How to

THE ONLY THING career changers in their 40 or 50s want (and how to stop your brain undermining your efforts to get it too!)

In a recent article, you saw the second most popular trigger for successful career change at our age.  Now, let’s explore the most popular trigger for career change.

But before we do, did you do the task at the end of the last article?  I suggested you write down the 3 things that you want less of in your future work

Go on, do it now on a piece of paper…we’ll wait for you…

I would be surprised if you found the exercise difficult.   Figuring out what the problems are takes no time.  If you are reading this, you may have been thinking about what you don’t want in your work for some time?

But somehow, very little has changed?

One major cause for that is that by continuing to focus on “the problem of work” you are allowing your brain to remain problem-focused. 

How the brain keeps you stuck

Your brain only does what it thinks you want it to do.  It is not aware that you are open to seeking out a range of possible solutions to your problem when you spend lots of time thinking and talking about the problem of work.  So, it thinks it is helping you by keeping the problem of work front and centre.  Resulting in you staying exactly where you are. 

In your brain, focussing on the problem is like telling yourself that you want to lose weight.  That you want to get rid of those flabby bingo wings or the belly that has more jelly than it used to.   Frankly, that sort of thinking keeps you stuck in the very place that you want to leave!

How to get your brain on-side

You need your brain in solution-focussed mode instead.

What I noticed during my interviews with over 70 successful career changers (so far) is that only when they got really clear on what they wanted instead of their current situation did they get their brains into the right place to be open enough to seek out some alternative solutions. 

They got their brains solutions-focussed rather than problem-focussed.  That seemingly minor shift had a major impact.  

What all successful career changers in their 40s, 50, 60s seem to crave

In short, every single one of these successful mid-life career changers wanted the same thing.  Actually, they didn’t just want it – they craved it. 

THEY ALL CRAVED “MORE”.   

They each had their own very personal type of “more” but broadly, according to my research, their “MORE” fell into the following 4 categories:

Is it time to get really clear on what your very personal ideas about your “More” look like?

Here are some direct quotes from career changers that give an indication of what they wanted in their future work. 

Perhaps some resonate with you?    

MORE…Learning

“I realised I hadn’t learned anything new for such a long time and somehow that somehow became very important.” (Lindsay Cornelissen, Banking industry to wine entrepreneur)

“I woke up to realise that I wanted to learn more. Not more to make me better at my job – more of something totally and utterly different that would allow me to have a bigger impact on the world.”  (Me! Corporate head-hunter to mid-life career change coach)

“I’m happy where I am – for now.  But I worry that I am not challenging myself, just coasting. I worry that I am de-skilling.  I feel valued for the job I do but I’ve done it well and they won’t need me at some point.  I want a great plan to be read to roll out when the time is right. (Client, Legal, 50s)

“I heard this voice telling me to find something different but I had invested so much time and life energy in this industry I wasn’t sure.  But in the end, I knew needed to do something different.” (Elizabeth Draper, Film industry executive to gluten-free baker)

 

MORE…Time with loved ones

“I got frustrated having to ask permission to have a half-day off to watch kids school plays or attend parent meetings.  I just couldn’t hack the five weeks of freedom, time off for good behaviour.  I wanted more freedom.” (David James, Senior finance executive to flexible contractor)

I’d fallen out of love with sales a few years ago around the time when I filed for divorce.  I know that any day I spend with my children is infinitely more enjoyable than any day I spent working in my sales job.  So I decided to re-train to make sure I can spend more time with them.   (Gareth Jenkins, Sales now re-training as a self-employed electrician)

For so many years I left before the kids went to school and I’d return when they were in bed.  Or I would travel the world for 2 weeks at a time.  A major difference is that I see my kids more.  I’m just not grumpy at the weekend anymore.  (Andy Eaton, International FD to owning his own accounting firm)

I just couldn’t accept the long-haul travel and didn’t want to miss out on weekends with the family. (Sally Smy, International buyer to personal stylist)

“I spent much of the school summer holidays this year with my 13-year old daughter diving, paddle boarding, surfing.” (Stephen Wright, Architect's Technician to flexible working with an incredible coastal lifestyle.)

MORE…Appreciation

After 20 years of fee earning, I still loved helping people but realised I wanted to help more on the emotional side.  (Client, Law, 50s)

“I felt under-valued, as if the wind had been taken out of my sails. I felt that my decision to work part-time since the arrival of my first child had been taken advantage of.” (Louise Brogan, NHS IT Manager to Social Media Entrepreneur)

“I feel that no one is looking out for me anymore.  As I’ve become more senior, my sponsors have moved on.  I don’t feel as valuable to the company.” (Client, FMCG, 40s)

“After 20 years of working my socks off for the benefit of others, I reflected and realised that I was being neither valued nor appreciated. (Duncan Haddrell, Senior finance career to distribution business owner)

“I felt like a commodity in the end.” (Kelly-Ann Grimes Hospitality IT COO to owner of franchise PA business.)

“I had had enough.  I didn’t feel at all respected.  I asked myself the question - If I die tomorrow would I die happy?  No, not while I was in my old role.  If you asked me that question today, I would say yes because I would die feeling truer to myself, feeling valued and definitely feeling respected.” (Jennifer Corcoran, Executive PA to Social Media Trainer)

MORE…fulfilling work

I wanted to do wonderful creative things like I used to.  I wanted to be my own person again.” (Client, Media, 50s)

“I felt creatively stifled as I no longer had a real say in campaign development.” (Charlotte Moore, Social Media Editor to Foodie PR Specialist)

“As a woman in senior leadership I felt shrunk-to-fit, forced to specialise in something that I didn’t love and being edged out of a successful, cut-throat world of advertising.  (Client, Media, 50s)

“I’d grown tired of trying to motivate people to change when they didn’t want to.  I realised later in life, after running lots of change projects, that I am not all that good with people.  I needed to become a specialist.  (Client, 50s, Technology)

Try this

career change 40+

Take a piece of paper and write down a long list of all things that you’d like more of in your future work and all the things that you would have more of if you did more fulfilling, satisfying work every day.

Take a photo of this list, save it as your screen saver or print it out and put it in in your coat pocket, your purse or wallet or laptop case.  Talk about it with friends and family over the next few weeks. If you read it a couple of times every day for the next week or so I promise you a tiny little bit of magic will happen in your brain…Dots will begin to connect.

I’d love to know if you hit upon any ideas.

Join my private community of successful professionals who are interested in designing more joy into their career and tell me what you came up with.  I return every email personally and can’t wait to hear how this mini-experiment goes for you.

 Click the image to receive twice monthly articles, strategies and stories to inspire your career change.

Click the image to receive twice monthly articles, strategies and stories to inspire your career change.

I want more

How a health scare, bereavement or grief impacts career change (and how to avoid making rash decisions)

I know I’m not alone in sometimes feeling surrounded by illness, bereavement or grief.  In the last six weeks two close friends have each lost one of their parents.  Another friend is undergoing treatment to blast away cancerous cells and yet another awaits news if her treatment has been successful.

It seems, we, of a certain age, have entered an emotionally turbulent stage of our lives accompanied by illness, bereavement and grief.

Grief 2.jpg

Sometimes I doubt whether any positive could come from such negative experiences…

I met one of these friends for breakfast this week who divulged that while physical and mental trauma has been a very unwelcome visitor in her home for the last year, it hasn’t been all negative.

Eh?

She was referring to a certain clarity she now feels about life that was fogged by worrying about “the small stuff” in the past.

She can see her bigger picture more clearly.  And has begun to make sense of what that might mean for her and her family in the future.  If they are lucky enough to have a future together.

That got me thinking...

How a health scare, illness or grief can impact career change

I’ve noticed that I’m working, more and more often, with mid-lifers wishing to change careers who cite one of their reasons for change coming from a new thought process after experiencing:

a)      the trauma of losing an elderly parent

b)      a personal health scare

c)       a serious illness of a close friend/sibling

While the loss is never the primary reason for their desire for change, it often appears in response to my “Why now?” initial question.

Some sort of life clarity appears to present itself at some point after exposure to a serious health scare (personal or otherwise) or over the course of a grieving process.  I guess it’s no surprise for those of you who have experienced it, but to me it looks and feels like a complete over-haul of priorities and life values.

The sense that “life is short” seems to grow to more than “a feeling” with some people.  It can grow so much that it requires and demands attention and inspires change.   Change in lots of ways, such as:  

·         moving home to be closer to family,

·         moving parents closer to us,

·         creating new family traditions,

·         changing how we eat and drink,

·         changing friends,

·         spending more time with x group of people,

·         spending less time with x group of people,

·         creating a bucket list,

·         scratching off items on an old bucket list,

·         picking up new projects/hobbies to make us feel more alive, or

·         changes in our spending patterns to allow for the new priorities.

For some, they feel a very strong need to re-think their careers.

The new sense that “Life is too short” in some, magnifies the impact of spending 8-10 hours a day doing something that they don’t love - at best - or something that is stressful, exhausting or draining - at worst.

But the loss of our healthy self, our healthy friend or a parent takes time to work through.  That sense-making process is often called grief and it can be debilitating…for a while.


Grief 3.jpg

How bereavement and grief impact our brain:

I found this simple little video helpful.

In summary, grief and loss can:

1.       Increase cortisone release (the stress hormones) which impacts our immune system;

2.       Intensify and lengthen our reaction to fear making emotional control is less effective;

3.       Change our sleep patterns;

4.       Cause memory loss or brain fog.


How long should you wait to instigate a career change if you are grieving a loss?

The answer is, of course, it depends.

It depends on what sort of loss you have experienced, how much time you need to re-build personally, how open you are about talking to others, how complicated your loss was, what sort of support you have around you and how much time you can devote to healing.

Broadly, career change takes time - months and years, not days and weeks.  The type of career change that takes weeks or months is generally a leap of faith or a dramatic escape…I disagree with both, simply because they are rarely successful.

Recommendations:

If you know someone who is considering career change who has also lost someone close to them or has experienced a health scare – here are a few tools and recommendations that might help them through the sense-making stage of their grief process. 

Then, when they are ready, they can crack on with a full, well-thought out career overhaul. One that more perfectly aligns with their values and new priorities.

Books:

While I was training and volunteering as a bereavement supporter, I probably read about 20/25 books on grief.  These two books made a giant impact on my life, but I completely understand that they may not connect with everyone.  

-          Grief Works by Julia Salmon – Experienced grief counsellor tells stories and patterns that I found fascinating and healing. Not at all for early stage loss but useful in the sense-making phases.

-          Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom – small book, very easy to read and inspired me to focus on what I value in my life, rather than what the world appears to value.

Talk therapy: 

-          Personal recommendations are best, but our society doesn’t enjoy discussing death, so this can be harder than you might imagine.

-          www.whatsyourgrief.com is a good introduction to finding some professional help – there’ll will be a similar website in your country.

-          www.CRUSE.org.uk is a wonderful UK charity that offers wait-listed, free, grief support.  They are not qualified grief counsellors but very highly trained volunteers who support grief.  

An unusual but brilliant podcast: 

-          https://www.acast.com/griefcast

Award-winning podcast led by a comedian whose father died when she was a teenager. Essentially, it’s funny people talking about their grief stories – past and present.  I laugh and cry in almost every episode and since I mostly listen to podcasts in the car – I look like a lunatic at traffic lights!

It’s a window into how common grief is in our society and its success shows how little our society talks about it but how much we need to.  Julia Salmon (see book recommendation) was interviewed on it and was enlightening. Start there if you want to dip your toe in.

Grief 1.jpg

What could you do to ready yourself for a future career re-think (without making any rash decisions)?

1.       Don’t resign or consider major career change until at least 6 months after a loss, ideally 12 months.  That doesn’t mean you can’t get your thoughts together.

2.       Be gentle with yourself.  This was my most common comment to anyone in a state of loss when I was volunteering with Cruse Bereavement Care.   

  • If you feel like getting straight back to work to get some semblance of normality back into life – Do it!  

  • If you feel like jumping into bed straight after coming home from work – Do it! 

  • If you feel like wearing your Dad’s favourite sweater every day for months – Do it! 

  • If you feel like watching endless re-runs of Homes under the Hammer – Do it! 

  • If you feel like eating 5 crème eggs in a row – Do it!

3.       Talk about the person you have lost with friends, family, colleagues and strangers.  Share memories.  Good times and bad.  Funny stories.  What you miss most.  What you miss least.

4.       If you don’t release your feelings, they find a way to present themselves physically.    If you think your family and friends can’t handle it, book into a professional grief counsellor and talk for as long as you can.

5.       Spoil yourself.  Book a massage. Buy those new shoes.  Have long baths.  Be outside. Walk.  Eat colourful food.

6.       Ask someone at work to tell your colleagues why you have been off work before you return.  It’ll save on those awkward moments when they ask about how lovely your holiday was. 

7.       Exercise – it improves mood, memory, sleep and thought processing.   You’ll need all of these if you are to think through and plan out a career change.

8.       Talk to people at work, if you can.  Keeping your grief in can increase stress.  Without looking very hard, you might find someone who feels the same as you but has no outlet at work.  You might be able to ask that colleague how their grief/illness/health scare impacted their view of their career.

9.       If you are dead set on re-thinking your career now: Grab a piece of paper.  Write down a list of the elements of your work that you definitely want to change in the future

10.   On a different piece of paper write a list of the elements of your work that you’d like to do more of in the future.  Put the piece of paper away somewhere safe, that you can find easily, for when you feel stronger to make some bigger changes.

 You might also like to sign up to the “You’re not too old and it’s not too late” newsletter here for monthly articles to help you think through a possible career change – save them up in your email list to read when you are ready.

 

Disclaimer:

I am not an expert on grief but I am an expert on mid-lifer career change.  Having said that, I spent two years of my spare-time training and working with CRUSE Bereavement Care but don’t anymore because life got too busy.  I am interested in all things important to human happiness and losing a loved one or experiencing a health scare can have a huge impact on human happiness.

 

 

 

 




Is your Career Plan B real...or just a pipe-dream? And where to start, if you haven't got one yet.

 Pipe-dream Plan B or Real Plan B - which have you created?

Pipe-dream Plan B or Real Plan B - which have you created?

I resigned almost 4 years ago without a PLAN B.   It took nearly 3 years to form an amazing new career but if I’d understood the importance of a decent Plan B before I’d resigned, I’d have done my thinking while I was still being paid.   

I’d also have saved myself valuable life time, money, the stress of feeling stuck for so long and the wasted energy of travelling down long blind (and sometimes fun) alleys.  

If you’ve read anything else I’ve written, you’ll know of my firm belief that life is simply too short and too precious to waste it doing work you don’t love.  A good Plan B affords us the opportunity to enjoy a career that fits, second time around. 

Who needs a Career Plan B?

If you're over 40 years old, you'll NEED a Career Plan B.  Enough said.  Read this article if you need further convincing.

Who doesn't need a Career Plan B?

Individuals who find their current work deeply fulfilling, satisfying and fun DON'T need a Career Plan B.  I doubt you'd be reading this article if that were your situation. 

Purpose of a Career Plan B:

To provide light at the end of a tunnel - sometimes a dark boring tunnel, sometimes a stressful, painful tunnel and sometimes just a very average long tunnel that we can’t even remember entering.

Not all Career Plan Bs are the same.  

The two major styles of Career Plan B:

·        Pipe-dream Career Plan B

·        Real Career Plan B

Definition of a Pipe-dream Career Plan B: 

A career escape route that may not be required but is considered the best alternative route in lieu of other options.

Examples:

  • “I’ll save enough to retire a few years early and travel the world.”

  • “When the inevitable happens, I’ll sell the house, buy something on the coast and find a little business to run.”

  • “When the time is right, I’ll retrain to become an X.”

None are quantifiable.  None are testable.  None are time-framed.  None are within our control.  None require very specific planning to ensure they happen.  In other words…pipe-dreams.

My definition of a REAL Career Plan B:

-         A different route that creates the best possible alternative to the work you’re currently doing that has the potential to feel fulfilling and satisfying, to bring more fun into your life and to earn enough to sustain a chosen lifestyle.

-         It’s the best possible alternative because you have spent time making sure you would be doing the work that you LOVE doing through experimentation, analysis and tweaking of your ideas.  You’ve ensured that you understand what it takes to make your Real Career plan successful before you launch into it and are prepared to do what it takes.

Quite a difference, eh?

The best time to design your Real Career Plan B: 

  • When you don’t NEED it.

  • In an ideal world, you’d begin investigating your REAL career Plan B when you are at the height of your career yet totally understand that you may not be doing what you’re doing forever. You’d probably still enjoy parts of your current work but the sheen may have worn off a while ago. You have financial commitments that you’re not prepared to compromise on. This is the perfect time because your brain is in relaxed mode. You’ve got time on your side but you’d really love to have at least one ready-packaged idea that you could investigate and research in the background to make ready to go when the time is right.

  • WARNING! If you’ve been made redundant, fired or are on sick leave due to work stress you really NEED a plan B but annoyingly your brain is in the worst state to create a one. It’s perfectly possible but it will take a little more work on your part to calm the brain stress enough to allow you to re-think your career whilst quashing the “I-NEED-a-new-job-now!” very natural human reaction to your circumstances.

  • Read this article on how the brain sees career change if you’d like to know more. In this situation, you might prefer a staged Plan B. Often individuals who’ve been made redundant, fired or are on sick leave due to work stress choose to find “a job” to get the brain into relaxed mood again in order to permit the right psychological mind-frame to then begin to create a REAL career plan B.

How NOT to find a real career Plan B:

  • Start at the end – become inspired by one idea for a business or new career then throw yourself into that idea 100%, watch it fail (or if you’re extremely lucky it might succeed) and become dejected, negative and sad when the Plan B doesn’t work as well as you'd hoped.

  • Don’t buy a domain name, sign up to a year-long course, employ a website designer or personal branding guru. It’s way too early for these activities but they are signs that you’ve started at the end.

 Don't waste time and energy starting your Plan B with an end goal in mind.

Don't waste time and energy starting your Plan B with an end goal in mind.

 How to START designing your Real Career Plan B:

  1. Start at the beginning - with the only thing that will remain the same no matter what type of work you end up doing in the future i.e. YOU!

  2. Figure out your SuperPowers: the activities that you do very naturally; the activities that others value highly; those that don’t drain the life out of you and those that give you deep satisfaction.

  3. Then begin to imagine ways that you could get paid to do much more of those activities in the future.

  4. Then start with very small, sometimes scary experiments (Read about one of my scary early-stage experiments HERE) and analyse the results.

  5. Refine the ideas

Easy peasy - eh?    

Well, of course it’s not that easy for many of us.   Not if we’ve spent the last 15-20 years working within one industry or within one discipline.   Most people I meet in those situations have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT THEIR SUPERPOWERS ARE because they have stopped using them as they moved up the ranks, or they have forgotten them or they have simply become disconnected from them.   

If that’s the situation with you, don’t lose heart.   Some of the most successful career transformations I’ve witnessed have been created by individuals who had no idea where to begin to find their SuperPowers – or indeed if they had any at all to begin with!    They just needed to expend a little extra effort early doors dusting down their memory to re-discover them.

I’ve never met anyone who is without SuperPowers. 

It’s impossible to get to our age and not have some very fine and unique SuperPowers – you just can't see them because you're not valuing them the way others do.

 If you’d like to begin your search for your SuperPowers alone – download my SuperPowers Starter questions here.

But if you think the answers are too deeply buried, let me help you...  

Check out my Discover My SuperPowers programme here but essentially, with a few short thinking assignments at home + a half-day session with me, we’ll uncover a totally unique list of 4/5 of SuperPowers.

Then you’ll know exactly where to start in creating your own personal REAL Plan B.  

HOW TO BOOK: CLICK HERE TO BOOK A (FREE) "LIGHT AT THE END OF MY TUNNEL" CONVERSATION.  I'll send you a few pre-call questions to allow me to learn more about your situation upfront and you can make sure we're a good fit before we go and book our half-day session.  

 

 

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

SM How to stay in a job you don't like...forever.png

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.
Follow your passion.png

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.
Plan and Implement v experiment.png

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?  

 

 

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.

Tight rope walker.jpg

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.

Dripping tap .jpg

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

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.       

soulful pr live banner

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

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.

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 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.

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.  

4 common (and awful) pieces of mid-career-rut advice and what to do instead.

What happens when you grumble about your job at home or to colleagues? 

Historically, I got so sick of hearing unprompted career advice that was irrelevant or so annoying that it made me want to punch someone in the face (oh dear, there's that fiery Celtic temperament again!) that I just shut up. 

Mid-life career lows are not uncommon.  We’ve all had days where we’d prefer to be somewhere else, anywhere else!  But a mid-career rut is a whole different thing that invades areas of life outside work including relationships with partners and children.  

Here are a few of the most common pieces of advice on offer out there and (for what it's worth) my opinion on their value:

 

whisper secret.jpg

 1.   “Stick it out, don’t risk losing it all, it’s bound to get better”:  I don’t know where to start with this one.  We are not just talking about having a bad day at work. We are not just taking about occasional Sunday night blues.

When I use the term career rut, I am referring to persistent, long-lasting, recurring “don’t know how long I can keep going through the motions” feelings that have also started to impact your life outside work. 

Family members are noticing you just not being your usual self. You’ve stopped talking about work at home as you consider it too dull.  Or alternatively you can’t appear to find anything positive to say about work or the people at work.  

You are likely to be spending a great deal of time doing on-line research on new jobs but somehow they don’t look at all different to your current job.  Same job, different faces is definitely not your aim. 

2.   “Better the devil you know”: This security-centred advice is offered by fearful people who are unlikely to have understood your situation fully nor have taken the time to attempt to.  They might perceive you as somehow fortunate or lucky and are surprised that you are not happy with your lot.  

Perhaps they come from a background where a stable job was a goal in life.  Perhaps they are your partner and are worried about your joint/family future.  Perhaps they are simply the type of individual who views change as risky and would rather not let that devil into their house.  

And perhaps they simply have lower expectations on life fulfilment than you.

3.   “Forget about it, come and have a drink”:  Otherwise called “Purple Elephant syndrome”. Temporarily forgetting something that is playing on your mind is extremely valuable…in the short-term. 

Sooner or later, it comes back to haunt you.  A few months or even a year of career rut avoidance offers you the time to mull over options close to home, in your current company and to consider options advertised in the open market.    

Perhaps you have even moved companies during that time but after the initial optimism you realise that the old feelings have returned? The dissatisfaction, the lack of challenge, the boredom and the sameness of it all. 

Changing company changed neither your career nor your future.  

4.   “Just resign and take some time to figure it out”:  If you have an endless pot of gold, no responsibilities and are optimistic that you can work it out by yourself, proceed at speed to your personal yacht.   

If not, don’t consider this piece of advice for more than a dreamy few hours. 

Don’t resign without a plan.  Resign with a GREAT plan. 

Understand in great detail what you have to offer the world.  Analyse how you could offer those skills to the world and what it might give you in return. 

Investigate avenues to transform your career without rocking the rest of your world (unless that is also your aim, of course!) and plan the perfect time to make it happen... then resign!

I specialise in helping mid-lifers identify and design career transformations. To learn more about beginning your own career rut go to www.midlifeunstuck.com, sign up to my newsletter and contact me directly at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com.  

3 things mid-lifers need to know about happy retirement

Retirement isn’t what is used to be...it’s a great deal better.  I keep hearing inspirational life transformation stories from retirees.  Take my in-laws for example - after retiring 4 or 5 years ago they are so busy that we have to book to visit them months in advance.  What are they up to?  This very normal ex-teaching and ex-IT couple are in fact working their way around the world teaching bridge on luxury cruises!  They combined a hobby and teaching skills to offer them joint retirement heaven.

They are not alone. Other inspiring stories I’ve heard recently include cycling around Majorca, helping to build a school in Kenya and signing up to an Italian cooking course in…Florence.  

In a word, I am jealous!

cyclist in mountain

                           

I totally understand that many retirees have worked and saved all their lives to enjoy their new-found freedom and I can’t help wanting a slice of the action.  BUT, I’m not ready to wait about 25 years to get it.

Last year, I wrote an article based on the latest research into how personality might impact retirement enjoyment and in the process I uncovered some global trends:

1.    Apparently, the more conscientious and agreeable you are as a personality, the more you are likely to enjoy your retirement (do we get more or less agreeable with age?);

2.    Taking part in new activities is very strongly linked to higher mental and physical health in retirement;

3.    The one specific activity which has the greatest impact on enhanced well-being, lower instances of illness and lower death rates in retirement is…volunteering.

The last point blew my mind, especially when we consider employment trends in the UK – how will we all have enough time to be volunteering if we are all still working through the supposedly healthy, vibrant, early retirement phase?

Let’s look at the numbers today.  According to the DWP, 10% of UK 70-74 year olds are in work (the highest figure since records began).  Almost 15% of men over the age of 65 are currently in employment.  These figures are forecast to rise substantially given advancing pension ages.  

Some might think that talking about retirement to mid-lifers is time wasted.  But, if we are all going to be working into late life, then mid-life is the perfect time to deliberately design the second-half of your career which might last another 20, 30 or even 40 years.  If we are still working, ideally it will because we are still enjoying our work or have designed it in a way that it fits around the really fun parts of our lives.  

Maybe there is a way to re-frame work as a more enjoyable part of your life by consciously designing work that really connects with your life? Work that doesn't feel like the part of life that just pays the bills and allows us the two week holiday to re-fresh and gain enough energy to head back to “the grindstone”.

Designing a new second half of life is possible to do by yourself but it will take time, research, deep thinking and an honesty about your own resources and limiting beliefs that is difficult to access by yourself.

Often, when I work with individuals, they say that they do not have a vision of their preferred future career but through questioning and exercises it soon becomes very clear.  To start your own career transformation go to www.midlifeunstuck.com, sign up to my newsletter and contact me directly at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com