Need to know

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

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

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

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

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

But how do you find one that works for you? 

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

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

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

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

My top tips on how to choose a career coach: 

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

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

  • Does your specific problem sit within their specialist niche?

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

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

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

Examples of specific niches:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  •  Do they walk the walk?

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

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

It won’t take long.

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

Perfection doesn’t exist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Do they have a sense of humour?

This one might be just me…

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

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

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

Or maybe that’s just me? 

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

100.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They took a pen to their work to design it differently

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

Before another month evaporated.  

If you liked this you’ll love this…

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

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

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

Dance fear confidence.jpg

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

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

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

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

Late career reinvention is...

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

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

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

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

Three elements of “late career re-invention”

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

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

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

Examples might include:

  • helping them to re-define their purpose;

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

  • delving into practical issues around potential change;

  • understanding any limiting beliefs or unhelpful behaviours hindering change;

  • understanding risks such as family, identity or status;

  • re-defining success. 

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

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

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

3. A dynamic dance between fear and self-confidence

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

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

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

  • Fear of staying stuck forever;  

  • Fear of turning into their parents; 

  • Fear of not being able to pay the bills;  

  • Fear of not being good enough; 

  • Fear of feeling and showing vulnerability. 

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

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

On the edge of failure - an alternative suggestion

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

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

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

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

Conclusions for you

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Tired of thinking and ready to take action?

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

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

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


Other related articles:







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

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

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

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

The dripping tap numbed my wins and my losses. 

Flattened my fun. 

And coloured my days slightly grey.  

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

A prison of my own making

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

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

Plan A was definitely fading.

To be frank, so was I. 

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

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

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

A leap that nearly broke me

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

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

Not kidding.

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

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

I STILL had no Plan B to go forth with.

And STILL didn’t know how to start one. 

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

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

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

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

The unusual question that changed everything

Then, I whispered to myself a tough question: 

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

That’s how I knew I still had hope

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

Big B.jpg

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

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

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

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

2 years ago.

Yesterday. 

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

 









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

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

Others feel a deeper level of satisfaction.

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

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

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

The blame game

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

I can now.

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

THE PROBLEM WAS ME.

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

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

I was ever so slowing fading out.

Wearing down.

Losing my mojo.

Off came the blinkers!

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

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

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

Midlifers who would take my head-hunting call.

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

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

Not all of these behaviours were being displayed consciously.

You might recognise some of them in you.

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

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

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

Flight:

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

  • Resigning without a plan;

  • Frequent unexplained illnesses;

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

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

  • Unusual impulsive behaviour;

  • More sick leave days than ever before in career;

  • Buying business domain names for future possible businesses;

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

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

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

Fight:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freeze:

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

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

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

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

  • Ignoring Sunday night blues;

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

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

  • Praying for voluntary redundancy to be offered;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy Eaton - International FD to small business owner

Then what?

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

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


What does a 21st century midlife crisis look like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • identified as female; (yes)

  • knew something about the midlife crisis; (yup)

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

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

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

A nail-biting few weeks followed.

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

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

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

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

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

Please do read Zoe’s article in The Guardian:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You might also enjoy these articles:

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

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

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

So what?

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

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

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

Can CEOs/MDs roles be automated?

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

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

Why?

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

The left-brained activities will be automated.

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

  1. Empathy

  2. Using stories to persuade and communicate

  3. Big picture thinking

  4. Design

  5. Humour, laughter, game playing

  6. Seeking out and connecting purpose and meaning?

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How many of your daily activities utilise these aptitudes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should you worry?

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

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

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

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

Success came more often to:

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

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

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

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

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Past, present and future for executive roles

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

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

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

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

I bet my entire career on it!

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






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

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

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

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

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

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

Which emotion?  

  • Bravery?  Not always

  • Fear of taking risk? Not always.

  • Anger at feeling stuck? Not always.

  • Anxiety around change? Not always.

  • Worry around potential failure? Not always.

  • Status anxiety? Not always.

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

They all experienced enough vulnerability to say to themselves:

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


Then, here’s what happened:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They chose to:

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

  2. Cease feeling powerless or trapped.

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

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

  5. To give something new a try.

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

Any downsides to acknowledging your vulnerability?

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Of course!

It can take time.  

It certainly takes effort.  

It leads to action.

It requires a great deal of personal honesty

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

BUT…

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

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

But who cares what other people think?

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

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

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

Your first step?

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

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

What have you got to lose?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My historical attitude to money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gap jump.jpg

Mind the Gap…

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

I was worn out.

All that working incredibly hard had taken its toll.

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

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

The Fear

I’ve never felt fear like it.

It was paralysing.

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

The Moment of Clarity

Clarity rear view mirror.jpg

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

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

An appendectomy followed.

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

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

Reaching out when opportunity comes knocking

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

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

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

Knowledge was the key to reducing my fear

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

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

Knowledge about career financials

What I discovered

I discovered that WE COULD MANAGE!

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

But the biggest discovery was that we could balance things.

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

  • What if the stock market tanks?

  • How much CAN we spend?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I know for sure:

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

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

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Changes in me

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

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

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

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














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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what has this got to do with happier careers?

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

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

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

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

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

Tipping point.jpg

True stories of stress-related burnout

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 reasons for LONG-TERM STRESS & BURNOUT

(given by successful career changers)

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

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

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

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

5. Relentless UNREALISTIC TIME FRAMES;

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

7. AMBIGUITY around what success looks like;

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is another way.

THE PAUSE EXERCISE

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

GRAB A PEN.

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

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

  2. What I want instead.

  3. The activities at work that I enjoy doing.  

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

Be specific.  Be very specific.

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

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

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

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

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

What if your first career is the wrong one?

A true story highlighting the potential risks of staying in a career that doesn’t suit for too long.

The words are those of the individual but I have anonymised for their privacy.

What age were you when you decided your forever career? This is one of my daughters aged 11 - it’s hard to imagine her deciding her future at this age. (Lucia)

What age were you when you decided your forever career? This is one of my daughters aged 11 - it’s hard to imagine her deciding her future at this age. (Lucia)

The Beginning and an End

From the age of 12 I’d always wanted to be a lawyer, so I never thought to look at any other careers. 

My father had a small regional legal firm where I did my training contract. Whilst it might sound easy working in a family firm, it was far from it.  I found myself thrown in at the deep end. At the age of 22, on the very first day of my training contract, I found myself in court bringing a case against a fully-fledged barrister.  It was a far cry from being molly-coddled.  After I qualified, I moved to a Top30 regional firm which was a big jump and rather daunting.

Over a two year period I was very ill, at one stage in bed for a whole month. I was ultimately diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME)

Over a two year period I was very ill, at one stage in bed for a whole month. I was ultimately diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME)

While I was doing my training contract I became very ill. Doctors initially thought it was just a bad virus but it continued for so long, I was tested for everything.  I was ultimately diagnosed with ME(CFS) - for which there was (and is still) no cure.  Over a two-year period when I was very ill at one stage in bed for a whole month, I was placed on lots of new drug trials. 

Somehow, I lurched to the end of my training contract and qualified as a lawyer and moved to a much bigger firm.  In hindsight, it was probably too much of a leap and it really took it out of me. 

I’ve always been ambitious and hard-working, and I loved the subject matter but as my legal career progressed, there was an increasing a focus on maximising time and billings. Every minute was billable and it went against the grain.

At the age of 29, after falling seriously again and under-going endless brain, heart and lung function tests, I received a second diagnosis of ME – Chronic fatigue syndrome.  I was devastated!   My body had been running on adrenalin and my GP told me in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t stop working immediately I would be in hospital before the week was out.

I decided that was the end of my career as a solicitor.

In Tricky In-Between

I arranged a 6-month sabbatical during which time, I became even more seriously ill and ended up resigning. I didn’t work again for 4 years. 

I’d burned out doing work that didn’t suit me but my drive and hard-working personality had kept me going.  I pushed myself to achieve way too much, too soon in my first career.  I used to work to live but that way of working meant that putting myself under pressure was the norm.

I was in my early 30s and all my friends were getting promotions, getting engaged, getting married, having kids and none of that was possible for me. At that time, getting out of bed in the morning was all I could aim for some days.  

I’d never considered any other career other than being a solicitor, ever.  But I made the decision that when I would go back to work, if I could go back to work, I would definitely not be a solicitor.

I’d burned out doing work that didn't suit me but my drive and hard-working personality had kept me going.

I’d burned out doing work that didn't suit me but my drive and hard-working personality had kept me going.

I met with a coach and she asked me questions to help shift my brain from searching for something I could do to pay the bills to what I might really like to do. That was a big mental shift.  She helped me return to an idea from years ago about helping people through divorce without being a lawyer.

Divorce is a topic that most people don’t want to think about.  As I was creating a service that didn’t exist when I started, I needed to get my message out there. 

So, I got some Visaprint business cards printed and headed off to my first local networking meeting.  The first person I met when I nervously introduced myself wouldn’t accept my business card and scoffed at my title.  That knocked my confidence, but I battled on and met some fabulous people who have since helped me in my business so much.   It paid to persevere.

My parents divorced when I was a solicitor.   My mum was a smart women but needed some extra support through the divorce process.  I realised I was explaining things in a way she could understand easily.  I bridged the gap that her solicitor couldn’t fill.  Mum told me afterwards that she wouldn’t have been able to cope if I hadn’t been by her side.  I did that very naturally and it didn’t drain me.  

Solicitors can only help with legal advice and that frustrated me in my other career.  People in divorce need help on finances, emotions, house, children, practical considerations and just an unbiased ear to listen.  I knew based on my experience with my mum that I could offer that.

The New Beginning

I’d never seen myself as self-employed and couldn’t identify with being an entrepreneur. Stability and security were a big part of my personality.

The coach actually found me my first client and told me that I would receive a call tomorrow – a lady who needed help with her divorce.  

With no business card, no website, absolutely nothing,  we spoke on the phone and agreed to meet for coffee. She needed help with the financial disclosure information needed for her divorce but didn’t really know where to start. When I offered to come to her house and help her through it, she burst into tears and gladly accepted my offer. I felt a sense of sheer relief that there was a way I could help people without spending years re-training.  

I felt that I still had skills that others would find helpful and felt reassurance that I still could be useful. 

I learned that I had no office skills as I’d always had a secretary. I had to learn a great deal about myself and learn new skills that would help me to be able to do something different.

I started courses on how to start a new business and began slowly to learn new skills like networking. I also did some training in coaching. I’m not a business person…I wasn’t a business person but I started very slowly.  I loved that I didn’t need capital to set up this business. There were no barriers.

I know I’ve done the right thing every morning. It’s lovely! I get lots of really lovely pieces of feedback from my clients that prove to me that I’m making a positive difference to people going through a difficult time.  That might sound nambie pambie but I’m confident that I will keep doing this for a very long time.  

I received the most wonderful email from one of my clients years ago that said ‘Not all superheros wear capes!’ which I have kept in a special place.

“Not all Super Heroes wear capes” : special feedback received from a grateful client.

I’m surprised by how much I love being a business owner.  I just love the autonomy. The freedom to decide when and how I work.  

I love that I built my own model in an industry that didn’t even exist when I started.  And that I can do business however I feel.  

Self-care wasn’t part of my journey but believe me it is now! I’m not perfect at it but I totally understand its importance for every aspect of life.  We just don’t prioritise it enough and it has knock-on impacts.  My mantra is ‘Be kind to yourself - emotionally, physically and mentally’. If we don’t put on our own oxygen masks first we can’t help others.

I regret that there was no real career coaching available when I was in my teens.  Although I was fixed on being a solicitor I should have looked at other areas.  Areas that might have worked with my personality and talents.

If I had to go through it again, I’d ask for help earlier.  

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This illness might be keeping you stuck (even if you're trying hard to make changes)

Yesterday, I met up with a friend who was annoyed to be attending a party on Saturday night.  When questioned, she simply didn’t want to go. “Simple” I said, “Don’t go!”

Not that simple. She feels strongly that she should attend the party, even though she’d prefer to spend time relaxing with her husband (who’s been travelling all week) as she’s exhausted from her own tough week at work. It was really worrying her. I struggled to empathise – which is not like me.

But, you see, I’d already battled with my own case of Shoulditis a few years ago and came out the other side.  I’d almost forgotten what it felt like.

Shoulditis: An illness where the individual feels compelled to do things that they don’t want to, often based on someone else’s recommendation.

You know how it goes:

  • I should get started on the 5:2 diet soon.

  • I should do a Marie Kondo style clear-out of the garage.

  • I should get up a 5am every day to meditate.

Yeh Yeh Yeh! It’s easy to ignore some shoulds.

Shoulditis - an illness where the individual feels compelled to do something they don’t want to - can impact both life and work satisfaction.

Shoulditis - an illness where the individual feels compelled to do something they don’t want to - can impact both life and work satisfaction.

It can also impact work and your career.

Career Shoulditis: An illness where the individual feels compelled to stay in a job/company/industry/career that they don’t want to, often based on someone else’s recommendation.

If you know someone who is not enjoying their work but appears to be burying their head in the sand, they might be suffering from a serious case of Career Shoulditis

Common quotes from Career Shoulditis sufferers:

They might be saying any of the following in their heads, and if you know them well (or throw enough alcohol down their throats), they may repeat them aloud:

  • I should stay as an accountant/doctor/lawyer because my parents were accountants/doctors/lawyers and it’s what they always wanted for me

  • I should stay as an accountant/doctor/lawyer because I’ve invested so much to get here (If this resonates, read my article on ignoring sunk costs)

  • I should stay because the market is tough and it’ll be hard to get another job that pays this much

  • I should stay until X happens, then I’ll think about what to do

  • I should stay - what would everyone think if I quit?

  • I should stay until I have an idea about my future and can plan it out to perfection

  • I should stay for as long as I can, even though I know the time is coming

  • I should stay because there’s too much going on in the rest of my life and at least its stable

  • I should stay until I get made redundant, then I’ll decide what to do

  • I should stay because I might never find another job

  • I should stay - if I don’t everyone will think I’m having a mid-life crisis

Since my own battle with career shoulditis, I’ve taken to saying “I don’t want to” a great deal especially when talking about my business and I see people actually physically recoiling as if I am behaving like a spoilt child!  

When I say out loud “I don’t want to do X”, people physically recoil as if I’m behaving like a spoilt child.

When I say out loud “I don’t want to do X”, people physically recoil as if I’m behaving like a spoilt child.

That phrase “I don’t want to do X” is considered culturally aggressive (in UK) so I find myself softening it but the result is the same.

I’ve chosen to have my own business because there are 1000s of things that I want to do but I can’t do them all so I need to make choices…to make informed decisions…not decisions based on someone else’s should.

I seek out and listen to advice from all sorts of people who are a bit further ahead of me in their business journey.  I hear such radical advice that it could rock my world if I thought I should do it all.  

Things I don’t want to do but others think I should do to grow my business:

(Let it be said, I reserve the right to change my mind with further research or compelling evidence.)

  • I should be politically correct in business

Should I?

I don’t want to tow the corporate line if the corporate line is a lie.   Big companies can say that their recruitment and promotional tactics are not ageist.  

I can now freely say things like “If you are in your 50s and still working for a big corporate – start planning your exit because your company is doing just that” as in my experience it’s true.  One of my most read articles was called 50-year old corporate toast!

The (often politically incorrect) truth is helpful.

  • I should accept every new client request so that I can make more money.

Should I?

I don’t want to work with everyone! I want to work with new clients if I feel they are prepared to commit the time, effort and energy it takes to think through their career from a completely different angle and make the required changes to design more satisfying work.

That’s why I created my free half hour telephone call where potential clients and I ask each other questions to understand if we have the same goals and expectations.

If we are not right for each other, I might know someone who is a better fit for them and they might know someone who is a better fit for me.  

  • I should invest in branding consultants, logo designers, social media teams, content writers, PR businesses, impressive offices etc to make me look uber successful.

Should I?

How would someone else know my personal definition of success?

If I had done these in the beginning, my business would have died within months and I’d have crumpled under the pressure of NEEDING to make a fortune just to cover monthly costs. I would have lost my freedom to work in a way that works for me. 

As it stands, I have a self-designed logo, do all my own social media marketing, write every word that I publish (including self-crafted spelling mistakes!), designed my own website and update it weekly to keep it fresh.  I work from my home office and very nice public locations. And I talk to journalists directly.

All wrong by someone else’s standards.

I love the freedom and control to mess up or be successful and to have them both be my fault.

  • I should pay fortunes for Facebook/Instagram ads, do live videos daily, fill my website with paid advertisements and pop-ups and design on-line webinars to grow my business.

Should I?

Every single one of these growth strategies would crush my enjoyment of creating and designing a business that works for me and gets me bounding out of bed each morning.  

I have decided upon a growth strategy that may be slightly slower but fits my personality, my superpowers, my deep interests in psychology and helping others to stop wasting time doing work that doesn’t make them happy.    

People tell me regularly that I should do things that everyone else is doing and that I shouldn’t be a “lone wolf”.

People tell me regularly that I should do things that everyone else is doing and that I shouldn’t be a “lone wolf”.

  • I should not be a “lone wolf”

Shouldn’t I?

One of the elements of having my own business which was so attractive is exactly the point that I would like to be what was called in my previous corporate career a “lone wolf”.  

When I was leading teams, each of them had at least one “lone wolf” who simply wasn’t a team player and it took a little extra management to get the most out of them.  In contrast, I’ve been a team player all my life, loved team sports, enjoyed pulling teams together towards a joint goal and contributing to team success.

Scary as it is, I have chosen to be “a lone wolf”.  This business will live or die based upon my efforts alone.  So, I want to make sure that when I make decisions to do or not to do something that it comes from me not someone else’s should.

  • My business philosophy should be “The more clients the merrier”

Should it?

When I was setting up my business, I chose not to sell e-cigarettes or sugar water because I want to sell stuff that I believe in.  I chose to sell something that can add to people’s lives but isn’t easy to sell in volume because of time, effort, cost and psychological change processes involved.

I want enough clients to sustain me and my family but I want choice on how and when to work with them.

Revenue is not my only goal.  

Even though my business has only been in existence for just over 2 years and it takes between 2 weeks and 6 months to go through my programmes, just under half of my business has come from personal recommendations.

I cannot tell you what a red letter day it is when I get an email from a potential client who has been recommended to me by another client.  Even though these new clients are “stuck” in their midlife careers in very different ways, they all arrive knowing what to expect with enough energy to contribute to the thinking and change processes.

So what impact could Shoulditis have on your career?

If we let it get under our skins and impact our decision-making, shoulditis can be a hellish illness that keeps us doing stuff that we don’t want to do. 

  • It can make us go to parties when we’d prefer to be snuggled up at home with our partner catching up on a gripping Netflix series over a bottle of wine and a Deliveroo.  

  • Shoulditis can also keep us stuck in jobs, companies or careers that simply don’t fit us any more. It can suffocate our future career possibilities and kill our potential to do work that really matters...to us!

What could you do instead?

Instead of considering “What should I do?”, maybe ask yourself “what do I really want to do?”

Now there’s a question...

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Should I Stay or Should I Change Career? Change job? Change company? How to make a decision.

If you know someone who is struggling with the decision whether to continue with a job, a company or a career that they have spent 15+ years in, this article might help them.

This song (below) was running through my brain while writing and I couldn’t resist checking out the video. Interesting fact: It was their only #1 UK single and reached that lofty position over a decade after release when it was featured in an Levi’s advert.

I’ve got a dilemma for you

Your partner’s Big Birthday is approaching.  They’ve always wanted to go to Restaurant X. You’ve been on the waiting list for 6 months and a spot has come up on her actual birthday.  You pay the outrageous, non-refundable deposit to secure a table for 8 of her closest friends for a surprise dinner. The morning of his/her birthday, you are offered two tickets to an intimate, never-to-be-repeated concert for 50 people with his/her life-long, all-time favourite band, for free, ON THE SAME NIGHT!

What do you do?

·         Do you crack on with the restaurant booking because you’ve paid that whacking, great deposit?

·         Do you go to the concert and lose the outrageous deposit but give your wife a once-in-a-lifetime treat that she’ll talk about until his/her dying day?

·         Do you shrug your shoulders about wasting all those months on the waiting list?  

·         Do you forgo all those brownie points earned by remembering his/her desire to visit Restaurant X and conjuring up such a fabulous, extremely generous and thoughtful birthday present?

·         Do you even tell your partner about the concert ticket?

Sunk costs pose a real problem in life decisions…and in career decisions.

Definition of a sunk cost: Time, effort or money that you spent in the past that cannot be recovered.

The sunk cost effect: Occurs when people over-value investments of time, effort or money and irrationally continue with a past decision that no longer meets their expectations.

Why is the sunk cost effect is a problem?

Neuroscientists have discovered that we are prone to irrational behaviour when making decisions involving sunk costs. If the investment in the decision is low in emotional connection or low in cost, we can often be more rational. 

But, if high costs or high investments of time, effort or emotion are involved, things get complicated.

Every week I talk to people who have invested so much in a company, a job or a career that they believe they should keep battling on - even if it no longer fits their work or life goals.   

They don’t want to waste their past investments.

Examples of how sunk costs can get in the way of your work/career:

  • Wishing to progress up the people management ladder even though you don’t enjoy management (because you’ve read 100 leadership books, been on countless training courses and gone through so many tough “learning experiences” that you don’t want to waste all those quite painful investments).

  • Clinging on to a declining or commoditising industry even though profits, investments and future gains are all diminishing and attractive senior roles are disappearing faster than redundancy bullets can be fired (because of the time and energy already invested in developing relationships and expertise within that industry).  

  • Demonstrating loyalty to an employer that isn’t developing you or investing in your future but remaining hopeful that they will have a future together (because you believe that historical investment means something today).

  • Sticking with a project beyond the point which you have created the most value rather than moving onto the next big value project (because of the effort expended in getting it off the ground and convincing others that it was a good idea would be wasted if you didn’t see it to the absolute end.) In reality most of us know what often happens to people who tidy up the low-hanging, loose ends on projects…

  • Failing to develop meaningful relationships beyond company, industry and historical career paths (because of all of the effort, time and money invested in training to become a great Finance Director/Lawyer/Doctor/Architect etc)

Sunk costs are like gifts from your past self to your present self. You need to ignore them by asking whether you actually want that gift or not?

Sunk costs are like gifts from your past self to your present self. You need to ignore them by asking whether you actually want that gift or not?

Re-thinking sunk costs

I’d like to help you re-think sunk career costs in the way that Seth Godin helped me on this podcast.  Seth is the most thought-provoking marketing expert I’ve ever come across. He writes the only blog I read without fail and I could listen to his thoughts on just about anything on his podcast for endless hours (and often do).

Seth describes sunk costs as: “A gift from your past self to your current self.” 

I can’t tell you how much I love this idea.

OK – HERE WE GO.  HERE’S THE CLINCHER…

Remember the dilemma? 

Those expensive deposit for X restaurant for your partner’s birthday AND those free tickets to the once-in-a-lifetime, intimate concert with her favourite band – they both cost the same. 

THEY ARE BOTH FREE!

Eh?

They are both free because they were both gifts from your past self to your current self.

The only decision you need to make is…

Do you still want the gifts?  

You can’t have both, so you need to make a decision which gift you want to accept based on all the information you have available at this moment in time?

The same goes for all of these examples:

  • Your law degree/accounting qualification/medical diploma/architectural qualifications are each a gift from your past self to your current self. 

Today’s decision: Do you still want the gift?

  • Your investment in a company that isn’t treating you well is a gift from your past self to your current self. 

Today’s decision: Do you still want the gift?

  • Your relationships in your declining industry/commoditising industry are a gift from your past self to your new self.

Today’s decision: Do you still want the gift?

  • Your investment in getting the project over the value hump is a gift from your old self to your new self. 

Today’s decision: Do you still want the gift?

  • Your people management learning experiences, reading 100 leadership books and attendance at numerous leadership training courses are gifts from your past self to your current self. 

Today’s decision: Do you still want the gifts?

So, what could you say instead, if you don’t want the gifts from your past self to your current self?

What if you have realised that you don’t want the gifts (law degree, accounting career, current company etc) anymore?

You could say “Thanks but no thanks” to the gift. “I’m making a different decision based on all of the information available to me today. And that gift is not going to help me get to where I want to go.

You can be grateful for the gift but you can still say “No thanks” to taking it with you into your future.

Then…you just need to figure out where is it that you do want to go?

Other articles you might like:

10 reasons why mid-lifers stay in careers that don’t suit them anymore

Are you in a career rut or just having a bad month?

Have you reached your mid-career tipping point yet?

The key to doing work that makes you happier

If you know someone whose job, current company or your entire career doesn’t seem to be going the way they’d like it to go, why not encourage them to book in for one of my half hour “Light at the end of my Tunnel” calls where I promise to give them at least two personalised recommendations to help them figure out their next step.  

 

 

 

Six common concerns about investing in the "Discover your Superpowers" package

Concerns about working with me.png

Thinking about investing in the “Discover your Superpowers” programme?

When it comes to investing in yourself and your future, It’s natural to worry about whether you’re making the right decision (and the consequences of making the wrong choice).

If you’re not familiar with the Discover your Superpowers package, it’s my foundational, step-by-step programme that will leave you with a clear understanding of at least five of your most powerful and unique signature strengths – which I call “Superpowers”. All of my clients start with this programme.

It’s the confidence-enhancing, clarity-inducing, essential building block to designing more fulfilment into your work.

In addition to our bespoke one-to-one morning or afternoon together, you’ll get access to several personality profiling tools and guided “thinking assignments” which you can complete wherever and whenever is convenient.  You will also receive a stunning, personalised notebook, in order to keep your career re-design thoughts in one place.

Here are some of the most common concerns prospective customers raise about investing in the Discover your Superpowers package.

Concern 1: ‘I’m not sure I have any Superpowers.’

Lots of new clients tell me they are worried that I won’t be able to find any Superpowers and some even don’t like using the word Superpowers when talking about themselves.

My advice: 

There’s not a person in the world who doesn’t have Superpowers but as you’ve gone through various career moves, various promotions, new positions or possibly new companies, it can feel like you’ve moved away from doing some of the things that you used to be very good at.

Some clients feel that they have lost a little of the confidence that they once had or struggle to sell themselves when they need to.  Others have plenty of confidence, they just can’t seem to package it in a way that feels right for the long-term.

Let me reassure you that as a child you developed signature strengths and skills that over-time you have honed and used often. You will have used them throughout your career in various guises.   

When you use them, these super-powered skills come easily to you. But, because they come easily to you, you struggle to give them the value that they deserve.

That’s why you need someone skilled in seeing through the stories you tell yourself and to re-frame your signature strengths in a way that that you not only see their value once again but see their potential.

You should find these articles helpful: Lighting up your Superpowers or how it feels to do deeply satisfying work.

Man holding light.jpg

Concern 2: ‘It’s expensive.’

Some of the Midlife Unstuck community members tell me they love the idea of the Discover my Superpowers package and would love to invest if they could – but they think it’s expensive.

My advice

If you’re stuck in a career that is not fulfilling – or have made a shift which isn’t working out how you hoped – it’s understandable to be nervous about investing in yourself.  

But the Discover my Superpowers package is not an ordinary, off the shelf career coaching process – it’s entirely bespoke, cannot be mass-produced AND offers the crucial, foundational elements to building a future career – one that could be more fulfilling, more satisfying and a heck of a lot more fun.

Not only will it stop you wasting valuable time wondering which way your career could or should go, the results will give you the confidence to start making decisions on how to build more satisfaction into your current work, as well as designing your future work.  

The Superpowers Package is an investment into your entire future working life but even if you were to only feel the benefits over the next 12 months, the cost works out at less than £2 per day - far less than the price of a decent cup of coffee, most gym classes or a daily newspaper.  

So, even if you’re on a budget, it’s a really cost-effective personal investment.  

If you are feeling concerned, these articles might resonate with you. “Am I spending more on my kids’ activities than my future career?” or have a look at the advice that Barney Whiter aka The Escape Artist offers on creating financial freedom to do work that you might love.

Concern 3: ‘I don’t have time.’

Some individuals who work in big corporates tell me that they love the idea of discovering their Superpowers, but they are so busy with commutes, travelling for work, long hours and then home commitments that they can’t see where to find the time.

My advice:

If you want to do more satisfying and fulfilling work – and to stop worrying what the next chapter of your career will look like - you need to get your brain off the current treadmill to see what your new world could look like.

That means:

·         narrowing your focus to figure out what very specific assets, skills and strengths you have to offer;  

·         discovering your uniqueness in an ever more competitive market;

·         gaining clarity on the language you could use to begin attracting work that you might find more enjoyable.

It’s great to be busy, but if you’re fire-fighting at the expense of future-proofing your career, it is highly likely that there will come a time when someone else will choose your future career moves.  These articles touched a few nerves when I published them:  50-year old corporate toast and Fired at 50

The total commitment of time from you is likely to be one full working day spread out over a number of weeks/weekends.  If you are anything like me, you hate wasting time.  So, all of the thinking assignments are designed to be done on a commute, in between meetings, in bed or wherever you get a spare 10 minutes.  

The morning / afternoon session needs to be done in one 3-hour time slot so that there is enough time to deep dive.  But, for most of us, it’s a joy to talk about yourself for that length of time, so I hope you won’t find it a hardship.

If during the week is impossible to schedule the 3 hour session, I recently helped a client out by doing our face-to-face session on a Sunday.

Time running out.jpg

Concern number 4: “Can’t I do this by myself?”

You can.

There are lots of individuals from the Midlife Unstuck community working their way through my free how-to articles and discovering their Superpowers alone.  

My advice

But it takes a great deal longer without a knowledgeable partner to pull out the necessary awareness, to challenge your limiting beliefs and to help you get out of your own way.  

Only you will know whether you have the self-awareness, focus and tenacity to go it alone.

Concern 5: ‘I’m not based in the UK.’ 

Some prospective clients tell me they love the idea of discovering their Superpowers but are concerned that the process might not work as well via video conference or telephone as in person (because I am based in UK)

My advice:

All of the thinking assignments are done by you, in your home, on your commute or wherever you feel comfortable doing them.  So, it doesn’t matter which country you live in.

I’ve conducted the 3-hour one-to-one discovery sessions via Zoom video-conference or via telephone with clients in Australia, Canada, US and Germany and UK over the last 2 years.  Even when clients live close to me, they sometimes prefer the flexibility and convenience of video conferencing.  

To get results, you need to commit to the process.   The medium for having the conversations isn’t as important as the time, brain power and openness you commit to the process.

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Concern 6: ‘I don’t like talking about myself.’

Some prospective customers tell me they love the idea of Discovering their Superpowers, but they don’t enjoy talking about themselves.

My advice:

Sadly, you can’t avoid this.  You will have to talk and think about yourself a great deal - possibly more than you have done in a very long time.  But another thought…

Are you crazy? When in this world do you ever get to talk about yourself for hours on end?

I’ll be asking thought-provoking questions, doing lots of listening and taking notes so that I can come back to my padded cell of an office and decipher the underlying meaning. 

I’ll then scribe my first draft of your top 5/6 superpowers, which we will refine after one further short conversation and eh voila! That’s it.

You talk.  I do the pattern-finding.  That’s the uniqueness of this process. 

I’m not aware of anyone else who offers this service, packaged in this clear and simple way.

If you like the sound of this approach to future-planning more enjoyable work and want a bespoke programme that speedily gets to the core of which activities you find deeply satisfying and why, without having to work your way through endless exercises alone, you should consider investing in the Discover your Superpowers package.

Over the last 4 years since I left my old career, (here’s my story on video) I’ve endlessly researched career happiness and work satisfaction and know that getting clarity on your unique offering to the world and being able to design your career to include more of that unique offering is the foundation of doing work that is more satisfying.

Next step?

Click here to book in for one of my Light at the end of my tunnel calls to see if we are right for each other. If none of the available times work for you, email me at lucia@midlifeunstuck.com and we‘ll work it out.

Feedback from the Discover your Superpowers programme

“Working with Lucia helped me process my thoughts, so that now, I can move forward without doubt.  

The biggest thing that came out of the process with Lucia was the realisation that I hadn’t been using some of my real strengths (or “Superpowers” as Lucia calls them) for so long that I thought they were my weaknesses.” 

Josie, HR, 40s, London

After my time with Lucia, I decided to stop doing what society had been telling me I should be doing and start doing what I really wanted to do.  Her “superpowers” session had a huge impact on me.  Somehow, she could not only accurately see my strengths but helped me value them from a completely different angle."

Danny, Finance Director, 50s, Surrey

“Your style of coaching helped to lift my fog of self-doubt leaving the way ahead much clearer.

I found that my plans were not as wide of the mark as I’d feared and that attributes that I always believed were strengths are, in fact, super strengths!  I particularly benefited from the face-to-face sessions that really got me to examine what I wanted to do and what I could do.”

Warren, CEO, 50s, London

“Working with Lucia was like a breath of fresh air because I'd been going round and round in circles, ruminating over the same ideas and the same stuck patterns of thought on what I might like to do. 

The positivity, passion and clarity Lucia offers can really open the gates of possibility for you to change career.”

Colette, Project Management, 30s, Glasgow

Here’s what happened when I popped my “deeply satisfying work” cherry...

Career change cherry pop

The day it happened

It was a normal Tuesday, nearly two years ago, after my final session with a funny, self-deprecating, engaging and more-than-slightly silvered Managing Director of a technology firm.  My reaction was so physical, it took me by surprise.   

I put the phone down and fancied a coffee.  Whilst walking from my office to the kitchen, I couldn’t help but notice the rising sensation of a whoppingly huge smile spreading like wildfire across my face.  I felt an odd tingling in the deep depths of my stomach which rose to meet and bond with the giant smile before smearing the merged sensation across my entire body in a weird, never-before-experienced way. 

The whole process culminated in…I kid you not…a whole body air-jump! 

What the…?  

What exactly had occurred on that call?

Something marvellous.  My client was delighted that he had been released from the fog of uncertainty about his future work, a fog that had been holding him back. And he told me so. 

I was delighted that he was in a much better place than when we first met but that’s what I had promised.  It should have been no surprise. 

Job done.  Job done well. 

But, when I sat back to consider the impact of that weird whole-body air-jump, I felt both gutted and over-joyed simultaneously. 

GUTTED:

Hand on heart, I can tell you that I never once air-jumped with satisfied pleasure during my 20-year corporate job.

Not once!  Maybe others have?

Two long decades of work hard, play hard but zero air-jumps. 

I hadn’t realised during those 20 years that it was possible to do work that had this air-lifting impact.

This is me air-jumping in life at a gorgeous lake near Kelowna in Canada but I’d never air-jumped in the 20 years of my first career.

This is me air-jumping in life at a gorgeous lake near Kelowna in Canada but I’d never air-jumped in the 20 years of my first career.

Sure, on occasions, I’ve slightly self-consciously high-fived colleagues when I closed a big deal.  But mostly, I recall releasing gargantuan sighs of…tired-eyed, shoulder-slumped relief from the energy it took to close the deal.  Followed by another huge inhale to re-charge for the next goal.

Perhaps I could have been whole-body air-jumping for the last 20 years if I had chosen a different sort of work?

CHERRY-POPPINGLY OVERJOYED:

Gigantic whole-body smiling and uninhibited air-jumping appears to be my version of how it feels to be getting paid to do deeply satisfying work.   

And I’m delighted that I popped that cherry in my mid-forties rather than my mid-sixties.

Better late than never.

Deeply satisfying work vs draining work (even if you’re great at it)

This somewhat silly but personally-memorable moment highlights the difference between doing work that is deeply satisfying and work that you may be good at but it might also be draining the life out of you.   

When I sprinted away from my old career with no clear plan I just knew in my heart that some people in this world really love their work.  I didn’t know any of them…then.  But, I knew that I wanted to be one of them.

I knew that I could be one of them if I could just decipher their secret. 

So, I tracked down individuals who professed to love their work.   I specifically sought out individuals who had stayed in one career for a long time and then prioritised doing more satisfying work.

After 100 interviews with mid-life career changers, I now know their secrets.  

Their secrets inspired me to design my business in a particular way.

The most important secret is that they have designed their work around their “Superpowers”.

A superpower is not an extraordinary magic power. It is a unique very specific activity that you perform in a certain way, better than most people around you and you can’t stop using it. When you use your superpower, you feel deeply satisfied and fulfilled.

A superpower is not an extraordinary magic power. It is a unique very specific activity that you perform in a certain way, better than most people around you and you can’t stop using it. When you use your superpower, you feel deeply satisfied and fulfilled.

Of course, they don’t use that term.  “Superpowers” is a term I use to indicate the specific actions that are powered by your unique signature strengths. 

Superpowers include:

-          the activities that you love doing and could do with your eyes closed;

-          the activities that you always gravitate towards;

-          the activities that you cannot stop doing both at work and in life;

-          and the activities that you would do for free if you didn’t need to pay the bills because the feel satisfying to your core.  

You might notice that these Superpowers are actions not passive traits. 

This is crucial.

When these 100 career changers use their Superpowers in their work, they feel deeply, deeply satisfied. 

Instead of feeling drained to the point of exhaustion after a day of using their Superpowers they feel re-charged and re-booted.  They could use these Superpowers for 8 hours a day and never feel drained. 

Could you use your Superpowers all day every day?

Sadly, in the real world of business, very few have been able to make a living out of exclusively using their superpowers but the happiest career-changers use their superpowers multiple times a day. Occasionally they designed a whole day using their Superpowers - those days were utterly fantastic.   

So, the fundamental secret to doing fulfilling, satisfying and happier work is using your Superpowers as often as possible each day. 

When I use my own Superpowers it feels as though all of my pleasure sensors have fired up at once.  It feels like nothing else in this world.   As you now know, in my case, it brings around instinctive bodily reactions like gigantic, entire face-filling, shiny-eyed smiles and involuntary whole-body air-jumps.  

Not quite orgasmic but something close.    

Not a bad way to earn a living…eh?


If you are considering working with me to Discover your Superpowers - have a read of this article on the main concerns others have told me they have had before making a decision.



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Spending more money on your kids' activities than your future career?

Spending on kids’ activities is grand…but are you prioritising their ball-kicking over your future career?

Spending on kids’ activities is grand…but are you prioritising their ball-kicking over your future career?

4 years ago, I realised that while we were spending around £200 each month on my daughters’ swimming, netball and gymnastics classes, I was spending £0 on my future career.

We were paying a nanny to take the girls to their weekday lessons.  For the weekend classes, my husband and I would spend a couple of hours escorting them to their lessons where they learned how to do a decent frog kick, perfect a roly poly and shoot a hoop.

Adoring mum as I am, I had a fairly good idea that neither of my daughters were headed towards the Olympic circuit.   But I was clear that I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing for the next 20 years.

When I noted down what was happening, it was the slap in the face I needed.  

The notes from my wake-up call that promoted a re-think of my career strategy….from non-existent!

The notes from my wake-up call that promoted a re-think of my career strategy….from non-existent!

The slap in the face I needed.

It dawned on me that I hadn’t invested a penny of my own money nor a moment of my precious time improving my chances of doing more fulfilling work in my future.  

Sure, I was attending work events and doing training courses paid for by my company (which of course were designed to make me better at my current job).  But for the previous 3 years, I hadn’t prioritised my future career AT ALL!

When I was honest about it, my long-term future career hadn’t even made it onto my to-do list FOR YEARS. 

Why the hell not?

1.       I was flat-out making my then career-family combo work (at least to a level where I was neither afraid for my job nor breaking as a human. For the record, I had returned to work after my first daughter mid 2008 when all hell was breaking loose in the financial world).

2.       I didn’t know what I might like to do in my future work.

3.       I didn’t know what I might like to do in my future work.

So…I admitted aloud what I did know for sure:

I couldn’t admit this out loud and do nothing about it.

I couldn’t admit this out loud and do nothing about it.

And something changed.

A bit of common sense leaked in, as my Dad might say. 

I sensed that I’d be in the same spot, in the same industry, possibly in the same company, in five years, if I didn’t do something.  

Oddly, I’d begun to sense that the silent but deadly 50-year-old corporate toast phenomena would be rearing its ugly head sooner rather than later.

Little by little

I began to invest a little time and a small amount of cash into learning new things.  Why?

  • To get my brain used to learning new stuff because I figured that would be key to my transformation. If you always do what you’ve always done…

  • To give me hope, through action, that I wasn’t going to be doing the same thing forever.

  • To give me, however small, a sense of control over my future.

It's never been easier or cheaper to learn

Here are some examples, many of them free, that I played around with:

·         Duolingo – Fantastic free app for learning another language from scratch or polishing existing knowledge. (Brilliant for kids as well)

·         Khan Academy – Fairly academic on-line courses on everything from programming to engineering and beyond.

·         Udemy – Unbelievable subject diversity - Speed reading, cartooning, digital painting, social media marketing, photography etc.

·         YouTube – all major players in every field have a YouTube presence.  Try their free stuff first before diving in.

·         Podcasts – like YouTube, every man and his dog in every field has a podcast or interviews on podcasts.  There is so much opportunity to spend your commute learning about something that interests you. Listen while you are doing mundane tasks. If I wasn’t doing what I am doing, I would just walk in mountains listening to weird and wonderful podcasts every minute of every day.

Understanding what you don’t know, but need to

Over time, I started to get a sense of where my interests lay. Even though I wasn’t quite sure where I’d end up, I made the decision that I would be doing something for myself.  

That one decision meant that I could get more specific about what I needed to know and began investing in me. Not bags of cash but more than zero.  

Here’s a copy of my starting list:

·         Public speaking,

·         Work psychology,

·         iPhone photography,

·         Psychology of happiness,

·         Article writing,

·         Blogging,

·         Social media marketing,

·         Running a business,

·         PR,

·         Accounting in a one-woman business,

·         Branding,

·         Story-telling,

·         Advertising,

·         Website designing

·         Book publishing,

·         Design,

·         Agile business,

·         Audience definition,

·         Pricing,

·         Meditation,

·         Mindfulness,

·         Life hacks.

If you are smart…

Do this while you’re getting paid a decent salary. 

Use at least one of your commutes each day to do something future-focussed that interests you. Even 30mins a day, during your working weeks, adds up to more than 100 hours a year. Imagine where you could be and what you could know in 100 hours!

If you are to do anything different, you are going to need to exercise your brain – start before you need to.  

You never know where you might end up!


More articles on prioritising your career

Where to start thinking about your career - the first 10 steps

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Common triggers for mid-lifers to change careers



 

 

Fired post 50? Will you ever earn the same salary package again?

If you lose your job post 50, expect slim pickings and slimmer pay packets

I’m a strong advocate for professionals in their 40s and 50s designing their work in a particular way to increase their personal satisfaction and fulfilment. 

But whether you are currently doing deeply fulfilling work or not, I bet you have seen colleagues of a similar age be “disappeared” from your business over the last year.   By “disappeared” I mean it wasn’t their choice to leave.  

Post 50s who are fired, sacked or made redundant - what’s the financial impact?

Post 50s who are fired, sacked or made redundant - what’s the financial impact?

In corporates, it’s usually done quickly and quietly so that the troops are not too scared. But it’s also usually done loudly enough so that everyone feels just a smidge of fear.

Every time this happened to someone in my company, it was hard not to wonder if, or rather when, it might be my turn to get (whisper) fired?  Or (another whisper) sacked?  Or made redundant (no shame here as redundancy is almost a sure bet for those in the 50+ age range, if they are not fired or sacked).  

So, what’s the financial prognosis for your career if you lose your job post 50? 

According to some new US research, I’m afraid it’s not rosy.

(Whilst the research is purely US-centric, it has relevance for most western countries.)

If you are over the age of 50, this new piece of analysis suggests that after you leave a company, you may never earn the same salary again.   The analysis was based on *US raw social security data and the National Institute Health and Retirement study which involved over 20,000 people who had been in full-time employment for at least 5 years within one company when the study commenced and followed them over a many years.

The analysis concluded that when post-50 year olds exit a company, whether under circumstances of their choosing or not, their next roles very often involved lower levels of expertise alongside a significant drop in salary and benefits packages.  

What to do?

We could take a big picture view and rise up against age discrimination in the courts, in our companies and in our lives.  We could cling on for dear life, with our fingers crossed, hoping that we can buck the international trend.

Alternatively, and in my opinion more impactfully, we could take a smaller picture, personalised view and make sure that we have an alternative plan - a Plan B - before we need it. 

As the corporate career tunnel narrows, is it time you began to consciously design your Plan B?

As the corporate career tunnel narrows, is it time you began to consciously design your Plan B?

In our 40s and 50s, while we are enjoying the corporate salary and package, we need to take some time to personalise our career plan. To design one that will last for much longer than our company decides to employ us.  One that will offer us some light at the end of our tunnel of narrowing career options within corporates.

If we focus as early as we can on designing this very personal plan, twisting and turning it, trialling it and then analysing the results from our experiments, we can refine it to the point where it evolves into our PLAN A – when the time is right for us.

Next steps

If you like the sound of that but aren’t sure how to go about it, why not download my Where to Start guide for the first 10 steps to designing work that might fit you – for a very long time. It’s not a magic bullet but it covers the initial practical steps that you need to have covered, before you can embark on creating your exciting Plan B.

Other related articles:

50 year old corporate toast

How to start creating your Plan B

The Future of work if you are in your 40s and 50s

*Data mentioned here was sourced from the US Social Security Administration and National Institute on Aging’s joint longitudinal Health & Retirement Study via an analysis by joint Urban Institute-ProPublica project.





The fantasy of start-ups after a global career - is it for you?

 Career in global corporates to start-ups…early lessons.

One way to re-design your career is to move into a start-up. But is it right for you?

One way to re-design your career is to move into a start-up. But is it right for you?

Anil was one of the first successful career changers I ever formally interviewed after I launched Midlife Unstuck.

He had spent 20ish years in what could only be described as “a very successful career” by most standards. 

Economics degree.  Summer internships. Investment banking.  MBA from Wharton.  McKinsey.  Fortune 500.  FTSE 100.  London, New York, Paris, Geneva and Stockholm.

He was headed directly towards a country leadership position.  

But…

He wanted “more”.  And figured out that he could find his style of “more” in a start-up.   You can read how he made his move from global corporation role to start up HERE.

I caught up with him again 18 months after he had entered his world of start-ups to see what he had learned about career change along the way. 

Some of you, considering working in start-up might find his takeaways useful….

 Discoveries from my first 18months in a start-up after a 20-year career in global corporations

Anil Saggi

Anil Saggi

Anil Saggi

·        “I thought I’d understood the start-up mentality, having helped shape a start-up within a giant corporation.  But I couldn’t possibly have known until I was on the inside.  I’d researched enough to get chosen for the role but not enough to really know.  That can only be learned by actually doing, by being on the inside and living the start-up ways.

·         Being “all-in” with an early stage business had a much bigger impact on my life than any other role in my career.   It is all-encompassing. There was a huge impact on my partner and my family that I had not fully anticipated.  It infiltrates every moment and deeply changes your mindset.  For instance, I had done lots of travelling during my working life in big corporations but that didn’t compare to the amount of travelling I did in this start-up company, in a bid to make that company successful.  

 ·         Getting used to the high levels of volatility and ambiguity takes time but once it clicks it really clicks.

 ·         The freedom to work in the way that works best for each individual is something that early stage businesses do very well.   It seems more…human.  Large corporations often assume that you are a different person when you are in work as opposed to outside of work - that you require waking from your life’s slumber when you come into work and that you will disappear back into your facebook-scrolling life when you leave!   Early stage businesses get that it’s all one and the same.  That life and work are completely fluid.

 ·         If you are interested in self-development, then a start-up is you.  It challenges almost everything you’ve ever learned from working in major corporates.  There are simply no limits.

 ·         But, if learning fast and holding responsibility for making things fail or succeed isn’t something you enjoy, the stress will hit big time.  Start-ups allow you to learn with someone else’s money to experiment, test and fail.  It’s been absolutely invaluable learning…but not without its own stresses.

 ·         One of the major differences is you are expected to take practical actions to make things happen. I was always an ideas person but never really took the practical steps to make those ideas real.  Now, I have so many ideas for investments and businesses that when I combine those with the practical confidence I feel, I feel the world is my oyster

·         You need to have your eyes wide open financially speaking and decide what you would accept as a “success” if you were to leave 12 or 18mths later e.g. equity.  So many young businesses fail or change investors in the early years, nothing is long-term.  

 ·         Making contacts and expanding networks is always valuable. It’s worth keeping one eye on where you could go after this role.  It usually means out – not up in young businesses.  But the true relationships made along the way will help you create next opportunities.

 ·         You need resilience.  When you exit a start-up, there is no long-term plan and no soft exit.  You just leave.  It’s very direct.  You often retain equity and wish the company well in the future but without you.


More personal observations

 ·         The start-up mind-shift has had an influence in all areas of my life.  For example, I’ve been able to very practically help my wife’s business to find suppliers and help with sales meetings etc that I simply didn’t have the close-to-the-ground skills to help with 2 years ago.

 ·         We underestimate how much we can do in work…and generally in life.  When we are given the freedom and can tap into the necessary focus, great things are possible.  I know people who, in hindsight think they could have been Olympic athletes if they had not spent so much time in the bar, sleeping or on their phone!  I was amazed by how much a small group of individuals can achieve when given an enormous amount of freedom.  

 ·         Career goals should always be evolving – either in reaction to the market or to personal goals.   Leaving your career on auto-pilot doesn’t serve anyone well.

 ·         I feel changed as a business person, but also as a human by my start-up experience. I’m like night and day given how much I’ve learned over the last 18 months.

 ·         I’m a lot less afraid of failure now that I have confidence that I can take an idea and just get on with making it happen.

 ·         After just 18 months start-up experience my whole future career options have been magnified.  Even though the time-frames in start-ups are so much shorter than in any corporate I have worked within, the same cycle plays out.   I’ve got so many more options than I had with my career history 2 years ago. “

If you are wondering what “More” looks for you, you might want to read this article on the Number 1 trigger for career change in our 40s, 50s or 60s which includes a couple of ideas on how you can start figuring it out for yourself.

 

 

THE ONLY THING career changers in their 40 or 50s want

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.

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I want more