggest opportunity of my career.”  

But many of us keep ignoring the dripping tap until the message becomes deafening or until there is some sort of crisis in our personal lives which forces us to take action.  These crises, in my experience, often come in the form of redundancy, divorce, parental illness or personal health scares. My granny was right – a stitch in time saves 9 - meaning that if we could catch our careers before the tipping point and grab them by their throats before we hit rock bottom/break/get so stuck that it makes us feel sad, things might be a great deal less stressful.   If we could lift our heads up and understand that we can design and test a back-up plan for when the inevitable happens, before it happens, we’d be in a really strong position to crack on happily earning and doing more fulfilling work that suits us for as long as we want.   

So, what can you do when you feel that your mid-life career change is approaching tipping point?

I see no other way than to think deeply first, then take one action which breeds many more. Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Figure out what it is you want your work to do for you and why it isn’t doing it now
  2. Figure out what it is specifically that you do better than anyone else
  3. Using the information from Step 1 and Step 2, design possible ideas that would allow you to get paid for using your unique assets.
  4. Understand what’s stopping you & do one small experiment.
  5. Analyse that experiment in detail.
  6. Do another small experiment with tweaks from Step 5.
  7. Continue forever.

There is simplicity in re-designing your career to suit you and there appear to be lots of ways to do it.  But this is the way that I have found to be most successful.  I ask a great deal of the right types of questions and then ask clients to commit time and energy to do my “thinking exercises”.  If they do these, they will be 95% more successful at designing work that might be fulfilling, satisfying and (God forbid!) more fun than the career of the average individual in a career rut trying to ignore the dripping tap.

To get you started, I’ve published one of the early chapters of my up and coming book on patterns of successful mid-life career change.  I’ve called this chapter Dare to Hope – How it feels to be free from the trap of the wrong career.  You can download it from my website www.midlifeunstuck.com

The future of work in our 40s, 50s: The “Educate – Work – Retire” model is dead.

 Dreaming of retiring from a job you don't love?  Imagine loving what you do so much you can't imagine stopping.

Dreaming of retiring from a job you don't love?  Imagine loving what you do so much you can't imagine stopping.

I worked in the same industry for just shy of 20 years.  Like many professionals who have invested a couple of decades in their career, I figured I was destined to stay in the same industry for the rest of my career.  But what happens when you start to feel stuck and that feeling won’t disappear even after a few years? 

Back then, I didn’t know I’d be working in a completely different industry, using some completely different skills and interacting with totally different people.  I didn’t know any of this until I made the decision to “not be in the same industry next year”.   I wish I had come across the attached report years ago and I might have understood how to begin to alleviate my “stuck” feelings more quickly and at very least I would not have felt like the only lonely lemon in the world of oranges.

The report is called “Shift – the Commission on Work, Workers and Technology” where leaders from the worlds of Technology, Business and Culture were asked to forecast what the world of work would look like in 10-20 years. Whilst it is US-centric, it has real implications globally.

Here is the over-riding message that you need to know from the report: The “Educate – Work – Retire” model is not yet dead but it’s certainly dying.  The linear career path that has been prevalent until now simply isn’t useful or relevant for the over 40s/50s any longer.  A more dynamic work/life path is forecast for over 40s/50s.   Not only are there other ways to work in your 40s and 50s, those other ways are definitely more flexible, can be more fun if designed well and are more likely to keep our demographic earning for as long as we want to.

 Here are some of the specific forecasts from the “Shift” report for the next 10-20 years:

1.      Education-work-then-retire model is very outdated.  

2.      Retirement to a yacht isn’t that fulfilling or possible for most individuals

3.      Many 50+ will delay retirement and/or work part-time as funding retirements (in the old sense of 20-30years with a fixed income) become risky and uncertain.

4.      Many over 50s will begin a second career for both financial and social reasons

5.      Older workers will represent a larger part of the part-time work-force – independent contracting, freelancing and consulting etc.

6.      Volunteering or working part-time for not-for-profit businesses (high level team leadership included) will be viewed more highly in status than net worth.

7.      As adults, we will be in and out of school, in and out of work, in and out of volunteering jobs, multiple sabbaticals and gap periods more often than ever before.

By God this excites me…but it would have frightened me 3 years ago staring down the barrel of one career in one industry for the rest of my working days.  The thought of retirement also doesn't excite me as I get so much satisfaction, self-esteem and self-worth from working – like many people.  

Whilst I do know a couple of individuals of my generation who are holding out for retirement, the majority have tapped into society’s feeling that “life is too short to keep your head down and bum up until we are 65 to start enjoying life”.   The sad truth is that many of us will have a serious illness before we are 65 so we need to somehow mix work with fun in a way that hasn’t been necessary/available before.  

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I’ve made it my mission to try to mix work with fun by doing work that I mostly find fun but that isn’t the only way.  This report suggests that the money-making element of work will find us working until we are older than ever before BUT that those long work years may be inter-mingled with back-to-school gaps, career breaks and/or sabbaticals.  

Just on the street where I live I know one person who is on sabbatical for 6 months to invest time and energy into her husband’s fitness business, another who is ramping up artistic endeavours as she wants to reduce the physicality of her earlier career and yet another who has just launched his first photography business.  These individuals are in the experimental phases of their mid-life career changes but they definitely attempting to design work in a way that allows them to create their own financially secure, physically and emotionally free and fulfilling work.  In my opinion and the opinion of this report…the future workplace for 40 and 50 year olds on my street is exceedingly fluid…and exciting!   

 So if the "Educate - Work - Retire" model is dead or dying...what does the future workplace for individuals in their 40s and 50s on your street look like?

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Changing career in mid-life is just a series of experiments...easier said than done!

 I'd have paid good money to be doing this rather than conducting my scary experiment - was it worth it? 

I'd have paid good money to be doing this rather than conducting my scary experiment - was it worth it? 

As you might expect, given my career choice, I have designed my business around one of my unique strengths which also gives me joy – helping people through a proven career un-sticking process specifically on a one-to-one basis.   The one-to-one element was no accident.  Not only does that format play to my strengths - I’m scared witless of presenting to groups!   But, I had hit a problem in my business… 

In October and November, I was fully booked with one-to-one clients fulfilling my mission to “eradicate unnecessary career unhappiness - one mid-lifer at a time”.   BUT, I realised that even if that situation were to continue forever, I was going to be 90 years old before I make a decent dent in the raft of mid-life professionals in UK who are seriously career stuck.  

So, I decided to conduct an experiment to test an idea – not an easy idea for me.  Not an idea that would allow me to stay in my comfort zone.  In fact, it was an idea that every bone in my body was resistant to – presenting my ideas on how to un-stick your career to a group. 

The test question: Would it be possible to teach a small group the basics of unsticking their careers in 2hrs in front of people they don’t know?

I asked for help from someone whose superpower means she can take embryonic ideas and make them real - Rebecca Moody.    Rebecca kindly helped me design a group workshop idea into an experiment from which attendees would walk away with both an understanding of the secret to career happiness and some practical tools to help them kick-start a DIY unsticking process.  

So, one evening a few weeks ago in the Zoo Café near Godalming (the funkiest commuter Café I have ever seen) Rebecca and I co-hosted the first MidlifeUnstuck “Unstick my Career” workshop.

How scared I felt conducting this experiment: 

As I bombed down the A3 the second after the babysitter arrived, I looked and felt like a loonie coaching myself aloud that this experiment was “brave not stupid” whilst almost vomiting into my lap with nerves and fighting back the “What the hell am I doing?” feelings seeping out of every pore.  I was undoubtedly afraid, feeling totally exposed and decidedly vulnerable.  This was very different to presenting to groups in my old career – everything I would be presenting would be my ideas, my research and my programmes.  Amongst other fatalistic mantras and plentiful swearing, this is the type of self-chat that was going on in my car:

  • “Why the hell did I agree to this when I knew I get nervous speaking in front of groups?”
  • “What if I couldn’t communicate my knowledge and ideas?”
  • “What if my introverted self - who prefers one-to-one communication - doesn’t allow me to speak in straight lines?”
  • “What if I didn’t look like a career change expert after years studying and working to try to become one?” 
  • “What if I am publicly exposed as a fraud?”
  • “What if everyone cancelled at the last minute?”
  • “What if they were all horrible people (or other such less gentile words)?”
  • “What if they all stand up, walk out and ask for their money back?” 

Essentially, I was party to endless fearful conversations led by my own brain, trying to get me to turn around, let the babysitter go home early and do something less scary instead (see sofa photo above).    It was bloody hard to keep driving towards (what I perceived to be) imminent failure.

Did I turn the car around and head back to my comfy sofa? 

Only in my dreams.  The shame of not doing what I ask my clients to do on a daily basis would have crushed me.  I did exactly what I advise all of my clients to do…I took one step outside of my comfort zone and analysed what happened.  

 

 Incase you were wondering...this is what I look like pretending to be brave...

Incase you were wondering...this is what I look like pretending to be brave...

  • I stepped out of the car after doing my 2 minute power pose (from Amy Cuddy's tedtalk) in the surprisingly gigantic commuter train station in the middle of nowhere.  Still alive.  
  • I walked in the door of the Zoo Cafe. Still alive.
  • I pretended Rebecca my co-host and co-owner of the Zoo Café that my nerves were excitement.  Still alive.  
  • I noted Rebecca’s eye for design which had transformed the venue from funky commuter café offering trademarked Cups of Awesome to sparkly, inviting, candle-lit group cave.  I smiled.  Still very much alive.  I might even breathed!
  • I said “Hello” to the first smiley, lovely career-stuck individual.  Not only alive but I could feel my shoulders relax to half-mast.  
  • I nearly bear-hugged that poor lady simply for turning up but when I got close, I could sense a little of her own personal nerves.  I breathed.  It was going to be ok.  I had not thrown myself to the Lions.  This was an experiment not a death sentence.  

 

The “Experiment and analysis” phase is something I talk a great deal about with clients who are a fair way down the un-sticking path.  There often isn’t a big leap from one career to another but lots of testing of mini-ideas and noting how the world reacts.  That evening, I re-lived all the feelings I had had when I first started the business and crikey it was painful...very far from comfy.    These experiments and tests are outside our comfort zones…but that’s kind of the point. 

If you’re not stuck, you don’t need to try anything different.  BUT, I was vividly re-learning how trying something different can be bloody scary. 

As more people joined us and had a little glass of something awesome to take the edge off the cold evening, I kept breathing and “braved up”.  The experiment had begun.

Here’s what happened in my group experiment:

  • 6 absolutely wonderful, successful career mid-lifers walked through the doors. They hailed from music, media, advertising, IT and banking industries.  They had totally different disciplines, different family situations, different health situations, different reasons for feeling stuck and different fears of being stuck forever.  But they had something in common:  they were all, by their own admissions, “stuck”.
  • After introductions, I talked a little about what being “career stuck” looks like from my research and then I dug even deeper and exposed myself as someone who had been horribly stuck three few years ago.  I talked about my own brand of focused-grumpy at work and stressy-distracted at home for years and told them about the day when enough was enough.
  • We then discussed the very simple key to short-term career happiness – and some of the complexity behind that idea.
  • We then worked in pairs to discuss the top three things that stop mid-lifers taking control of their careers and top three things that mid-lifers feel when they do regain control.
  • I presented some of the findings from my upcoming mini book “Dare to Hope” which tells how it actually feels for a selection of midlife career changers before and after they changed their careers (sign up to my newsletter and I’ll send it to you when it’s finished).
  • We also uncovered the secret to longer term, sustainable career happiness.
  • Then we did a mini-super powers session which resulted in everyone leaving knowing how to find their own brilliance but needing time alone to think quietly.
  • Finally we ran through my Beginners Guide to Mid-life Career Change” (which you can download from my website).

So what? Here’s how one scary, vomit-inducing experiment has changed my business:

  • I am planning a whole range of these introductions to the “Secrets to career happiness/Career re-design” workshops across the Surrey in 2018 with a similar format.  (Get in contact with me if you’d like to co-host one in your locality)
  • Based on feedback, I’m toying with the idea of breaking my programmes up into modules and offering each of these as group sessions.  
  • I’ve pressed “go” on an idea I have been working on for a while - The design of my first ever 5 day MidlifeUnstuck Transformation Programme in Bordeaux.  It is specifically aimed at mid-lifers who are stuck but need to get away from it all to think clearly and would enjoy long country walks, exercise classes on site and healthy food in luxurious surroundings.  This is a collaboration with the marvellous bespoke retreat company Pure Retreats. The first two retreats of 2018 have already sold out there are spaces left for March.  Check it out here 

Test question result: Was it possible to teach a small group the basics of unsticking their careers in 2hrs in front of people they don't know?  

Yes.  My programmes last between 3-6 months so it would have been impossible to un-stick those individuals fully but I hadn't set the experiment up to fail.  What was possible was for me to connect with a larger group of people in their 40s and 50s in order to share insights on re-designing their careers and for them to learn the basics on how to start the in-sticking process at home.  I tried to cover a great deal in one short session and the openness to learning and interest in how to get started from the attendees blew me away.  For confidentiality reasons, I cannot name these brave, curious individuals who had had enough of banging their heads against brick walls.  But I am delighted that they came. 

Some of them, I hope, will go on to choose a coach to help them on a one-to-one basis.  Others may join some of the future group sessions and move forward over time.  Others may sit down over the following few weeks and work through the beginners guide to pinpoint what it is they want, what it is they are great at and what changes they could make to impact their career enjoyment positively. 

I don’t believe there are any other options because once you know there is a possible way out, you can’t choose to stay stuck any longer.

For me, this was a very worthwhile experiment that has had a profound impact on me and my business.  Whilst I was undoubtedly afraid, many good things have come from the experience. 

Was the experiment slick, perfectly presented and did everyone walk off in a cloud of career happiness?  Of course not, but it was priced accordingly.  That said, I changed the world more than if I had stayed at home on my comfy sofa that night! 

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Dare to Hope is my new mini-book which has be carved out from my research interviews with 50+ interviews with successful mid-life career changers.  To get it emailed directly to you, sign up to my newsletter and it’ll be with you as soon as it is ready.

 

 

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

I have written many articles on how to change your career in midlife 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 typically 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.  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.

Corporate Toast No title.png

Continuing the corporate toast analogy, in my experience, there are four dominant varieties of 50year 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 toaster’s 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.
  2. The “Almost-toasted” variety: These self-aware leaders have their fingers crossed that they’ll be able to keep working until a pre-set point when they can afford to release themselves. There are two different pairs of hands on the toaster setting 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 and a bag of either pension/redundancy/exit treasure.   While all fingers are crossed for a hopeful redundancy, their impact on the business is very slowly declining.
  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. 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 outside the machine. 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.  

I write this article not to instil fear but to highlight the 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 possible 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 re-design your career to fulfil more of your life goals is time well spent.  

Choose not to be toast. Choose to let your midlife be the jam years in your career.

 

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If you need help getting started, sign up to the www.midlifeunstuck.com newsletter and I’ll send you my free Beginner’s Guide to Successful Career Change in your 40s and 50s – even if you don’t know where to start eBook. You’ll also get regular tips, articles and real career change stories which might inspire you. If you’d prefer a personal guide, email me at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com to set up a time to speak.

 

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

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

Being in the wrong job hurts.   It’s like a dull 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 can manifests itself in illness, lack of sleep, lack of motivation to exercise, lowering of libido and a general lack-lustre feeling.

If that’s true, why do we accept it for years?  In one survey 43% of the 45-54 age group wanted to change careers (research conducted by London School of Business & Finance).  It’s fairly easy to change careers when you are in your twenties.  But once you have 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 and to decide if we’re prepared to do what is required to get what we want.   I know so many midlifers who are unhappy in their careers but can’t seem to figure out what to do to change their situations.  It might be useful to know that you are not alone in thinking career change is difficult.  

Top 10 reasons why successful but unhappy midlifers stay in careers that don’t suit them 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. 

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). 

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What happens to the brain and body when it feels it experiences physical danger or perceived 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 are constantly scan the environment for things that could be dangerous or risky – thereby highlighting only the risks and pitfalls of changing career (see the above list).

Most of us know at least one midlifer who is unhappy in their career and whilst they have talked about career change for some time, they can’t seem to figure out what to do next.   The “flight-fight-freeze” response to danger might be apparent in their behaviour. 

Examples of behaviours which often indicate that someone is in the wrong career and might be considering a change – consciously or subconsciously:

·        Flight: resigning without a plan; unexplained illnesses; more sick leave days than ever before in career; attempting to get signed off on stress leave; intensive holiday planning (beyond their normal holiday excitement); impulsive behaviour; asking headhunters to “get me out of here”; praying for redundancy to happen; 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: applying for lots of jobs that seem very similar to their current job; applying for any job that is not their current job; bad-mouthing their current boss far and wide in an attempt to let other divisions know that they 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: day-dreaming of handing in a resignation letter; waiting until they have a million dollar idea for their future business while getting less and less effective at your day job; wishing and hoping that someone will email them with a new job via www.linkedin.com tomorrow morning; ignoring Sunday night blues; ignoring the fact that their role is physically and mentally draining the life out of them;  attempting to convince themselves that their current career is “not that bad” – but the thought of doing it for another year (never mind decade) makes them feel ill.

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

1.      Stop trying to focus on the elusive end point.  Instead focus on Step 1 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?  Ask every single person in your network if they know anyone who has changed their career and loves their new career.  Then call them up and ask them why they love their career choice. (If you really can’t find anyone, contact me and I’ll connect you to someone who loves their new career – I am in the process of interviewing 100 of them for my first book).

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. 

4.      Open your mind to the idea that it is possible to earn at least the same salary as you currently earn by doing something that you are GREAT at.   Have a detailed look at your finances understand the minimum viable income you would require in the short-term.  What savings/assets could you liquidate to have a financial cushion to make sitting in your new job/career a little easier in the early days.  

5.      Read real case studies or autobiographies of individuals who have changed careers.  I am pulling together a series of case studies to release in the next month or so.  Sign up to my newsletter and I’ll send that to you as soon as it is ready (sign up here www.midlifeunstuck.com)

Once you have demonstrated to your brain why changing career has not been at all dangerous for a whole range of people throughout the globe (and infact has enabled them to live much more fulfilling and wealthier 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.

Dalai Lama

Comfortable networking for Introverts (2) - How was the lion's den? And a Cinderella moment...

In last week's article (find it here if you missed it), MidlifeUnstuck ran an experiment where one confirmed introvert (me) was made to do everything that the psychology research suggested she should to see if networking could be made comfortable for her.  Then that introvert was thrown into a lion’s den filled with national journalists, PR gurus and 50 or so other business owners.    Why? 

Because I am old enough to know that even if you’ve been lucky enough to design your career to match your superpowers perfectly, there will always be elements that are key to your success which lie firmly outside of your comfort zone.

For example, I know photographers who detest doing accounts but like getting paid.   I know fabulous finance people who hate doing stand-up presentations but do it weekly.  I know brilliant but modest artists who can’t bear showing off their designs.  And, I know of at least one career transformation coach who adores what she does but comes out in spots when any type of “networking event” is mentioned.  

Typically introverts prioritise ANYTHING other than networking – it's our nemesis.   After some intensive research on introverts, I discovered that there are a few key activities necessary for comfortable networking.  These include: detailed preparation on the attendees; choosing a structured event design; alone time before and during the event and; setting expectations around fewer but deeper conversations than extroverts might expect.  

My event (SOULFUL PR LIVE) involved meeting face-to-face with 8 national journalists, with opportunities to ask questions and even pitch the odd idea to them.  It also involved a roomful of business owners, some of whom were confirmed introverts and others who appeared to be in their extroverted comfort zone.  

So, how was the lion’s den?  Did the research work? How comfortable was this introvert?

The detailed preparation meant that I had very low anxiety levels the night before and unexpectedly slept well.   I strolled to my dawn train with time to spare avoiding the coffee shop in case I threw coffee over myself - sadly not as rare an occurrence as you might imagine.  I’d planned to arrive at the smaller, pre-event breakfast meeting with plenty of time to freshen up before others arrived.  A vision of Zen.  Crucially, I’d have a chance to get to know people individually as they arrived as opposed to walking into a formed group.  I had lived and breathed the advice from the research and was raring to go.

On the day

In actuality, my google maps had such a melt-down that I couldn’t work out where I was - perhaps something to do with an accidental paddle in my handbag with a bottle of Evian the previous day?  

I had allocated one hour to do a 25 minute stroll from the tube station so hadn’t bothered to pick up any cash for emergency taxis etc.  An hour and a half later, I arrived late having been guided by 5 separate, kind individuals pointing me towards Shoreditch.  Who says London's not a friendly place? I’d grown a big frizzy hair bomb, developed a fashionable “dewy sheen” on my face and was wearing converse trainers rather than my beautiful, coral, confidence-giving shoes (see photo).  All this without even a hint of caffeine and zero breakfast.   Comfort levels – close to zero.

coral shoes

The 8/9 breakfasting ladies in a trendy café near the venue were presented with this big-haired, perspiring vision of panic.  They responded with smiles and sympathy.   After a few solitary moments in a darkened, cool loo and a gentle yet persuasive chat with myself in the mirror, I felt ready to start again.   This time it was a whole different ballgame. 

I had lots of fascinating one-to-one human interactions - the essence of totally comfortable networking for introverts.  These were not banal interactions.  They included:

  • fawning over wonderful hand-made pendants;
  • discussions about pigs who had passed away but had been central to marketing and life;
  • comparing the parenting styles of in-laws and;
  • viewing stunning photos of ethically-sourced children’s clothes. 

Essentially, I felt like I was accessing behind-the-scenes stories that allowed this small group to connect in a way that would have been impossible on-line. On to the main event. 

Walking into a room full of strangers, I forced myself to appreciate that I was also a stranger and made an effort to say “hello” and smile – just as my 6 year old had reminded me the previous night.  I grabbed another shot of caffeine and choose a table with only one person on it thinking she might be receptive to a new friend.  She was and we hit it off.  She turned out to be one of the speakers and was open, funny and wise.  More behind-the-scenes story telling.  Comfort levels – sky high.    

The pre-lunch personal meetings with the journalists was without a doubt a little “itchy” for the outed introvert in the room.  Whilst I made eye contact and attempted to make them feel comfortable, this session was much less structured and therefore trickier to navigate.  By the time I understood the lay of the land, I’d probably only asked one question and certainly didn’t feel comfortable enough to openly pitch an idea.  

However, I watched in awe as more experienced business-owners batted pitches back and forth with these journalists with such ease.  I’m not sure I made the most of that particular session but– at least I hadn’t imploded in front of them.   Comfort levels – middle of the road.

Lunchtime brought another difficulty…who to talk to over lunch?   Aaagh.  Thankfully I met one of my top-5-people-I-must-meet-today list (Thank you to the research).   She had previously also publicly outed herself as an introvert and secretly admitted to me that she had just allowed herself 6 minutes solitude in the loo.  I was crippled with envy.  Note to self...build that into my next event.

Thankfully, the afternoon involved watching a couple presentations which gave me time to just listen without pressure.  The event came to a close.  I exited like Cinderella at the end of her ball.  I speed-walked to the loo, swapped my coral shoes for my converse trainers, then almost sprinted towards the exit leaving my lanyard and name badge strewn somewhere behind me.   I breathed a sigh of relief but also joy.  I had spent a whole day in conditions that extreme introverts might consider a nightmare.  But, it had been exceedingly more comfortable than any other networking event I had ever attended. 

I’d learned so much, made real human connections (which is the highest quality of networking… isn’t it?), shared some inspiring stories, discovered belly laughs amongst deep and meaningful conversations and built early foundations for new friendships. 

Do I want to do this every day of the week?  Hell no! Could I build this into a regular part of by business growth plan? Undoubtedly.

My conclusions are that comfortable networking requires more intensive planning for introverts than extraverts and that an event with the right degree of structure to satisfy the one-to-one interaction-loving introverts whilst still considering the social butterflying extroverts is the perfect mix. Thankfully at Soulful PR Live 2017, this was the case.    

Would I do anything different next time?  I might wear comfy shoes the whole day and stash some cash in my pocket…just in case Cinderella needed an escape carriage.

If you’d like to hear more about designing your career around your personality profile and unique strengths, please email me on lucia@midlifeunstuck.com to arrange a time to speak.   If you are not quite ready or feel up to re-designing your own career by yourself, please sign up to my newsletter here for weekly articles for hints, tips, transformation stories to inspire you.

Comfortable networking for introverts (1) - How not to waste an amazing network opportunity

introvert alone

I recently pushed myself WAY outside my comfort zone and bought a ticket to a networking event.   I was sitting in a café in central Guildford where I often write my articles when something weird happened.   After pressing the BUY NOW button, my stomach folded in on itself and I began to experience symptoms of an unusual illness known as “extreme post-purchase remorse”.   Suddenly I felt like a blushing, sweaty teenager who had been ordered to perform a Britney Spears song alone, on a stage, in front of the whole school...NAKED!   

How could one little networking event reduce me to a teenage wreck when I have been on this earth for four and a half decades?

You see I really, really want to be at this event but...I am an introvert

If I can actually muster the courage to attend, I will have the opportunity spend a whole day with 8 national journalists and editors from the likes of The Guardian, Huffington Post, Marie Claire, BBC Radio 4s Women’s Hour and Good Morning Britain to name but a few.  Along with 50+ other business owners, I’ll be learning how to position and pitch my business to the national media (www.soulfulprlive.com).  It could be brilliant for my business.  But I still feel sick to the stomach at the thought of it.       

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Networking events have always felt painful to me but I know some people just love them.  About 10 years ago, in my corporate job, a personality profiling tool branded me (and just one other manager at the time) as...God forbid…an introvert among a sea of extroverts!   It was at that point that I began to hide my discomfort at networking events and buckled down to some serious "working the room" doing my best impression of an extrovert.    At the end of those events, I felt so drained that I could barely speak.  It was just part of the job – a necessary evil.

Through trial and error, I slowly learned ways to make such networking events manageable. But I wish I’d known what I know now.  That I could have made them more comfortable...without the assistance of multiple glasses of wine to make me more…what’s the word…extroverted. 

Two years ago, I began some research to understand introversion.  Initially, my aim was to overcome my introversion but very quickly I uncovered a new respect for my occasionally debilitating/occasionally liberating personality trait.   

I discovered that introversion is like (bear with me here) hair curliness.  You might have only one little section of your hair that’s curly (slight introversion).  Or you might have a head of tight curls everywhere (extreme introversion).  But you are more likely to have something in between.  Neither end of the spectrum is better or worse – they’re just different and require different hair products and atmospheres to reach their full potential.   If curly hair is in the wrong environment, it’ll frizz.  If introverts don't have conditions that allow them to thrive, they will not thrive.  But even in the stressful conditions of a networking event, introverts can thrive if they know how.

differences between Extroverts and Introverts: An overview

introvert extrovert general styles

If I really wanted to attend this event, I had to make sure that my introversion did not control me.  So, I very specifically researched ways for introverts to stay real to their personality make-up yet feel comfortable at networking events.   

The advice was surprisingly simple.  I've condensed some of the most widely accepted advice for successful and comfortable networking for introverts into the list below.  I've also compared my event preparation was shaping up.

Comfortable networking hints for introverts: Before the event

·        Pre-register or buy a ticket – that way you are less likely to find something more important to do on that day. Tick.

·        Know the event format. Sadly many networking events are unstructured and force you mill around for ages before having to interrupt group conversations.  Zero comfort here for introverts.  Choose a structured event with table moves, pre-agreed discussion topics or ice-breaker activities. Tick.

·        Figure out the dress code, if there is one.  If not, choose your favourite confidence-boosting outfit.  “Nothing new on race day” is a mantra I see written often in my husband’s running magazine.  If it's new, scratchy, hangs weirdly when you sit down or doesn’t fit beautifully - don’t wear it.  Favourite blue top ready to rock. Tick.

·        Be alone before the event. Try not to spend time before the event in draining social activities – you need to power-up for the event.  I’ll be sitting alone with my notes on the dawn train to Waterloo. Tick.

·        Research the attendees.  Thankfully here the organiser and PR guru Janet Murray (@Jan_Murray) has done a fabulous job of setting-up facebook groups, a pre-event zoom meeting and requesting specific attendee preparation before the event.  During these on-line conversations, shared articles and questions I have gotten to know at least 5 attendees whom I will be seeking out on the day.  Some share my discomfort and even sent warm messages when I announced that my introversion was troubling me.  Others are in a similar industry and I'd love to hear their opinions on almost everything.   

·        Set realistic and measurable goals.  I’ve nearly finished my research on the attending members of the press. This is just a little aide-memoir with a couple of their article titles in case I go blank in the moment (common introverted behaviour when faced with constant social interaction).  I have two small goals for the day.  The first is to ask one question of every journalist at some point during the day.  The second is to say hello to the 5 people mentioned above.  That’s all.   I want to be walking through Shoreditch at the end of the event with a smile on my face.    

·        Prepare your personal story.   Sadly, I am not going to be able to ask questions and listen all day which is in my comfort zone.  Someone is bound to ask about me and my story.  I thought I had my story done and dusted until I started to write it down.  I realised it makes great sense to me but not to someone who has never met me before.  I’ve refined my personal and business "elevator pitch" and feel more comfortable.  Still, I’m not looking forward to talking about myself but it is a means to an end.

How comfortable networking styles differ for introverts and extroverts

It’s one thing being prepared for a networking event and another feeling comfortable during the event.  The research suggests that there are opposing but equally successful methods of networking at an event for extroverts and introverts. Check them out below:

 

networking general introverts

It's worth noting again that these are just differences in equally successful networking styles -  not good/bad labels. 

Comfortable Networking Hints for Introverts: On the day         

  • Arrive early (ish).  No need to arrive so early that the organisers are still setting out the name tags but arrive a few minutes early to freshen up rather than arriving incognito when the event is in full-flow.  
  • Schedule to meet one or more of the group before so that you can arrive together.  Someone suggested meeting for breakfast and I jumped at the chance,  thinking that this might ease my nerves and probably make the whole day more comfortable.  
  • Seek out your top 5. Remember your small list of people that you really wanted to connect with…seek them out.
  • Ask open questions.
  • Real compliments or comments. Offer a truthful compliment on another attendee's outfit/bag/pen etc.  Who doesn't love an authentic compliment? Alternatively comment on one of the speakers' points and ask what the person beside you thinks.  Who doesn't love to have their opinion requested?
  • Good posture. Make eye-contact and stand tall giving the impression of confidence, even though you are not feeling it.
  • Names. Make an effort to learn a couple of names. It's such a big compliment to have your name remembered and will make you memorable.
  • Jot down some notes from conversations with anyone you have spoken to (back of business cards are really good for this).
  • Follow up after the event with a message containing a fragment of your conversation.  This is a giant differentiator rather than the generic “great to meet you email”. 
  • Be real.  In order to make any concrete connections, you have to connect as humans.  This is difficult if you are disguising yourself as something you are not…even if that's an extrovert.
  • This last one wasn’t in any of the research but since I say it regularly to my daughters when teaching them how to make friends I think it is worthy of a place on the list.   It is simply – Smile and say “Hello”.   It’s the world’s greatest conversation-starter.

The event starts in less than 48 hours.  I'm still not looking forward to it (Sorry @janet_murray).  I definitely won't work the room like a social butterfly.  I won't pretend to be more extroverted than I am.   I'll just be me.  I certainly feel more comfortable than I ever have after doing the research and preparing.   That said, realistically I'm also expecting the stomach flipping to return on the day!     

If you'd like to read more - have a look at the following books:

  • Networking for people who hate networking – Devora Zack
  • Quiet – the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking – Susan Cain
  • Never eat alone – Keith Ferazzi

7 most dignified ways for midlifers to handle a big company "baby boss" (a new boss who's your child's age)

A friend of mine, let's call him Johnny, recently joined a high-profile, super successful, early-stage technology company.  He is the oldest employee by far at the ripe old age of 49. 

Johnny has been tasked with growing their global sales enormously to turn this mega-successful company (on paper) into the sustainably profitable giant it intends to be.   To do this he must develop deep relationships with MDs and CEOs of giant, mature tech businesses across the globe.    How old are these MDs and CEOs?  You guessed it – 45yrs+.  

This experienced group of midlife CEOs/MDs appear to be almost incomprehensible to the leaders of this early-stage, but huge tech business.   These midlife board members possess lives, personality attributes and interests which have exposed a huge generational crevasse in the relationship building skills of the owners and senior leadership within this early-stage tech business.     

Not only are these midlife CEOs/MDs older than many young tech executives can ever imagine being, they also possess memories that are older than these future board members.  These midlifers have faces that sag into fascinating folds.  They have hair that is greying – either proudly or hairdresser-enhanced.  Their slowing metabolism manifests itself sometimes in a thin layer of belly fat.  They remember a time when smart coffee-machines were not considered an essential in the average home.  They grew up reading books…printed on paper.  They learned to communicate with humans using their voices, their eyes and their gestures before communicating with their on-line personality.  These midlifers can remember a time when bottled water didn’t exist!  They are completely different animals.

Selling global technology contracts involves connecting deeply with human beings behind your potential or existing customers.

Enter Johnny.

In order to create or cement long-term relationships, Johnny entertains his midlife counterparts in other companies a great deal.   He goes to baseball games in US, West End shows in London, comedy clubs in New York, stunning spa days in Middle East and Michelin starred restaurants all over Europe.   On the face of it, this sounds fantastic, but can you imagine spending up to 8hrs with a potential customer with whom you have little in common?  No?  Neither can they.  They simply wouldn't.

Johnny forms real relationships with his customers – genuinely.  These relationships are edging towards friendship but they are not friendship.  At all of these events, he spends evenings or whole days with them, and sometimes even invites their children along for the day.  He spends this time easily and appears to enjoy it.  Why? For him, it’s easy.  They have lived in similar eras, through similar economic cycles and are in similar life phases.  There is plenty to discuss.  

But this will not always be the case. 

These older board members are being slowly replaced by younger board members who are, as I've said, a different animals.   It is not inconceivable that in the near future many successful big company senior leaders will be reporting into much younger people – at a stretch - potentially to a boss as young as our children.   

Don't believe me?  If you are 50 today and started your family at 20, your high-flying child could have had a decade-long career so far.  While their career is on its way up, yours is flattening.   The reality of reporting into someone who is as old as your child is racing towards us at full pelt.

Uncomfortable as that sounds, you might need some strategies to help you cope should it happen to you:

1.    Pause and zip your lips

When you hear the news about your new boss – pause and breathe.  If you are known for forthright communication, this might be a good time to...pop out for lunch.  A disparaging comment like “How old is she – twelve?!” could be very career damaging. 

Any sort of derogatory, ageist comment is exactly what you are trying to avoid.  By the way, yes the policemen are getting younger every day.

2.    Don’t stereotype (out loud in the office, at least)

Stereotyping is a natural human failing - the privacy of our own private worlds.  I know, I know.  You are completely different to all the other mature, big company leaders out there.  Being clumped into a stereotype is incredibly insulting, isn’t it? 

Does it annoy you when you feel stereotyped with all those mature people who don’t want to learn (the research says the opposite, by the way) and who are not open to change?  Yes? So, try not to stereotype that all earlier generations are self-absorbed and only out for themselves.  

You worked hard to get where you are, so did they.  If they are in senior management at a young age, it isn’t because they “slept their way to the top” or “brown-nosed” all the right people.   It’s likely to be because they are smarter than their competition, have amazing technical skills or are great early leaders with promise.  Their skills have been rewarded. 

3.    Get out of your own head and into theirs

If you think it is hard having a boss who is young enough to be your child, imagine how tricky it could be having someone reporting into you who is old enough to be your mum or dad? 

A little empathy will go a long way.  Your new boss will be delighted to have been promoted but they will have their own inner doubts about whether they are up to the job. 

Your new boss may be young enough to be your child but they will also possess all the normal early-career insecurities – just as you did.    But, they will be busy hiding their insecurities – just as you did.

The whole world is crippled by "imposter syndrome" - when we worry unnecessarily that we will be found out to be not good enough even though we are in the perfect position to make use of our talents.

What your new boss will need is a group of right-handers who can contribute their unique combination of talents to improve the business.   You can choose to be one of those.  Or not.

Figure out what their goals are and support them with your talents.  Or do something different.

4.    Don’t assume she/he will be a bad boss

If you had a magically supportive, cohesive team in your first senior leadership role, boy were you lucky.   If you had dolly mixture of personalities, skills an experience profiles all playing out their own individual game-plans, welcome to your Boss Baby's world.  

Managing someone who is the same age as their Mum/Dad will be awkward for them butif you are as valuable as you think you are, their success will be dependent on the success of your relationship.  Meet them half way by assuming that they will be a good boss for you.

It wouldn't go amiss if you could communicate your congratulations and your optimism about how you can work together to great success.  Perhaps a step too far? Nevertheless, a quick "congratulations" wouldn't go amiss?  

5.    Keep high emotion at bay (or within the 4 walls of your home)

High emotion at work often has its basis in fear.  It is almost always regretful and is best left for your loved ones at home.

Mellow the emotion by talking to friends who might also be experiencing reporting to some younger high-flyers in their businesses.  Ask questions of them around the best way to tackle it or just ask about their experiences.  

Articulate your frustrations at home but at work, figure out what exactly it is that you need so that you can feel that your career still has legs

In my experience, this can often take the form of leading individual, specific parts of projects/processes or being seen as an expert on one area.  

You need to create opportunities to use your experience, to apply it to new situations in new ways thereby expecting even better outcomes. 

6.    Offer them the same respect you expect in return

Just because you have a boss who’s the same age as your child, it doesn’t mean that you have the right to be disrespectful.   Bitterness is not becoming of a midlifer in business.   

We are all in a state of flux as we attempt to re-design the second half of our career.   

This new boss might feel like a mighty blow that has hit you at a weak point but there is no excuse for throwing your toys out of the pram.  Figure out what amazing toys you have in your pram and use them to climb gracefully towards continued career success.

midlife career crisis after boss baby arrives

 

7.    Point your experience at their problems

You have all this experience under your belt, so point it at problems.  Not in a “Move out of the way, I know how to solve this problem” kind of attitude but in a “We had a similar situation like this before, at the time I considered this idea and this was the result.”  Then explore options with your boss.  It is much more likely that you will become the trusted advisor rather than the grumpy pain in the elbow (not that we are stereotyping here).

If all else fails…

If, despite all your efforts, the relationship still isn't working out after a period of time, work out a way to unstick your career.   Check out my article on starting to re-design your career around your superpowers (https://www.midlifeunstuck.com/new-blog-1/2017/5/27/love-fridays-hate-sunday-night-blues-the-key-to-mid-life-career-happiness). 

You may be as lucky as Johnny whose midlife status and experience were real attraction points for his new company.  You might also like to know that he absolutely appreciates the short-term nature of his fortuitous situation.  He fully expects to be reporting into a “baby boss” in the not-too-distant future.  That said, he has already got his back-up plan ready…just in case.  

No matter what your circumstances, don’t resign without a plan, resign with a great plan.

If you can foresee this situation becoming a reality in your career, it can be helpful to take control by identifying your superpowers and planning of the second half of your career. 

If you'd like a personal guide through that process, please email me at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com to organise a free 30 minute call to discuss your situation and see whether I am the right person to help you.  

If you would prefer to re-design your own midlife career sign-up to my newsletter which includes free tips, book recommendations and transformation stories at www.midlifeunstuck.com.

 

 

Considering a career change after 40? Worked in big company all your life? Are you self-driving your career or are you possibly snoozing at the wheel?

Steering wheel

One of my old clients SAB Miller (then owners of beer brands Peroni & Fosters) would openly inform interviewees that under no circumstances did they manage the careers of their employees.  They were only interested in individuals who would take charge of their own career progression. 

This candour scared off many individuals who had grown up in an era where career progression was offered by companies, not owned by individuals.  The degree of career progression offered by a company would define its level of attraction in the market.

How antiquated does this appear today?   

Historically, this outsourcing of career progression was totally acceptable if you were in the baby years of your career when you didn’t know your bottom from your elbow.   Upon entry into your teen career years (early management), the responsibility would begin to shift slowly towards more of a 50:50 split between company and you.  When you reached midlife and the heady heights of senior management, you were very firmly on your own.

I specifically remember not being able to keep up with the influx of phone calls around 2008 when big companies began to eject senior leaders by the hundreds.  So many of these talented leaders had not spent any time in the preceding 5 years of their career doing the dreaded “networking” to ensure that competitors/suppliers/strategic alliances/head hunters knew them as 3D humans with personalities as opposed to business people.  

Those who had participated in real networking (often through personality style rather than tactical design) were positioned firmly on short-lists for the ever-decreasing supply of senior leadership positions which actually made it to the market.  Many positions never actually were announced to the open market as the perfect individual was offered the position after a couple of informal "meetings".   The realisation that individuals who were being selected for new positions had been STEERING THEIR OWN CAREERS FOR YEARS (if not potentially since their career was a baby) came as a shock to many.  Despite very successful careers, these individuals were left feeling behind the curve.         

SAB Miller at the time were leagues ahead of the average “blue chip” company in demonstrating its total lack of interest in steering the careers of employees from the get-go.  They didn’t appear to care a jot whether you were in the infancy or the midlife of your career. 

Admit it, many of us whose careers matured in big companies, joined cultures where we expected the company to at least help our career, if not perhaps engineer our personal career plans.  

Even as senior leaders in big businesses in the networking enlightened age of today, are we still in danger of "outsourcing" our career planning by not making it a major personal focus? 

I am embarrassed to say that as a senior leader in my final few years in my last corporate job, it was made clear to me by my MD that if I wanted training of any sort all I had to do was to ask, tell him why and the cost would be covered.   Nothing embarrassing about that I hear you say?  

EXCEPT that I couldn’t think of ONE area of training that I wanted or needed.    Looking back, I think that should have been the very obvious sign that I was in a career rut.   

 

warning sign career rut

I failed to recognise that I had steered my own career into a mid-career rut.

.

You see, one of my superpowers in my home life is that I LOVE the process of trying to learn something new - it makes my brain feel awake.   I feel energised when I am learning new stuff that I am, even on the surface, interested in.  I am constantly planning what I might learn next.  Here are the first 8 items on my current list: 

  •       public speaking for natural introverts;
  •       unicycle riding;
  •       cartoon drawing;
  •       tumble turns in the pool;
  •       20 second hand stands;
  •       high-diving;   
  •       clever iphone photography;
  •       how to work twitter – Claim to fame: I’ve never tweeted – my social media experts' (www.socialthyme.co.uk) eyebrows reached her hairline as I mentioned this to her.  What can I say?  I am “midlife stuck” on this one at the moment!   

My “things-I’d-like-to-know-how-to-do” list usually contains about 20 weird and wonderful items.  Depending on life, available funds and time I will pick one, research it and then crack on with it.

BUT during those last two years of my corporate life, I honestly didn't learn a thing.  Not because my company were unsupportive or wouldn’t pay for training - they clearly wanted to.   BECAUSE I HAD ZERO IDEA IN WHAT DIRECTION I WANTED TAKE MY CAREER.  No surprise, then, that I didn’t know what skills or knowledge I needed to get there.

This was an odd period of my life, one that doesn't fill me with pride.  That said, I feel sure I won’t be repeating it any time soon.   But, even if a career rut rears its ugly head again, I now know how to recognise it (https://www.midlifeunstuck.com/new-blog-1/2017/4/25/career-rut-or-just-a-bad-month-your-reaction-to-these-numbers-will-tell-you-for-sure) and understand what I’d do to escape it.  

I would re-trace the searching and transformation process which I led myself through a few years ago. 

I spent two years interviewing people with successful AND happy careers, interviewing people with successful and unhappy careers, completing a masters in Psychology, researching work & life happiness across the globe, learning how to support individuals in grief, training in solutions-focussed coaching, listening to 100s of podcasts and ted talks from people with very “successful” parts of their lives and listening to a couple of ancient recordings of my secret guilty pleasure (Desert Island Discs) every week. 

This intensive learning process culminated in the design the transformation projects (which can be found at www.midlifeunstuck.com) so that others might find changing careers an easier and speedier process.  

If you’d like to hear about my short-cuts to designing fulfilling work feel free to drop me an email to lucia@midlifeunstuck to tee up a time to speak confidentially.  

If you are not quite ready or feel up to leading yourself through the processes, sign up to my newsletter for free resources, articles and career transformation stories at www.midlifeunstuck.com.

Top 5 regrets of the dying…No 2 will impact your mid-life career today

Bronnie Ware, a Sydney-based, palliative care nurse spent 8 years caring for individuals at the end of their lives and wrote an article about her learnings during that period of her career. She summarised the end-of-life wisdom offered by her patients into the 5 points below.  

Her article was picked up by the global media and the full story has been crafted into a book which transformed Bronnie’s career and at the same time has influenced the lives of many, including mine.    

My only focus today is on No2 but if you’d like to read the article in full – here’s the link http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bronnie-ware/top-5-regrets-of-the-dyin_b_1220965.html.

It surprised me that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE MEN she had interviewed in the last 3-12 weeks of their lives expressed the following regret: “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”    These men were often octogenarians who had spent their lives as the sole bread-winner for their family.  

Of course, the world for mid-lifers has changed greatly.  Mid-life women today have infinitely more choice about their careers than the previous generation.  That said,  I wonder when we mid-lifers are nearing the end of our lives whether “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard” will remain one of our top-listed end-of-life regrets?

Look, there is nothing wrong with working hard.   In fact, some of us are just built to work hard - either led by either our personality type or by the training offered by our baby-boomer parents.   I don’t know about you but I certainly get a great deal of personal satisfaction out of working hard, ESPECIALLY when I am working hard at something I love doing.   

When we work hard at something we love doing, or work hard at something that we are great at, it simply doesn’t drain the life out of us the way that working hard on something we either don't enjoy or are not that great at does.   We feel more fulfilled.  We occasionally feel exhilarated and feel like we could keep going for hours.  We feel more youthful and energised.  ALSO there is more of us left over at the end of the day for the people we love in our lives who probably kind of…would like to see us feeling happier.  Win, win.    

dying blossom

Working hard at something you don’t love or something that you are not great at for years or even decades appears to me to be such a waste of a life.

I have very high hopes that my fellow mid-lifers don’t feel as trapped in our “jobs” as the previous generation who had fewer career choices, less opportunities to re-train and less opportunities to share a mortgage with their partner.   

However, it appears that successful professional careers (here in UK at least) require 8-12 hour work days plus lengthy commutes.  If all of us mid-lifers worked hard for 8-12 hours a day doing something we simply loved/were great at, we’d all have these wildly interesting careers and perhaps we’d even be transforming the world during our work day…wouldn’t we?

As it happens, many of the patients in Bronnie’s experience also worked hard for 8-12 hours a day for 40+ years…but still wished they hadn’t.   They may not have had a choice…but we do.  

If you are working in a career that is draining the life out of your life, or if you are doing something that you don’t love and want to start re-designing the second half of your career, have a look at www.midlifeunstuck.com/how-i-work/ or drop me an email at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com to set up a time to speak confidentially. 

If you’re not quite ready but would like access to a growing body of free resources including articles, book recommendations and an up-and-coming selection of client transformation stories, signup to my newsletter at www.midlifeunstuck.com/coaching-work/.

Love Fridays? Hate Sunday night blues? The key to mid-life career happiness...

Happy jump png

If you are reading this you are likely to be a mid-lifer (or my slightly deluded dad who has been known to call people “elderly” when they are exactly the same age as he is).  

You are likely to have been earning a crust for roughly 20-30 years.  You’ve been around a few workplaces and seen the good, the bad and the ugly of work life.   If you are anything like me, you might also to be sensing a slight down-turn in the perfect functioning of a few body parts - just this week I visited a physio, a podiatrist and with my GP for 3 separate body malfunctions which I am convinced can be attributed to my mid-life status.   

Whatever your gender, the average mid-lifer often spends more time avoiding accidental glimpses of their (gracefully?) aging body rather than throwing admiring glances in the bedroom mirror.    More mid-lifers are responding to the inevitable onslaught of grey hairs and their naturally slowing metabolism by taking up a new sport. 

According to Sport England, the age-group with the strongest growth in sports participation over the last decade is 45-54year olds, with an impressive 25% increase over the last ten years.  More specifically, we are taking to lyra-cladding our aging bodies to still the passage of time.  33% of participants in the London Triathlon last year were in the 40years+ age group in comparison to 25% just five years ago.

Whatever your age, if you are lucky enough to still have your parents in your life, you might also be involved with the medical problems associated with the even more rapid aging process experienced by late-lifers.   

It’s complex being a mid-lifer.

One of the simple elements of mid-life should be eking out a little happiness from your work life…but it’s not, is it?  

We, as human beings, don’t appear to be very good at finding happiness at work.  Why not?

These appear to be the most common reasons offered by the mid-lifers I come across for their inability to lock down their own happiness at work:

1.     proximity to the problem

2.    too little time

3.    lack of perspective

4.    persistent and recurring energy depletion from performing work that drains us

5.    fear of change

6.    financial situation concerns

7.    worry about loss of security and stability

8.    no idea how to begin to change the situation

Sometimes we resign ourselves to the (false) idea that there’s nothing we can do about it – apparently “No one really LOVES their job anyway”.     

Let me tell you a well-kept secret:  Some people really, really LOVE THEIR WORK.  But, these people only communicate this openly when they are with other people who also REALLY LOVE THEIR WORK.   

These are good people.  They have no wish to make less fortunate individuals feel bad or open a can of worms that they don’t have the skill/time/inclination to re-pack.  

But, how do they instinctively recognise that we are not a member of their secret HAPPY AT WORK CLUB?  This is a work-in-progress from a www.midlifeunstuck.com research perspective.   But, it appears to have something to do with the stress we hold in our faces and bodies when we/someone else around us talk about work.     

These lesser-spotted lovers-of-their-work avoid childishly prodding you with ‘Na Na Na Na Na…I’m enjoying my job more than you’re enjoying yours!”   Unless, of course, they are sadists who get kicks out of the misfortune of others.   

These lovers-of-their-work are, of course, not happy at work all the time (happiness is not a life-time state but an accumulation of moments.) But, they enjoy many, many more of these moments than the average Joe/Jolene.

How do they become part of this secret lovers-of-their-work club?

First of all, the easy bit – they start with a “decent career” that they don’t hate.   Here are, what I believe to be, the four components of a decent career.

1.    Satisfying a human need to help people to do something that you believe to be valuable. This one is pretty obvious but here are some examples from my clients: 

  • helping sell higher quality wine to people who love wine but don’t have a big budget;
  • helping companies make better decisions by having great future-focussed financial information;
  • helping customers design great advertisements to sell more of their products;
  • helping making all employees within our business create long-term relationships with customers;
  • helping people improve their fitness to enable their lives to be more fun; 
  • helping banks keep their systems operational so that 1000s of people get paid;
  • helping clients design their perfect building/extension to allow them to live happier lives;
  • helping charities to raise funds to enable more and better assistance to be offered to those in need; 
  • helping parents to build resilience in their children to take the stress out of life transitions.  

 

2.    Basic life needs can be satisfied

  • enough money to cover mortgage and life;
  • a commute that doesn’t make you want to pull your eyelashes out one by one over many hours
  • in general, working the hours of work that you signed up to - even if sometimes it is a bit crazy
  • a safe working environment – not just hard-hat wearing but emotion safety from excessive and prolonged stress

 

3.    Satisfactory freedom to work how you like to work. I don’t mean you like to get paid a fortune for doing a few hours work.  This one is more to do with personality style and values matching your work (the majority of the time).

  • if you are an introvert that you have time to think before needing to perform/give your opinion;
  • if you hate details that you are not required to fine-tune everything in your work life, all of the time;
  • if you like to do the right thing that your work allows you to operate within your own moral compass guidelines;
  • if you thrive on creativity that there is enough requirement/time available to satisfy that itch;
  • if you enjoy managing a team that you have time and space to do just that in your own style;
  • if you have children whom you like to see regularly, you have the flexibility to satisfy that parental need.

 

4.    Some regular feedback to allow you to feel satisfied that you are doing a good job.

Rarely do people LOVE THEIR WORK from a deep, dark, lonely cave – emotionally or physically.  To feel satisfied at work, we humans require some feedback on how we are doing e.g.

  • linked-in “likes” to an article you wrote;
  • a pat on the back from your boss;
  • winning a significant contract;
  • verbal praise for doing something specific really well;
  • an informal recommendation to speak to you about something you are great at;
  • a bloody good appraisal; and of course...
  • let’s not forget…a decent bonus.

The more detail-focussed of you might notice the multiple use of the words “satisfied/satisfaction” in the above components of a “decent career”.

Let me be clear, ticking all 4 boxes above will NOT lead to “career happiness” but it usually leads to “career satisfaction”.  

If this is your first time reading any of my articles, I’ll let you know now that “career satisfaction” isn’t a driver for me.  I aim a great deal higher.   

So how can you raise the bar to focus on finding “career happiness”? 

The absolute key lies in finding your superpowers, understanding what is stopping you from using more of your superpowers at work and designing possible career options to do just that.   That’s it. That’s the secret behind my work.  It’s as easy as that.

So, why don’t we all know what our superpowers are?

 It's hard work searching for your superpowers.

It's hard work searching for your superpowers.

 

We do…but most people don't think about our career in this way.  It requires some deep searching.  It takes a little time and a giant dose of honesty which is difficult to do by yourself.  It's incredibly possible though.  

Soon, I’ll give you a step-by-step approach to how to find your superpowers for yourself.  

If you can’t wait and would like to get started immediately on uncovering your personal and unique superpowers to unstick your career, drop me an email at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com.  If you are not quite ready but want access to a growing body of free resources including articles, book recommendations and an up-and-coming selection of client transformation stories, signup to my newsletter at www.midlifeunstuck.com.

 

The insanity of changing career at 40, 50 or 60...celebrity mid-life career changers who might inspire you to give it a go.

Crazy Erin Drawing

Changing careers at 40, 50 or 60 can appear to others to be one step away from lunacy. Why change at this time of your 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 you 30 years ago. It might work for you in today’s climate if you work in a company surrounded by 50 and 60 year old peers. 

Have a look around you. 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. For most companies, the playing field starts to look a little sparse even in the 45+ demographic.   

Check out these 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 last 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? 

distance between insanity

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?

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 at £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. 

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.

Some of my clients definitely want a complete over-haul of their career but many are simply stuck in a tight career spot where they struggle to see their future evolving positively and want someone to help them to figure it out.

If you’d like to have a conversation with me about taking the power back and unsticking your career, drop me an email at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com.  If you are not quite ready but want access to a growing body of free resources including articles, book recommendations and an up-and-coming selection of client transformation stories, signup to my newsletter at www.midlifeunstuck.com.

The 90s song that caused me to shut my career coaching business just as it was blossoming...almost

A client last week re-minded me of a song that I played incessantly in my youth. As soon as I came off the call I opened Spotify and MY HEART SANK.  I felt that my business would be doomed to fail if every 40-55 year old in my network heard this song.  I considered shutting up shop that day even though my career transformation business was growing beyond my expectations. 

I'd have zero clients if this song were to be re-released.

“No song can be that powerful” I hear you cry. 

Well, this one could have been…if human beings were capable of taking advice, that is.  Luckily (at least from a business perspective) I don’t believe we humans are actually capable of taking advice.

So...the song is called Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen) by Baz Luhrmann. You know the one.  It starts “Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97, wear sunscreen!” and Baz proceeds in a monotone voice to prescribe the most succinct and mind-blowing advice ever aimed specifically at young adults. 

Like most young adults in the 1990s (and probably today as well), my parents doled out advice to me on a daily basis but it totally washed over me.   “In one ear and out the other” was a commonly heard refrain pointed in my direction in my home. 

Yet, when I was bombing about the back roads of Co. Antrim in my parent’s light blue Citroen BX and this song came on the radio, I almost slumped into an open-eared trance.  I couldn’t get enough of this advice.  It made so much sense and was delivered in a cool, Californian, non-preachy way, supported by a funky beat.  I fully believed that this advice was going to change my life.

Check out just a couple of inarguable pieces of advice from the lyrics (full lyrics in the link below)

  • Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old and when you do you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders...but trust me, in 20 years you'll look back at photos of yourself, and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked....
  • You’re not as fat as you imagine…
  • Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly…
  • Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble-gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday…”

Full lyrics here : https://www.letssingit.com/baz-luhrmann-lyrics-everybody-s-free-to-wear-sunscreen-4pbhw5n#ixzz4gfJX7Kg

Absolutely brilliant life advice - wouldn't you agree?  Needless to say, it didn’t change my life.

Even though I really loved ALL of the advice and even though I listened with open-ears, my psychological make-up would not allow me to take in ANY advice wholeheartedly.  My psychological make-up, as far as advice is concerned, is identical to yours. It’s the same psychological make-up as your children’s and the same as your parent’s. We are all the same in this aspect of life. We all find it nearly impossible to implement someone else’s advice into our own lives.

On the flip-side, it appears that most people really enjoy GIVING ADVICE, even if it is not requested.  Let’s face it, giving advice to others makes us feel helpful, knowledgeable and go on, be honest, often a little better about ourselves.  That’s just the problem.  Advice-giving is all about the advice-giver, not the advice-receiver.  And NOT giving advice is really, really difficult.

Don’t believe me?

dog glasses

TRY THIS and see how difficult it is for you:

1.    When your partner/colleague/child comes to discuss a problem with you this week ZIP YOUR LIP. 

2.     Listen with both ears and brain – this bit sounds easy.  BUT you are NOT going to offer ANY advice AT ALL.

3.    Instead, feel free to ask questions, make understanding noises, move parts of your face (eyebrows work nicely) at appropriate moments to encourage them to keep speaking. When your partner/colleague/child have COMPLETELY FINISHED TALKING, continue to empathise with their tricky situation and wish them well in finding the (be as specific as you can here) strength/confidence/creativity/etc (delete as appropriate) to be able to figure out the next moves to progress that situation along.

4.    STOP.  Assess how hard that was for you.

HINT: You will know if you have been unsuccessful in avoiding advice-giving if you hear the words “Yes, but…” as a response to anything you say.

BEWARE: This has been known to have a very obvious transformational effect on children. Watch their body language change (if you can be very specific) after step 3.

A friend accused me of being too simplistic in recommending this technique.  All I'll say is...try it. It is a simple technique and if all it does is highlight how different it feels for you NOT giving advice, it will have made an impact.  Let me know what happens.

In my experience, it's also nearly impossible to take someone else’s career advice and point it at your own career.  

If you'd like to transform your career you will need to find a way to step far enough out of your current situation to view both it and you objectively so that you can CREATE YOUR OWN CAREER ADVICE.  Most people struggle seeing their own life from a different perspective. Sometimes a coach helps.

In my work, I don’t offer advice (although I am a human with failings and sometimes I catch myself mid-advice-offering.).  

What I do offer are structured, tried and tested techniques combined with psychological insights which take the guess-work out of making a career change.   Check out “The Decider” package on my website (https://www.midlifeunstuck.com/how-i-work) for more information on my style of advice-free coaching. While you’re there, why not sign up to my weekly newsletter for tips, resources, articles and real life stories of transformations?   (ps that last bit was a suggestion, not a piece of advice!)

 

Career rut or just another bad month? Your reaction to these numbers will tell you for sure.

Did you choose your first career or did it choose you?  Let me tell you about the advertisement which locked down the first half of my career. 

It was Manchester, 1997.  I was a debt-ridden final-year student, unsure of what work I wanted to do in my career and even less sure of what I might, God forbid, be good at.  What I was entirely sure of was that I needed a job which paid a decent salary pronto otherwise I was on a direct plane back to my peach-curtained childhood bedroom in small-town Northern Ireland.

The advertisement on the notice board in the student careers office (yes, pre-email) announced in large font “Earn up to £26,000 in your first year”.  I didn’t need to read more.  That line was enough to motivate me through a tedious application form, telephone interview, face-to-face interviews and an assessment day to secure an offer with a FTSE 250 on their graduate training scheme. 

I remember actually “whooping” with happiness after I received the offer.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit that even at that point, I still wasn’t sure what exactly the job entailed.  Of course, I didn't start on anything near that salary either.

I didn’t know it at the time but applying to that advertisement locked down the first twenty years of my career.  

Many of us stay in our first career happily for our entire career.

Others wake up around the mid-point in our careers and don’t like the smell of the roses.  They want to plant different roses for the second half of their career. They want to plant roses that might bloom in a different environment or produce blossoms of a different colour or rake up the flowerbed and plant asparagus.  If this resonates with you, you might be experiencing a career rut.

yellow roses in vase  (3).jpg

 

How do you differentiate between a bad month at work and a career rut?

If you are in a career rut:

  • You might use the term “ground hog day” to describe your working life rather than a funny 1993 Bill Murray movie?  Essentially you feel that you are living your life on a repeating loop.
  • You might have been through the same growth and decline cycle in the same industry (or even same company) a few times but you have stopped getting a kick out of knowing all the answers.
  • You might be starting to stick out like a sore thumb within your business as one of the mysteriously ever-disappearing ‘more mature’ people.   
  • You may have built a successful career but can’t fully understand why you have been experiencing Sunday evening blues, EVERY Sunday evening for a very long time.
  • Your dissatisfaction with work has begun to seep into your life outside work – to a level that is becoming more unacceptable to you and your family.
  • You might have begun to notice that your organisational culture jars with your natural work style and wonder whether it is the company or you who have changed?
  • This one is sad but common…often a career rut presents itself very vividly soon after you have experienced a traumatic event in your life (e.g. personal health scare, elderly parent illness, separation or divorce).  These types of events force us to think very deeply about how we are spending our time.

Try this: Read the below three points and note your reaction:

  • If you work for 40 hours each week for the next 10 years = you will have worked for 17,600 hours
  • If you work for 40 hours each week for the next 20 years = you will have worked for 35,200 hours
  • If you work for 40 hours each week for the next 30 years = you will have worked for 52,800 hours

a)    If you whooped and punched the air, excited about the opportunity to spend more hours getting paid doing something you love – I congratulate you. You are the envy of the nation.

b)   If you sighed and thought “I might need to talk to my contacts in the search firms”, do that…today.   It always takes much longer than you think.  You are definitely ready for a change of scenery but there's no need to overhaul your flowerbed just yet.

c)    If you sighed, stopped, shook your head/held your head in your hands and thought anything along the lines of “I have to do something MORE valuable/enjoyable with my time NOW”, there is a very good chance that you are firmly in the grip of a career rut.

More next time on beginning your escape from your career rut.

Follow me on linkedin or visit my website www.midlifeunstuck.com to sign up to my weekly newsletter for free tips, resources and case studies of others who have performed career transformations and come out the other side.

Do you want to be on the same commuter train in your 60s?

A few 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 aged around late 50s-early 60s.  They had bought a couple of M&S beers for the journey home and were having a good laugh.  These men have firmly stuck in my brain solely because of my husband’s casual comment as we jumped off the train “God, I hope I’m never one of those guys.”  I was surprised.  My husband is one of the least judgemental people I know.  Also, in my opinion, these gents looked perfectly happy with their lot.

When probed, he told me that he sees these gents sometimes on the early morning train and very often on the late train home.  So what?

He explained that he would feel like a failure if he felt forced to still be working as hard as he does now at their age, presumably to earn enough money to sustain a lifestyle.  A lifestyle, he believed, these gents had chosen when they were much younger.  

This floored me.  I hadn’t realised he was thinking so far ahead. 

feet 2

However, I had realised that we had agreed our life priorities early in our relationship.  (Actually, this was all his doing in the early days but I was a eager student!)

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 can 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 Charmers”, 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.  

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.   He also makes choices every day to do (or not do) things that will allow him make sure that doesn’t happen.  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.

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.

 

If you are interested in reading more on this topic, one of my favourite books on this subject is:

Essentialism - the Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.

If you are short on time, have a listen to the podcast below which is an interview with Greg - it might be enough to check if it is for you or not.

https://michaelhyatt.com/season-3-episode-12-the-disciplined-pursuit-of-less-podcast.html

 

To get more ideas on how your career and life choices impact your future career and life outcomes visit www.midlifeunstuck.com, sign up to my newsletter and contact me directly at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com.  

Is your job sucking the life out of your life? Note to self...

Last year, a friend’s husband joined a very young technology company who ambitiously sold a contract to their largest potential client in the very early stages of their development.  He is 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 several emergency (unplanned) plane rides across Europe each week.  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.

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.  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 the Ed Sheeran concert or... dancing naked in the sun, it’s about time you asked yourself one question...

1.    Fast forward your life by ten years…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?

Write it down on a piece of paper and put it in your inside pocket, loose 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.  Then just let your subconscious absorb it and play with it while you sleep, while you work, while you shower, whenever.

Here's what some of my clients wrote. Forgive the hand-writing.

Photo

 

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.

On a daily basis, very few individuals think about whether our regular activities are contributing to the design of our future.

In fact 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.  You've also not been much fun at the weekend because you are 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 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, we focus on making time for X (both consciously and subconsciously) in the present which transforms our future. 

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

 

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 visit www.midlifeunstuck.com, sign up to my newsletter and contact me directly at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com.  

How to begin to escape from your career rut

For many of us the first half of our career flies by at great speed with plenty of hard work and often little planning.  But what happens when your career trajectory flattens, the work becomes easy and dull or “ground hog day” is a term that describes your working day rather than a funny 1993 Bill Murray movie? 

You are in a career rut that will take some manoeuvring to escape from.  If you are looking for some starter points to get you on the road to a career transformation, here are three activities that you can begin on the way home today.

1.   Design a very specific answer to this question: What magic do you have to offer the world?

Torch in sky (2).jpg

Eh?  By ‘magic’ I mean, what specific, unique skills do you have to offer the world?  I assure you I have not under-estimated how difficult this question is to answer. 

If you have spent 20 years in a career that you “fell into”, this will be much more difficult for you than for others who might have tried a couple of different lines of work in the first half of their career.  

If you have been in finance, law, engineering, sales or IT for a couple of decades, you may struggle with the specifics of what key, specific skills you have to offer the world.   

One way to start to answer this very hard question is to answer two easier sub-questions which will point you in the right direction: i)What activities are you doing when you lose track of time? ii)What do you love doing so much that you would do it for free?   

If you really, really think about these two questions for the length of your commute today, I guarantee you will have triggered a thought process which is the first starting point of your career transformation.

2.   Write another very specific list:  What do you want from your future work life?

On that long commute home, don’t listen to your favourite podcast, don’t read the news and don’t play that game on your phone to distract you from how annoyed you were by something at work today.  

Instead, design your future perfect work

You might not yet know the exact style of that work but you can define your preferences for some of the key elements.  Have a think about your ideals around weekly work-life balance, time spent face-to-face with humans versus on tele/video conferences, thinking time, amount and type of travel, size of team, sole versus team work balance, commute, quality and style of feedback, requirement for corporate presentations/board meetings, team management style, company culture, salary, feel of work environment, amount of holiday, freedom to make decisions, support to make decisions etc. 

HINT: Most of my clients have amazing difficulty with designing their perfect work and find it easier to define what they don’t want. Give that a try if it sounds easier.  

3.   Evaluate your current role

Consider your current role – is it using the skills that you really, really enjoy using?   Is your current role fulfilling many of your ideal preferences for future work? If the answer to either of these questions is no, you might want to consider making some changes.  

If the answer to both questions is no, you might want to start considering a career transformation.

To learn more about escaping your own career rut go to www.midlifeunstuck.com, sign up to my newsletter and contact me directly at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com.