career change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four types of stories (that keep you stuck)

1. Impossibility stories

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

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

I get to hear lots of these stories.

Here are just a few examples: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • I’m too old to change career.

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

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

  • I’ll do it in my 60s. 

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

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

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

…exactly where they are

…for a very long time

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

2. Blame stories - two varieties

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

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

a) Blame stories about “them”

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

  • My boss is such a X.

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

  • The company culture is wrong for me.

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

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

  • They’re not treating us like humans.

  • They're just not listening.

  • They just want to control me.

  • They don’t appreciate anything we do.

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

b) Blame stories about me

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

  • I’ve lost my mojo.

  • I’ve nothing more left to give.

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

  • I don’t have the skills they want.

  • I don’t fit anymore.

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

  • I’m not very good at X anymore. 

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

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

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

They simply keep you stuck. 

3. Invalidation stories

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

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

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

Here are some examples:

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

  • They shouldn’t treat us this way.

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

  • They wouldn’t support me. 

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

Or

  • I don’t have what it takes. 

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

  • I’m not an entrepreneur. 

  • I’m not MD material. 

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

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

  • I’m not clever enough. 

  • I’m not good enough. 

  • I’m not X enough. 

4. Zero-accountability stories

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

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

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

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

But we own the choice

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

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

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

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

  • Choosing our daily reactions to work situations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What stories are you telling yourself most often? 

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

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

Read about that next time. 

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The personal and business highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Transforming from hobbists into professional gin makers

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

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

  • Defining success from the start

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

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

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

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

  • Choosing the right people 

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

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

  • With growth comes risk

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

  • Corporates and family

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

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

  • Experimental mindset

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

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

  • Who gets paid first? 

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

  • Staying connected to the local community

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

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

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

  • Controlling destiny

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

Recipe for the best Gin & Tonic ever

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

Heaven in a glass!



Lots more stories to inspire your career change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is my Career Change Balance Sheet?

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

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

Scared senseless

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

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

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

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

  • highlight if any priority imbalances;

  • begin to think about next steps; and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why you need to write your thoughts down somewhere?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How I began my Career Change Balance Sheet.

I took seven parts of my life and assessed the situation 

  • a) before I made my career change 

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

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

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

  1. Mental Health;  

  2. Fun; 

  3. Sleep; 

  4. Physical Health; 

  5. Finances; 

  6. Volunteering; and 

  7. Home life

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

Careeer change Balance Sheet
Career Change Balance Sheet Pg 2

The surprises for me after reviewing my balance sheet: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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. 

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


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.  

 

 

 

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

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…and I kid you not…a whole body air-jump

What the..?!

Career change cherry pop

What exactly had occurred on that call?

Something marvellous. My client was delighted that he’d 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 simultaneously gutted and over-joyed.

GUTTED:

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

Not once! Maybe you 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?

OVERJOYED:

Whole-body smiling and uninhibited air-jumping appear to be my version of how it feels to be paid to do deeply satisfying work with people who appreciate me.   

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 memorable moment highlights the difference between doing energising work that is deeply satisfying and doing work that feels draining - even if you are good at it.

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 secrets. 

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 midlife 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 magical 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 using it. When you use your superpower, you feel satisfied, fulfilled and energised.

A superpower is not an extraordinary magical 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 using it. When you use your superpower, you feel satisfied, fulfilled and energised.

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 they 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 I’ve interviewed 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?

Other related articles:

If you’re interested in the secrets behind doing work that you could find deeply satisfying - why not grab a copy of my book X Change: How to torch your work treadmill. You’ll also get 20 short stories of other professionals like you, who re-designed their careers and are happier for it.



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

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

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

Grief 2.jpg

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

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

Eh?

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

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

That got me thinking...

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

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

a)      the trauma of losing an elderly parent

b)      a personal health scare

c)       a serious illness of a close friend/sibling

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

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

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

·         moving home to be closer to family,

·         moving parents closer to us,

·         creating new family traditions,

·         changing how we eat and drink,

·         changing friends,

·         spending more time with x group of people,

·         spending less time with x group of people,

·         creating a bucket list,

·         scratching off items on an old bucket list,

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

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

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

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

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


Grief 3.jpg

How bereavement and grief impact our brain:

I found this simple little video helpful.

In summary, grief and loss can:

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

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

3.       Change our sleep patterns;

4.       Cause memory loss or brain fog.


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

The answer is, of course, it depends.

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

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

Recommendations:

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

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

Books:

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

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

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

Talk therapy: 

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

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

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

An unusual but brilliant podcast: 

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

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

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

Grief 1.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Disclaimer:

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

 

 

 

 





(1 year later) Lessons learned from reclaiming Middle Aged Me

career change 40

A while ago, I encountered someone who will forever be called “Middle Aged Me”.

He was close to broken, drowning in a culture that was eroding him to the core. His honest awareness about his situation and where it was headed blew me away but he hadn’t reached his tipping point yet. He needed a big sign. A giant sign that kicked him into take action.

Sadly the sign came. Happily, he was well enough to react.

Here’re what he learned on his mid-life career change journey. If haven’t read his first article - you might like to start here.

Author:                Anonymous

A quick recap 

This is a follow-up to “Reclaiming Middle Aged Me” which Lucia published in March 2018. 

As a quick reminder, my company had been taken over by new investors and I found myself in a culture which conflicted with my personal values and work practices.  This in turn had a detrimental impact on my health, welfare and overall life in general. 

Nonetheless, it still took me a number of years before I did anything about it. 

Ultimately, a serious health scare forced the issued and I resigned without a job to go to.

When Lucia published my article she depicted me as a drowning man.  It still resonates with me today as it captured the totality of my situation and how I felt at the time.    

A number of months have now passed and this follow-up tells the story of what I have experienced and learned since making that momentous decision to leave.  Some things I had predicted, whereas others came as a surprise. 

Hopefully sharing these experiences will provide some insight into what may be expected after leaving the workplace and possibly help others to formulate their own thinking when contemplating the same.  Everyone may of course react differently, but this is my story.

The initial stages

The most immediate feeling was that of enormous relief.  I had escaped and an overpowering weight was lifted. 

I hate mondays

I no longer had to dread the arrival of Monday which so often surfaced as soon as I woke on a Sunday. 

Despite the relief, I wasn’t able to throw myself into lots of new exciting activities to fill my new found freedom.  It was very clear that my energy levels had been sapped from years of pushing myself too hard in a toxic environment and my body simply needed a rest.  There really was nothing left in the tank and I sat for long periods of time just watching the television or doing absolutely nothing.

To be fair, I thoroughly enjoyed this time of relaxation.  It’s amazing how many re-runs of “The Professionals” and “Tales of the Unexpected” you can get through when you put your mind to it.  I wasn’t allowed to watch these when I was growing up in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s (apparently I was too young), but at least they now serve to demonstrate my true middle aged credentials!  

Days continued to come and go and I also soon learned that the time taken to do things expands with the time available.  Breakfast for example can take up to an hour.

Now, I’ve just said that I wasn’t able to throw myself into lots of new exciting activities.  Well, that wasn’t only because of the lack of energy.  It was also because I didn’t really have any hobbies, passions or leisure pastimes in my old life.  This was quite an enlightening (and in hindsight worrying) revelation. 

I now realised that work had become so all-encompassing and time consuming that my personal life had fallen by the wayside at the expense of the corporate world.  Put simply, there had been no work-life balance for many years.  The lesson here is to take a step back now and make sure there are things in your life outside of work.  Don’t let work become the sole purpose of your existence.

Having discovered that I didn’t have any real hobbies, I then set about trying to find some. 

Many years ago I was a keen football player and also enjoyed running to keep fit.  I ruled out a return to football quite quickly (I’m middle aged remember), but running to regain my fitness definitely appealed.  Over the years, my ratio of cake intake to energy burned had become slightly imbalanced and I definitely needed to lose a few pounds. 

However, another lesson was about to land. 

Namely, do give some thought as to what time of year you leave the workplace.  I didn’t really have much choice due to my health scare, but many people won’t have that catalyst and can plan a bit more effectively.  I’m a big fan of hot weather and the sun (especially when it involves sitting in the garden with a beer), but I left work at the beginning of winter.  It was cold, wet and generally miserable for many months. 

Umberella.jpg

My rekindled desire to run again was put on hold as I looked out of the window on many occasions and the little willpower I had simply evaporated.  I know I could have joined a gym, but running on a treadmill was never something I enjoyed.  Another excuse of course, but keep in mind the mental state I had been reduced to.  Things needed to be easy and “right” for me. 

It also goes without saying that sitting in the garden in the rain with a beer is not quite so appealing. 

One thing I did find very rewarding in the early days was the additional time I was able to spend with my family.  My wife and I had more lunches out in the space of a few weeks than we had done for years! 

I went to every school event on the calendar and also spent a lot of time with my Mum.  She lives a long way away, but I was no longer constrained by weekends and could visit her for several days at a time in the week.  These visits to my Mum highlighted another important lesson.  She’s elderly and I would spend my time with her doing lots of jobs around the house and garden that she wasn’t able to do herself. 

Why am i here.png

This added something incredibly important to my life.  I had a purpose again.

Think about it.  We spend decades in the workplace and then (for any number of reasons) we no longer go to work.  It might be short term or it might be permanent.  Either way, my experience is that I began to question my purpose in life. 

When I was at work, I was a senior finance professional doing a responsible job for a large company.  I had “status” (whatever that is) and the respect of my colleagues.  I was also the “provider” for my family.  People relied on me, both at work and at home. 

My exit from the workplace took these roles (which had been in place for decades) away from me. 

The lesson here is to not underestimate the potential to feel a little lost at times following the decision (and ultimate action) to leave.  Try to have something in mind to focus on and give you a purpose to replace that which is left behind.  Better to be prepared than to have a surprise as it was for me.

This rather helpfully leads me on to another surprise to share, albeit the surprise wasn’t mine alone.  It was also for my wife, who is a “stay at home Mum”.  All of a sudden, her daily environment was impacted by another person (middle aged me) with helpful views on what needed doing, how it should be done, who should do it (and most importantly) how quickly it should be done.  Yes, well, that took a little bit of adjusting to for both of us. 

Nothing more to say, it’s all about “give and take” in the end, but just have it on your radar if you have a similar scenario!     

As time progressed

Over time, my mental and physical strength began to return and I felt ready to explore the “what next?” question.  I spent many hours and days looking at new possibilities for the future. 

One avenue involved a complete break from my financial background by dipping my big toe into the world of writing.  I met with various people already established in this world and discovered a number of important things. 

First, while my writing is OK, it’s not quite up to the standard to be a professional (although I could have trained to achieve this). 

Second, it takes a long time to become established and earn a living. 

Third (and most important for me), you spend most of your time on your own in front of a computer.

This set alarms bells ringing as it correlated with another learning I had already experienced.  It’s something quite fundamental, but it hadn’t appeared on my radar before I left work. 

Very simply (and from a very early stage), I experienced social isolation. 

Despite the fact my work environment had become aggressive and unpleasant; I still had friends and colleagues to talk to every day, to discuss the ways of the world and to generally banter with.  This was now gone and at times I felt lonely.  A writing career was not for me.

At the same time as I was having my Shakespearian potential dispelled, I also started to pursue a long held interest in a particular volunteering position.  It’s something that requires a lot of dedication and the various interview processes are both lengthy and rigorous. 

That goes a long way to explain why I hadn’t been able to pursue it when I was in a corporate environment which seemed to absorb all my time.  I refer back to an earlier comment. 

I should have made time for it.  

Suffice to say, I was successful in my pursuit of the role and I now have something in my “non-paid” work life which provides personal reward and enjoyment.

In terms of pursuing some paid work activities (it seemed prudent), I took it upon myself to drive around the local area and make notes of all the companies that were close by.  I was adamant that whatever I did next, it wouldn’t involve a long commute like I’d had in the past. 

I researched the companies to see whether the industry was of interest to me and whether I thought my natural skills (or “superpowers” to use Lucia’s terminology) could be utilised by them.  I also deliberately focussed on smaller companies and was able to narrow my initial list of around 50, down to a potential of 10. 

My career has been spent in large multi-nationals with a heavy demand for the type of work I do.  In contrast, smaller companies don’t tend to have my role as a dedicated resource, but they would benefit from a “short blast” of expertise in my area which could then be taken forward by their incumbent finance teams. 

So, the potential to set up my own company was formed in my mind.  In essence, I would act as a “trouble shooter” who parachutes in for a short period of time, assesses their capabilities, recommends a course of action for improvement and then either departs at that point (letting the incumbents implement the recommendations) or stays to help with the implementation. 

I think it might work as a USP, but I won’t get the chance to find out (at least for a while).  I’ll explain.

As I sit here today

Bounce trainers.jpg

I’m healthy again, both mentally and physically

When spring finally arrived I started running properly and have lost much of the weight I’d gained over the years.  There’s still some way to go, largely because (and just to recap), I’m middle aged and it takes longer to shift these days.  It’s a great excuse and one to be fully exploited.  Also, for those who remember my first article, I’ve come off much of the prescribed medication I talked about at the time. 

My new company idea is on hold at the moment because of an exciting development in the last couple of months. 

In my original article I talked about the possibility of returning to do what I do in another company, but in an environment which aligned with my values and work practices.  Well, I kept an eye on the market and I will shortly go back to work in an exciting industry which is located very close to home.  The culture is friendly and welcoming and I’ve been given a free reign to shape the future in my area of finance. 

My bounce is back (not that middle aged accountants are renowned for their bounciness), but I am genuinely excited by what lies ahead.


A final comment

I made the right decision to leave

A year ago I was in a bad way, both mentally and physically. 

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, I genuinely believe I was close to “going under” or worse.  My mind and body were compromised and at the edge of their tolerance levels.  A serious health scare provided the catalyst for me to leave, but I still needed the willpower and strength to make that final decision. 

My counsel is simple to say, but harder to enact.  Nonetheless, it’s maybe something to contemplate and reflect on. 

It’s only seven words. 

“Jump while you still have the strength.”

 

Daddy playing sillohette daughter.jpg
 

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career change at 40, career change at 50, career change at 60

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why it appears so hard to change career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Clarity:   

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

2. Link passion with skills:

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

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

4.   Implement resulting actions

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

  • Experimentation = Action before knowing the answer. 

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

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

BUT THAT TAKES BRAVERY AND TIME.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 How ready are you for action?  

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter Johnny.

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

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

But this will not always be the case. 

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

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

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

1.    Pause and zip your lips

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.    Get out of your own head and into theirs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.    Offer them the same respect you expect in return

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

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

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

midlife career crisis after boss baby arrives

 

7.    Point your experience at their problems

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

If all else fails…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old and when you do you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders...but trust me, in 20 years you'll look back at photos of yourself, and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked....

  • You’re not as fat as you imagine…

  • Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly…

  • Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble-gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday…”

Incase you’re interested, here are the full lyrics.

Absolutely brilliant life advice - wouldn't you agree? 

Needless to say, it didn’t change my life.

Even though I really loved ALL of the advice and even though I listened with open-ears, my psychological make-up would not allow me to take in ANY advice wholeheartedly.  

My psychological make-up, as far as advice is concerned, is identical to yours. It’s the same psychological make-up as your children’s and the same as your parent’s. We are all the same in this aspect of life. We all find it nearly impossible to implement someone else’s advice into our own lives.

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

Don’t believe me?

dog glasses

TRY THIS and see how difficult it is for you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

A friend accused me of being too simplistic in recommending this technique.  All I'll say is...try it. 

It is a simple technique and if all it does is highlight how different it feels for you NOT giving advice, it will have made an impact.  Let me know what happens.

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

If you'd like to transform your career you will need to find a way to step far enough out of your current situation to view both it and you objectively so that you can CREATE YOUR OWN CAREER ADVICE. 

Most people struggle seeing their own life from a different perspective. Sometimes a coach helps.

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

What I do offer are structured, tried and tested techniques combined with psychological insights which take the guess-work out of making a career change.   Check out “The Big Re-think” package on my website (https://www.midlifeunstuck.com/how-i-work) for more information on my style of advice-free coaching. 

While you’re there, why not sign up to my weekly newsletter for tips, resources, articles and real life stories of transformations?  

(ps that last bit was a suggestion, not a piece of advice!)