career change 40

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

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

Wrong job vs wrong career

Being in the wrong job hurts.

It’s like a sharp pain that only disappears when you change jobs.  

It’s short-term.

Being in the wrong career, however, is a whole different kettle of fish.

It’s feels like a great weight is bearing down on your body, endlessly eking the joy out of your work AND often your life. 

Being in the wrong career feels like long-term pain and in my book research, when left unattended, it brought on other symptoms like these in some of the individuals:

  • recurring low-level illness;

  • sleep deprivation;

  • a general lack-lustre feeling;

  • reduced interest in exercise;

  • lowering of libido;

  • depression;

  • anxiety; and

  • sometimes a disconnection with family members.

If that’s true, why do we accept it…for years?  

In one survey, 43% of professionals aged 45-54 wanted to change careers (London School of Business & Finance research).  It’s fairly easy to change careers when you are in your twenties. But once you’ve invested 15+ years in a career, it’s much more difficult.    

Midlife is a natural time to reflect and evaluate what exactly we want from a career.

Midlife is the time to decide if we’re prepared to do what is required to get what we want.  

I know midlifers who are not at happy enough with their work but think career change is impossible for them. If that’s you, it might be useful to know you’re not alone in thinking.

Top 10 reasons successful midlifers give to stay in careers that don’t fit anymore:

1.      “I’ll never be able to earn the same salary again.”

2.      “I’ll have to take a low-paying job to begin with and I’m too old to start at the bottom.”

3.      “I’ve only ever done X.” (insert current career)

4.      “My partner/friends/colleagues would think I was having a midlife crisis.”

5.      “No-one would employ me to do something different.”

6.      “I don’t know what I’d do, if I didn’t do this.”

7.      “I enjoy a great deal of flexibility and autonomy. I doubt I’d get that in another job.”

8.      “It’ll take me another 20 years to become good at something.”

9.      “I work part-time and no other employer will let me.”

10.   “If I changed now, I would waste the huge investment in my current career.”

I’d like to add a final one which no one has ever said to me directly but it is a very common reason to stay in a career which is wrong – “It’s easier to stay where I am.” 

But that is a whole different story for another time. 

Even just thinking about career change can make some of us feel like we’re standing on shaky ground.

Even just thinking about career change can make some of us feel like we’re standing on shaky ground.

Let’s be honest…we’re talking about FEAR

All of the above reasons to stay in a career that no longer fits have their basis in fear.   Fear has a particularly negative impact on the brain.

Psychologists and biologists believe that the primitive “flight-fight-freeze” response to danger is alive in us all and is not limited to dangerous physical situations but to situations where there is perceived risk.  

To the human brain, changing careers when you have life responsibilities such as a mortgage to pay or a family to support feels risky (at best) and dangerous (at worst). 

brain sees career change as dangerous..png

What happens to the brain when it thinks you’re in physical danger or at risk? 

The brain shuts down some of its operations to allow the critical ones to continue.  This results in a paired-down version of you:

  • where optimism disappears;

  • the risk of something awful happening is intensified; and

  • the creative, problem-solving you is turned off (or at least turned down).  

In other words, you dive into risk-scanning mode where you constantly scan the environment for anything that could be dangerous or risky – thereby highlighting only the risks and pitfalls of changing career (see the above list).

I’d bet money that you know at least one midlifer who seems unhappy in their career and even though they talk about doing “something about it” regularly, they can’t seem to figure out what to do firstThese “flight-fight-freeze” response to danger might be apparent in their behaviour.

Behaviours (conscious and unconscious) which often indicate that you’re in the wrong career.

Our brains view career change as dangerous which forces us into three different types of natural reactions - Flight, fight or freeze. Sometimes we don’t even recognise our reactions but our behaviour will make it obvious to those around us.

Our brains view career change as dangerous which forces us into three different types of natural reactions - Flight, fight or freeze. Sometimes we don’t even recognise our reactions but our behaviour will make it obvious to those around us.

Flight behaviours:

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

  • Resigning without a plan;

  • Unexplained, frequent, low-level illnesses;

  • More sick leave days than ever before in career;

  • Trying to get signed off work…for any reason;

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

  • Impulsive behaviour;

  • Buying business domain names for future businesses;

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

Fight behaviours:

  • 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 the current boss, or team or company to show that you are “open to new opportunities”;

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

Freeze behaviours:

  • Day-dreaming of handing in a resignation letter;

  • Writing and carrying a resignation letter in your laptop bag - every day;

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

  • Wishing and hoping that someone will email your with a new job via Linkedin tomorrow morning;

  • Ignoring Sunday night, Sunday afternoon or Sunday morning blues;

  • Praying for redundancy;

  • Obsessive Netflix watching to block out the reality of a career that doesn’t fit anymore;

  • Emotional eating or drinking to forget.

  • Ignoring the reality 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.

  • Attempting to convince 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.

If you are experiencing these Fight, flight or freeze feelings, there are so many ways to reduce the sense of danger around re-designing your work. Here are some ideas.

If you are experiencing these Fight, flight or freeze feelings, there are so many ways to reduce the sense of danger around re-designing your work. Here are some ideas.

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

1.      Stop trying to focus on the elusive end point. 

Instead focus on the start point by asking yourself “which specific bits of my current career do I really enjoy doing?”

Write a list.

Imagine doing lots more of those tasks on a daily basis.  

2.      Start some easy but real research.

Do you know anyone who has changed careers successfully – even if they haven’t made a radical change?  Talk to them.  Talk to friends, friends of friends, family members or even look up celebrities who have changed careers.  How did they do it? 

If you really can’t find anyone, contact me and I’ll connect you to someone who loves their new career or better still, I’ve done the hard work for you in my book X Change: How to torch your work treadmill where you’ll read the stories of professionals like you who designed more satisfaction and fun into their careers.

3.      Don’t assume you need a total and utter career change to feel more fulfilled. 

Remember your last good day at work and write down why it was better than recent days, weeks, months or years.  

4.      Open your mind to possibility that you could earn AT LEAST the same salary doing something you LOVE.

After you've read X Change: How to torch your work treadmill you can see that some of the individuals retained the same salary or higher after the early transition period.

Why not have a detailed look at your finances to understand the minimum viable income you would require in the short-term to give you freedom in the early days? It amazes me who infrequently individuals do this when thinking about changing careers. Read this story from one of the midlife unstuck community members of how she found freedom after understanding her detailed financial situation here.

5.      Read real case studies or autobiographies of individuals who have changed careers. 

It couldn’t be easier. Check out my “Jam-makers” career change stories for an ever-growing list of midlifers who are making their 40s, 50s and 60s the jam years of their careers.

Once you’ve demonstrated to your brain that changing career has not been at all dangerous for a whole range of people throughout the globe (and has even enabled them to live much more fulfilling and satisfying lives), your brain will begin to allow you the optimism (and realism) to imagine how changing career might not be actually dangerous for you

It might actually liberate you!

Are you ready to torch your work treadmill? Book a call with me now.

C

Other related articles:

Interested in being the first to read any new articles and get how-to strategies for your own career change twice a month direct to your inbox? Then, sign up to my “You’re not too old and it’s not too late” newsletter now.

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

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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. 

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

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

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

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

The dripping tap numbed my wins and my losses. 

Flattened my fun. 

And coloured my days slightly grey.  

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

A prison of my own making

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

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

Plan A was definitely fading.

To be frank, so was I. 

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

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

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

A leap that nearly broke me

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

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

Not kidding.

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

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

I STILL had no Plan B to go forth with.

And STILL didn’t know how to start one. 

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

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

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

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

The unusual question that changed everything

Then, I whispered to myself a tough question: 

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

That’s how I knew I still had hope

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

Big B.jpg

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

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

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

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

2 years ago.

Yesterday. 

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

 









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

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

Others feel a deeper level of satisfaction.

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

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

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

The blame game

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

I can now.

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

THE PROBLEM WAS ME.

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

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

I was ever so slowing fading out.

Wearing down.

Losing my mojo.

Off came the blinkers!

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

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

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

Midlifers who would take my head-hunting call.

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

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

Not all of these behaviours were being displayed consciously.

You might recognise some of them in you.

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

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

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

Flight:

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

  • Resigning without a plan;

  • Frequent unexplained illnesses;

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

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

  • Unusual impulsive behaviour;

  • More sick leave days than ever before in career;

  • Buying business domain names for future possible businesses;

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

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

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

Fight:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freeze:

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

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

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

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

  • Ignoring Sunday night blues;

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

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

  • Praying for voluntary redundancy to be offered;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy Eaton - International FD to small business owner

Then what?

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

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


What does a 21st century midlife crisis look like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • identified as female; (yes)

  • knew something about the midlife crisis; (yup)

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

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

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

A nail-biting few weeks followed.

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

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

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

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

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

Please do read Zoe’s article in The Guardian:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what?

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

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

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

Can CEOs/MDs roles be automated?

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

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

Why?

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

The left-brained activities will be automated.

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

  1. Empathy

  2. Using stories to persuade and communicate

  3. Big picture thinking

  4. Design

  5. Humour, laughter, game playing

  6. Seeking out and connecting purpose and meaning?

FB 6 human skills diff to automate.png

How many of your daily activities utilise these aptitudes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should you worry?

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

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

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

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

Success came more often to:

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

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

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

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

FB Past, present, future.png

Past, present and future for executive roles

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

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

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

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

I bet my entire career on it!

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






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.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The slap in the face I needed.

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

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

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

Why the hell not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And something changed.

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

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

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

Little by little

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

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

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

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

It's never been easier or cheaper to learn

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding what you don’t know, but need to

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

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

Here’s a copy of my starting list:

·         Public speaking,

·         Work psychology,

·         iPhone photography,

·         Psychology of happiness,

·         Article writing,

·         Blogging,

·         Social media marketing,

·         Running a business,

·         PR,

·         Accounting in a one-woman business,

·         Branding,

·         Story-telling,

·         Advertising,

·         Website designing

·         Book publishing,

·         Design,

·         Agile business,

·         Audience definition,

·         Pricing,

·         Meditation,

·         Mindfulness,

·         Life hacks.

If you are smart…

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

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

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

You never know where you might end up!


More articles on prioritising your career

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

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Common triggers for mid-lifers to change careers



 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was headed directly towards a country leadership position.  

But…

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

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

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

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

Anil Saggi

Anil Saggi

Anil Saggi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


More personal observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

But somehow, very little has changed?

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

How the brain keeps you stuck

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

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

How to get your brain on-side

You need your brain in solution-focussed mode instead.

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

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

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

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

THEY ALL CRAVED “MORE”.   

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

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

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

Perhaps some resonate with you?    

MORE…Learning

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

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

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

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

 MORE…Time with loved ones

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

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

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

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

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

MORE…Appreciation

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE…fulfilling work

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

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

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

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

Try this

career change 40+

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want more

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

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

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

Grief 2.jpg

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

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

Eh?

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

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

That got me thinking...

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

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

a)      the trauma of losing an elderly parent

b)      a personal health scare

c)       a serious illness of a close friend/sibling

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

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

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

·         moving home to be closer to family,

·         moving parents closer to us,

·         creating new family traditions,

·         changing how we eat and drink,

·         changing friends,

·         spending more time with x group of people,

·         spending less time with x group of people,

·         creating a bucket list,

·         scratching off items on an old bucket list,

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

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

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

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

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


Grief 3.jpg

How bereavement and grief impact our brain:

I found this simple little video helpful.

In summary, grief and loss can:

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

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

3.       Change our sleep patterns;

4.       Cause memory loss or brain fog.


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

The answer is, of course, it depends.

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

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

Recommendations:

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

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

Books:

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

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

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

Talk therapy: 

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

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

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

An unusual but brilliant podcast: 

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

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

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

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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.

 

 

 

 





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why it appears so hard to change career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Clarity:   

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

2. Link passion with skills:

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

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

4.   Implement resulting actions

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

  • Experimentation = Action before knowing the answer. 

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

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

BUT THAT TAKES BRAVERY AND TIME.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 How ready are you for action?  

 

 

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

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

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

A personal story that fills me with shame

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

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

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

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

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

How doing unfulfilling work impacts us all differently.

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Being in a career rut can feel like...

a slowly-dripping tap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Figure out what it is you want your work to do for you and why it isn’t doing it now

  2. Figure out what it is specifically that you do better than anyone else

  3. Using the information from Step 1 and Step 2, design possible ideas that would allow you to get paid for using your unique assets.

  4. Understand what’s stopping you & do one small experiment.

  5. Analyse that experiment in detail.

  6. Do another small experiment with tweaks from Step 5.

  7. Continue forever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s complex being a mid-lifer.

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

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

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

1.     proximity to the problem

2.    too little time

3.    lack of perspective

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

5.    fear of change

6.    financial situation concerns

7.    worry about loss of security and stability

8.    no idea how to begin to change the situation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • helping sell higher quality wine to people who love wine but don’t have a big budget;

  • helping companies make better decisions by having great future-focussed financial information;

  • helping customers design great advertisements to sell more of their products;

  • helping making all employees within our business create long-term relationships with customers;

  • helping people improve their fitness to enable their lives to be more fun;

  • helping banks keep their systems operational so that 1000s of people get paid;

  • helping clients design their perfect building/extension to allow them to live happier lives;

  • helping charities to raise funds to enable more and better assistance to be offered to those in need;

  • helping parents to build resilience in their children to take the stress out of life transitions.

 

2.    Basic life needs can be satisfied

  • enough money to cover mortgage and life;

  • a commute that doesn’t make you want to pull your eyelashes out one by one over many hours

  • in general, working the hours of work that you signed up to - even if sometimes it is a bit crazy

  • a safe working environment – not just hard-hat wearing but emotion safety from excessive and prolonged stress

 

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

  • if you are an introvert that you have time to think before needing to perform/give your opinion;

  • if you hate details that you are not required to fine-tune everything in your work life, all of the time;

  • if you like to do the right thing that your work allows you to operate within your own moral compass guidelines;

  • if you thrive on creativity that there is enough requirement/time available to satisfy that itch;

  • if you enjoy managing a team that you have time and space to do just that in your own style;

  • if you have children whom you like to see regularly, you have the flexibility to satisfy that parental need.

 

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

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

  • linked-in “likes” to an article you wrote;

  • a pat on the back from your boss;

  • winning a significant contract;

  • verbal praise for doing something specific really well;

  • an informal recommendation to speak to you about something you are great at;

  • a bloody good appraisal; and of course...

  • let’s not forget…a decent bonus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's hard work searching for your superpowers.

It's hard work searching for your superpowers.

 

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

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

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