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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why it appears so hard to change career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Clarity:   

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

2. Link passion with skills:

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

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

4.   Implement resulting actions

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

  • Experimentation = Action before knowing the answer. 

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

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

BUT THAT TAKES BRAVERY AND TIME.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 How ready are you for action?  

 

 

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

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

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

A personal story that fills me with shame

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

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

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

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

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

How doing unfulfilling work impacts us all differently.

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Being in a career rut can feel like...

 

a slowly-dripping tap. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve written many articles on how to change your career in mid-life but I realised recently that I’ve made a mistake.  

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

This mistake became very clear when one of my clients asked my opinion on career options post-50 within big corporates.  I drew breath before responding “If you are in your 50s in a big corporate, get ready to be toast!”  Not my most eloquent moment but a typically truthful one nonetheless.

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

That whole truth is that 50+ year olds are an endangered species in big corporates. Ageism has simply not been tackled by big corporations.  These endangered 50+ year olds are usually positioned in general leadership and/or very specialist roles where they have been shrunk-to-fit.  Both positions are extremely time-limited.   No matter how “high potential” you were considered in your 20s and 30s if you are facing or have already faced the “BIG 5-0” birthday within a big corporation…your days are numbered.

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

  1. The “Golden-toasted” variety: The luckiest of these rare creatures have amassed a pension fortune for when they decide that they’ve been perfectly toasted. They can press their own eject button at any time if the company starts to turn up the toaster’s heat setting. They have almost full control of the toaster. This allows for a speedy and relatively burn-free exit as long as they are self-aware enough to pop themselves out before the company does.

  2. The “Almost-toasted” variety:

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

    These “almost-toasted” varieties hope to have enough time to leave the toaster with a lovely glow and a bag of either pension/redundancy/exit treasure. While all fingers are crossed for a hopeful lucrative exit, their impact on the business is very slowly declining.

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

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

    They have always been great at serious networking and taking actions so that it won’t be a shock when their toaster’s heat setting is turned up. They fully understand the toasting game. Often they very proactively position themselves for their future, long-term career and many have job offers before the toaster pops them out.

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

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

    They feel valuable and valued. They enjoy work but have no time to have a serious look beyond the toaster to see what’s happening. But someone else is controlling their career toaster setting and has been turning up the heat without their knowledge.

    When this variety of toast burns, it will scar deeply and will take a great deal of time, effort and support to recover from.



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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose not to be toast. 

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

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

Where to start 3d Cover 1.png

If you need help getting started, sign up to the www.midlifeunstuck.com newsletter and download my free Beginner’s Guide to Successful Career Change in your 40s and 50s - Where to Start eBook.

I’ll send you twice monthly articles, how tos and real-life successful career change stories to inspire you.  If you’re impatient and would like to fast-track your success, email me at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com to set up a time to speak.

 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dying blossom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy jump png

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

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

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

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

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

It’s complex being a mid-lifer.

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

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

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

1.     proximity to the problem

2.    too little time

3.    lack of perspective

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

5.    fear of change

6.    financial situation concerns

7.    worry about loss of security and stability

8.    no idea how to begin to change the situation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2.    Basic life needs can be satisfied

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 It's hard work searching for your superpowers.

It's hard work searching for your superpowers.

 

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

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

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

 

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

Crazy Erin Drawing

Changing careers at 40, 50 or 60 can appear to others to be one step away from lunacy. Why change at this time of your life? Why not just sit tight? Better to do a job that you don’t enjoy until you feel ready to retire and then start really enjoying life with all that free time? Who LOVES THEIR JOB anyway?

That attitude might have worked for you 30 years ago. It might work for you in today’s climate if you work in a company surrounded by 50 and 60 year old peers. 

Have a look around you. Have a think about your business as a whole.  Define the age profile of your peers? Define the age profile of your team? Define the age profile of any international counterparts. For most companies, the playing field starts to look a little sparse even in the 45+ demographic.   

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

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

Crikey.  I don’t know about you but that last statistic FRIGHTENS THE LIFE OUT OF ME.   I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I might say or even feel that “it is unlikely that I will ever work again”.  Even writing it down gives me the heebie geebies. There is something about this phrase that feels so powerless.  But apparently 1.7million people ticked that box. What a senseless waste of talent and experience.  

But what if there was a different way? 

distance between insanity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

yellow roses in vase  (3).jpg

 

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

If you are in a career rut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few years ago, in my last corporate job, I combined a work day in London starting with an 8am meeting in Holborn, a normal work day and a few drinks with my husband before making it back home for the 9pm nanny hand-over.  On both train journeys I noted a group of suited and booted gents aged around late 50s-early 60s.  They had bought a couple of M&S beers for the journey home and were having a good laugh.  These men have firmly stuck in my brain solely because of my husband’s casual comment as we jumped off the train “God, I hope I’m never one of those guys.”  I was surprised.  My husband is one of the least judgemental people I know.  Also, in my opinion, these gents looked perfectly happy with their lot.

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

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

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

feet 2

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

Over the years we had known each other, we have comprised on some life decisions to enable our love of travel.  For example, neither of us have many designer clothes.  Neither of us have super flashy cars…or at least not since he helped me realise how much money I was wasting on my corporate company car allowance.  We chose a house and a mortgage that we can afford if one of us got ill/pregnant. 

Before children we would go on weekend breaks around Europe at the drop of a hat gaining me the office nickname “Judith Charmers”, the 1980s TV travel personality.  I was secretly proud.  When we had young children we carried on with the last minute jaunts until school holidays messed with both our spontaneity and our budget.  Now, like many parents we book most of our holidays up to a year in advance.  

Each of us chooses our priorities in life.  If we don’t make a choice, someone else makes it for us. 

My husband is lucky enough to have known early on that he definitely doesn’t want to be on the commuter train when he is 60.   He also makes choices every day to do (or not do) things that will allow him make sure that doesn’t happen.  You can be sure that you won’t see him in a bespoke Desmond Merrion suit, Patrick Cox shoes and a Tom Ford man bag on any commuter train any time soon…but that image makes me smile.

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

 

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

Essentialism - the Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.

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

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

 

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

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