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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four types of stories (that keep you stuck)

1. Impossibility stories

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

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

I get to hear lots of these stories.

Here are just a few examples: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • I’m too old to change career.

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

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

  • I’ll do it in my 60s. 

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

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

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

…exactly where they are

…for a very long time

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

2. Blame stories - two varieties

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

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

a) Blame stories about “them”

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

  • My boss is such a X.

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

  • The company culture is wrong for me.

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

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

  • They’re not treating us like humans.

  • They're just not listening.

  • They just want to control me.

  • They don’t appreciate anything we do.

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

b) Blame stories about me

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

  • I’ve lost my mojo.

  • I’ve nothing more left to give.

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

  • I don’t have the skills they want.

  • I don’t fit anymore.

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

  • I’m not very good at X anymore. 

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

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

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

They simply keep you stuck. 

3. Invalidation stories

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

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

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

Here are some examples:

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

  • They shouldn’t treat us this way.

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

  • They wouldn’t support me. 

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

Or

  • I don’t have what it takes. 

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

  • I’m not an entrepreneur. 

  • I’m not MD material. 

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

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

  • I’m not clever enough. 

  • I’m not good enough. 

  • I’m not X enough. 

4. Zero-accountability stories

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

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

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

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

But we own the choice

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

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

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

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

  • Choosing our daily reactions to work situations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What stories are you telling yourself most often? 

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

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

Read about that next time. 

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



Is your job sucking the life out of your life? A 3 minute exercise that could change your future, this week.

It’s great to feel valued in your company but what happens when you are giving up time with family, friends and down-time to feel valued at work?

Older and wiser?

Last year, a friend’s husband joined a very young technology company.  He is the most experienced employee in the company (yup - I mean oldest!) and the only employee with enough technical experience to trouble-shoot the plethora of problems being thrown at them on a daily basis.

Coincidentally, he is the only employee over the age of 40.

The twenty-somethings have amazing skills but not enough experience to see the bigger picture to be able to anticipate potential problems. 

So what?

He therefore carries an over-night bag with him to the office every day to jump on a plane any time a problem is too big for the talented youth to deal with. This month, he took at least one emergency (totally unplanned) plane rides across Europe each week

And again, so what? 

As his company lurches from one emergency to the next, his wife and children are getting lonely and perhaps just a little used to operating without him, even at the weekend. 

Worse still, when he does get home, he is so exhausted that he struggles to have the energy to have much fun with his family. 

This is the reality of life for us all, some of the time. But if this kind of work relationship extends more than a few months, it can suck the life out of our real lives and trigger burnout.

The example above is extreme due to the young entrepreneurial nature of that business but there are definitely more mature businesses that continually suck the life out of our lives outside work. 

This is fine… if work is your raison d’etre. 

Ok - so work is sucking some of the life out of your life? It’s time to try something different…cue “The one thing” exercise.

Ok - so work is sucking some of the life out of your life? It’s time to try something different…cue “The one thing” exercise.

“The One thing” exercise.

If you’d rather be spending your free time climbing a mountain, riding your bike, volunteering for your favourite charity, cuddling your young kids, taking your older kids to an Ed Sheeran concert or... dancing naked in the sun, it’s about time you asked yourself one question...

What is the ONE thing that you WILL be doing a great deal more of in ten years that you just don’t have enough time to do now?

  1. Write it down on a piece of paper and put it in your inside pocket, in your laptop bag, on your bathroom mirror or beside your phone charger. Somewhere where you will see it many times over the next few days. 

  2. Then just let your subconscious absorb it and play with it while you sleep, while you work, while you shower, whenever.

Here's are some of the “one things” from my Big Re-think programme over the last few months. Forgive my hand-writing.

Some of the results from “The one thing” exercise I ask my clients to do at the beginning of The Big Re-think programme

Some of the results from “The one thing” exercise I ask my clients to do at the beginning of The Big Re-think programme

 

Over the next week or so, if you have chosen a place where you will see and touch this piece of paper regularly (which should be getting pretty scrappy by then) some things will happen:

a)    You might find yourself thinking about your future more often.

b)   You might find yourself thinking about your present situation more often.

c)    You might even find that you have discussed/planned or actually done a little more of the activity that you wrote down on that scrap of paper.  If you haven’t don’t worry but keep going.  You are just very stuck in your busy work pattern.  Make sure you place the piece of paper somewhere where you touch it multiple times a day.

Wake up moments

Here’s the crunch…

Very few of us have taken the time to narrow down what we REALLY WANT in life so it’s bloody hard to make decisions that allow us to create our ideal future…or even our good enough future.

What often happens is that you ‘wake up’ having wasted a few years during which your company has been at the helm of your entire life instead of just your working life.  

  • You've booked your holidays around quieter times at work.

  • You've missed nights out with your partner due to prioritising something at work.

  • You've missed all your planned exercise slots for more than a week…again.

  • You've also not been much fun at the weekend because you’re totally knackered from your work week.

This very basic handwritten “note-to-self” exercise over a week or two will give you some insight into how your life’s auto-pilot often doesn’t take into consideration your longer term goals.

By choosing to define one very specific long-term goal to spend more time on X, you’ll focus on making time for X (both consciously and subconsciously) in the present which can transform your future. 

What will you choose to focus your mind on this week?

Related articles

To get more ideas on re-designing your work to make sure you spend more time doing exactly what you want to do both today and in the future, sign up to my newsletter and book into one of my free 30mins calls where I guarantee to give you at least two personalised recommendations to kick start your career redesign - whether you choose to work with me or not.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is my Career Change Balance Sheet?

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

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

Scared senseless

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

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

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

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

  • highlight if any priority imbalances;

  • begin to think about next steps; and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why you need to write your thoughts down somewhere?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How I began my Career Change Balance Sheet.

I took seven parts of my life and assessed the situation 

  • a) before I made my career change 

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

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

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

  1. Mental Health;  

  2. Fun; 

  3. Sleep; 

  4. Physical Health; 

  5. Finances; 

  6. Volunteering; and 

  7. Home life

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

Careeer change Balance Sheet
Career Change Balance Sheet Pg 2

The surprises for me after reviewing my balance sheet: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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:

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

100.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They took a pen to their work to design it differently

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

Before another month evaporated.  

If you liked this you’ll love this…

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

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

 









Yet another scary career experiment..how to prepare for your first podcast

Had I lost my mind? Why the heck would I deliberately put myself out of my comfort zone and face potential rejection and criticism while recording myself stumbling about in a conversation in front of people I don’t know?  

165million potential podcast listeners - that’s why!

If I believed in my message enough, I’d be prepared to put myself through a bit of pain to get my message out to many more people? To do little experiments that might be a bit uncomfortable and expand the reach of my message? Wouldn’t I?

I’m always talking to my clients about moving out of their comfort zone to try new ideas and to show that it doesn’t kill you, I write about them as honestly as I can.

But, sometimes I miss the safety of hiding behind a giant FTSE 250 business!

4 years ago I left my corporate career behind. Escaped to do a MSc Psychology. Then created my first ever business (Midlife Unstuck) to help other professionals in their 40s and 50s design more satisfaction into the second half of their careers.

But 2 years in, I hit a bit of a wall getting my message out there and decided to throw myself to the media wolves and narrow in on a PR strategy. For too long, I’d been hiding behind social media spreading my message - oh so slowly - which has been fruitful but very slow going.

I’m a fan of experimenting with your career and I like to practise what I preach, so after pitching successfully to the wonderful journalist Zoe Williams, I was grateful for a few mentions in one of her Guardian articles on 21st century midlife crisis.  

Confidence heightened, I decided that podcasts might be a way to get some more eyes (well…ears actually) on my business.

But I was scared.

Still am, if I’m being honest.

Me and my fear

  • Introvert 👍

  • Struggle to talk in straight lines 👍

  • Would prefer to interview rather than be interviewed 👍

  • Don’t like being the focus of attention 👍

  • Anxious about sounding like a “too-big-for-my-boots, arrogant, know-it-all” 👍

  • Need to grow my business so that I can keep doing work that I love forever  👍

So where to start?

I keep battling with this fear of putting myself out there so I set challenges to help me get out of my own way.

I keep battling with this fear of putting myself out there so I set challenges to help me get out of my own way.

Frightened that I might stop if the going got tough, I made myself a promise that I would pitch to 25 different podcasts before deciding whether they were worthwhile or not for my business.

I wrote the promise in big letters on my office whiteboard, added it to my This is my era 90day planner, told my kids about it (they’ll never let me forget!), made it the wallpaper on my phone and started an trello checklist.

The research stage - it’s easy to get stuck in this stage because it’s not painful and I like planning. But planning isn’t doing…

The research stage - it’s easy to get stuck in this stage because it’s not painful and I like planning. But planning isn’t doing…

Then I went about making it happen.

The Research Stage (safe, safe, safe)

  1. Earplugs in.  Listen to lots of podcasts in your genre.  Seek out podcast categories that work for your business and create a starter list of smaller, newer podcasts in a category where your message would be well received

  2. Make a rough list of 25 podcasts that your message would be useful to the listeners. HINT: Don’t put Oprah or Pat Flynn on your top 25 list - that’s a sure recipe for failure before you’ve even started!  You can work up to them after your experiment has ended and you’ve perfected your message.

  3. Pick one that you particularly like. Listen to at least three or four episodes, review the titles to learn more about the listener interests. Follow the podcast host on all their social media to understand more about them. Comment if you feel strongly on one or more of their posts.  Write a 5 star, very specific, honest review for their podcast.

A short pitch highlighting how your message might help their listeners is key.

A short pitch highlighting how your message might help their listeners is key.

The Pitch (exposing, vulnerable and down-right painful!)

  1. Email your pitch to the podcast host-using the smallest number of words possible covering these three points:

    1. Who you are (just the bits that are specific to their audience);  

    2. Which of their podcast episodes you liked most and why;  

    3. What benefit your expertise might offer their listeners and whether they think you might be a good guest.    

  2. Repeat Research Stage (3) and Pitch Stage (1) until you get a “YES - I’d love you to come on the show!”

  3. When you have your first “Yes” start to prepare clear answers to their standard questions. Jot notes down on the key pieces of your work that you really feel would benefit their listeners.

Ok - time to get your shit together to make sure you do yourself justice in front of the mic.

Ok - time to get your shit together to make sure you do yourself justice in front of the mic.

The Recording (less painful but nerve-inducing nonetheless)

  1. Make sure you have the correct recording link that the host sent to you to hand (saves you sending a panic email to the host 5 mins before the start time (which I’m embarrassed to say I did!)

  2. Sort out your recording kit - often just a pair of standard iphone earphones with a microphone is fine.  I used Jabra earphones with built-in pull down microphone which I already owned. But some like to have the stability of a separate mic and get a blue snowball microphone.

  3. Make sure you’re in the strongest internet spot in your home/office and have closed the windows to reduce noise.

  4. Keep your bottle of water and your preparation notes close to hand.

  5. Plan and prepare your introduction story lasting a few minutes.  This is when the host allows you an uninterrupted few minutes to talk about yourself and your business. Easy to waffle here but it’s better if you have your story succinct with the most relevant parts for their audience.

  6. Listen really carefully to the host to answer their questions specifically.

  7. Ask a few questions of the host during the recording, as you would in a real conversation. This also gives you a moment to breathe.

  8. Perfection is boring. In life we occasionally stumble, say the wrong word, need a second to think and say inappropriate comments. They can be edited out if it’s a disaster but the more it sounds like you and the host are having a conversation, the more natural it will feel to the listener.

  9. It’s unlikely you’ll feel relaxed but you do need to smile so that you sound relaxed.

  10. Laugh and interact like the wonderful human you are and reap the benefits of having your message broadcast from the rooftops.  Share and market the podcast jointly with the host AND in your own world.

A word of gigantic word of thanks here to Michelle Reeves, author of The Happiness Habits Transformation and host of The Ideal Life Club podcast.  I didn’t tell her at the time but she offered me my first ever guest spot on her podcast.  

Michelle is a masterful interviewer who made me feel like I was the most interesting person in the world (which is definitely one of her Superpowers).  She gave me time to breathe in between questions by commenting or summarising what I’d said and generally made the experience far less like childbirth than I thought it was going to be...I would even go so far as to describe it as fun!

If you are reading this as a virgin podcast guest, I encourage you to give it a go. Why not join me on my 25 podcast pitch challenge and let me know how you go?

If you’re reading this as someone who is considering designing more satisfaction into your work, know that these sort of out-of-comfort-zone experiments are necessary…

Unless, of course, you want to stay where you are.

Listen here to my first ever podcast - then drop me a line to tell me what you think.




























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

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

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

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

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

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

Which emotion?  

  • Bravery?  Not always

  • Fear of taking risk? Not always.

  • Anger at feeling stuck? Not always.

  • Anxiety around change? Not always.

  • Worry around potential failure? Not always.

  • Status anxiety? Not always.

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

They all experienced enough vulnerability to say to themselves:

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


Then, here’s what happened:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They chose to:

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

  2. Cease feeling powerless or trapped.

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

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

  5. To give something new a try.

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

Any downsides to acknowledging your vulnerability?

LI Hurt like hell.png

Of course!

It can take time.  

It certainly takes effort.  

It leads to action.

It requires a great deal of personal honesty

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

BUT…

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

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

But who cares what other people think?

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

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

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

Your first step?

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

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

What have you got to lose?

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

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

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

“The whole truth is that 50+ year olds are an endangered species in big corporates.”

I’ve written hundreds of articles on how to design more satisfying midlife careers but I realised recently that I’ve made a mistake.  

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

This mistake became very clear when one of my clients asked my opinion on career options post-50 within big corporates. 

I drew breath before responding

“If you are in your 50s in a big corporate, get ready to be toast!” 

Not my most eloquent moment but a characteristically truthful one, nonetheless.

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

That whole truth is that 50+ year olds are an endangered species in big corporates. 

Ageism has simply not been tackled by big corporations, in organisations. The only people who would tackle it are of a similar age and this would do nothing but highlight their vulnerability.

These endangered 50+ year olds are usually positioned in general leadership and/or very specialist roles where they have been shrunk-to-fit. Both positions are extremely time-limited.  

No matter how “high potential” you were considered in your 20s and 30s, if you are facing or have already faced the “BIG 5-0” birthday within a big corporation…your days are numbered.

4 varieties of 50 year old corporate toast

4 varieties of 50 year old corporate toast

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

  1. The “Golden-toasted” variety:

The luckiest of these rare creatures have amassed a pension fortune for when they decide that they’ve been perfectly toasted. They can press their own eject button at any time if the company starts to turn up the heat setting. They have almost full control of the toaster.

This allows for a speedy and relatively burn-free exit as long as they are self-aware enough to pop themselves out before the company does - ego and identity intact.

2. The “Almost-toasted” variety:

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

These “almost-toasted” varieties hope to have enough time to leave the toaster with a lovely glow (ego and identity pretty much intact) and a bag of either pension/redundancy/exit treasure.

While all fingers are crossed for a hopeful lucrative exit, their impact on the business is very slowly declining - making the eject button ever-more attractive.

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

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

They have always been great at serious networking and taking actions so that it won’t be a shock when their toaster’s heat setting is turned up. They fully understand the toasting game.

Often they very proactively position themselves for their future, long-term career and many have job offers before the toaster pops them out so that there is a neutral impact on ego and identity.

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

4. The “Almost-burned” variety:

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

They feel valuable and valued. They enjoy work but have no time to have a serious look beyond the toaster to see what’s happening. They haven't had time for networking, don’t have relationships with executive search businesses because they haven’t needed them.

But someone else is controlling their career toaster setting and has been turning up the heat without their knowledge.

When this variety of toast burns, it will scar deeply and will take a great deal of time, effort and support to recover from. Ego and identity will be bruised for years to come.

If you’re in the Almost-burned category, what you just read will hurt like hell.

I’m sorry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose not to be toast. 

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

Here’s my personal story of how I chose not to let myself be toasted by a corporate career.

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



If you need help getting started, sign up to the You’re not too old and it’s not too late career change newsletter and download my free Beginner’s Guide to Successful Career Change in your 40s and 50s - Where to Start eBook.

If you’re ready to start designing your way out of your toaster, book in for a 30min (Free) Light and the end of my tunnel conversation with me now, to kick-start your happier career.

 

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

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

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

I’ve got a dilemma for you

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

What do you do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is the sunk cost effect is a problem?

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

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

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

They don’t want to waste their past investments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re-thinking sunk costs

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

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

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

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

Remember the dilemma? 

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

THEY ARE BOTH FREE!

Eh?

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

The only decision you need to make is…

Do you still want the gifts?  

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

The same goes for all of these examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other articles you might like:

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

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

Have you reached your mid-career tipping point yet?

The key to doing work that makes you happier

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My advice: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Concern 2: ‘It’s expensive.’

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

My advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concern 3: ‘I don’t have time.’

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

My advice:

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

That means:

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

·         discovering your uniqueness in an ever more competitive market;

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can.

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

My advice

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

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

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

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

My advice:

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

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

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

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

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

My advice:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next step?

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

Feedback from the Discover your Superpowers programme

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

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

Josie, HR, 40s, London

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

Danny, Finance Director, 50s, Surrey

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

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

Warren, CEO, 50s, London

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

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

Colette, Project Management, 30s, Glasgow

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

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

Sign up to have career happiness articles in your inbox twice a month

Common triggers for mid-lifers to change careers



 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next steps

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

Other related articles:

50 year old corporate toast

How to start creating your Plan B

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

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





THE 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.

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

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

Eh?

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

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

That got me thinking...

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

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

a)      the trauma of losing an elderly parent

b)      a personal health scare

c)       a serious illness of a close friend/sibling

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

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

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

·         moving home to be closer to family,

·         moving parents closer to us,

·         creating new family traditions,

·         changing how we eat and drink,

·         changing friends,

·         spending more time with x group of people,

·         spending less time with x group of people,

·         creating a bucket list,

·         scratching off items on an old bucket list,

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

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

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

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

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


Grief 3.jpg

How bereavement and grief impact our brain:

I found this simple little video helpful.

In summary, grief and loss can:

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

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

3.       Change our sleep patterns;

4.       Cause memory loss or brain fog.


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

The answer is, of course, it depends.

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

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

Recommendations:

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

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

Books:

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

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

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

Talk therapy: 

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

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

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

An unusual but brilliant podcast: 

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

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

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

Grief 1.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Disclaimer:

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

 

 

 

 





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

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

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

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

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

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

Who needs a Career Plan B?

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

Who doesn't need a Career Plan B?

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

Purpose of a Career Plan B:

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

Not all Career Plan Bs are the same.  

The two major styles of Career Plan B:

·        Pipe-dream Career Plan B

·        Real Career Plan B

Definition of a Pipe-dream Career Plan B:  A career escape route that may not be required but is considered the best alternative route in lieu of other options.

Examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quite a difference, eh?

The best time to design your Real Career Plan B: 

  • When you don’t NEED it.

  • In an ideal world, you’d begin investigating your REAL career Plan B when you are at the height of your career yet totally understand that you may not be doing what you’re doing forever.

  • You’d probably still enjoy parts of your current work but the sheen may have worn off a while ago. You have financial commitments that you’re not prepared to compromise on. This is the perfect time because your brain is in relaxed mode. You’ve got time on your side but you’d really love to have at least one ready-packaged idea that you could investigate and research in the background to make ready to go when the time is right.

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

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

How NOT to find a real career Plan B:

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

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

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

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

 How to START designing your Real Career Plan B:

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

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

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

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

  5. Refine the ideas

Easy peasy - eh?    

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

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

I’ve never met anyone who is without SuperPowers. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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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.
Follow your passion.png

3. Seeing advice from people you know and those who know your new chosen industry/field: 

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

4.   Implement resulting actions

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

Tight rope walker.jpg

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

A personal story that fills me with shame

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

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

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

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

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

How doing unfulfilling work impacts us all differently.

Dripping tap .jpg

Being in a career rut can feel like...

a slowly-dripping tap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  5. Analyse that experiment in detail.

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

  7. Continue forever.

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

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

Changing career in midlife is just a series of experiments...easier said than done!

I'd have paid good money to be doing this rather than conducting my scary experiment - was it worth it?

I'd have paid good money to be doing this rather than conducting my scary experiment - was it worth it?

As you might expect, given my career choice, I have designed my business around one of my unique strengths which also gives me joy – helping people through a proven career un-sticking process specifically on a one-to-one basis.   The one-to-one element was no accident.  Not only does that format play to my strengths - I’m scared witless of presenting to groups!   But, I had hit a problem in my business… 

In October and November, I was fully booked with one-to-one clients fulfilling my mission to “eradicate unnecessary career unhappiness - one mid-lifer at a time”.   BUT, I realised that even if that situation were to continue forever, I was going to be 90 years old before I make a decent dent in the raft of mid-life professionals in UK who are seriously career stuck.  

So, I decided to conduct an experiment to test an idea – not an easy idea for me.  Not an idea that would allow me to stay in my comfort zone.  In fact, it was an idea that every bone in my body was resistant to – presenting my ideas on how to un-stick your career to a group. 

The test question: Would it be possible to teach a small group the basics of unsticking their careers in 2hrs in front of people they don’t know?

I asked for help from someone whose superpower means she can take embryonic ideas and make them real - Rebecca Moody.    Rebecca kindly helped me design a group workshop idea into an experiment from which attendees would walk away with both an understanding of the secret to career happiness and some practical tools to help them kick-start a DIY unsticking process.  

So, one evening a few weeks ago in the Zoo Café near Godalming (the funkiest commuter Café I have ever seen) Rebecca and I co-hosted the first MidlifeUnstuck “Unstick my Career” workshop.

How scared I felt conducting this experiment: 

As I bombed down the A3 the second after the babysitter arrived, I looked and felt like a loonie coaching myself aloud that this experiment was “brave not stupid” whilst almost vomiting into my lap with nerves and fighting back the “What the hell am I doing?” feelings seeping out of every pore.  I was undoubtedly afraid, feeling totally exposed and decidedly vulnerable.  This was very different to presenting to groups in my old career – everything I would be presenting would be my ideas, my research and my programmes.  Amongst other fatalistic mantras and plentiful swearing, this is the type of self-chat that was going on in my car:

  • “Why the hell did I agree to this when I knew I get nervous speaking in front of groups?”

  • “What if I couldn’t communicate my knowledge and ideas?”

  • “What if my introverted self - who prefers one-to-one communication - doesn’t allow me to speak in straight lines?”

  • “What if I didn’t look like a career change expert after years studying and working to try to become one?”

  • “What if I am publicly exposed as a fraud?”

  • “What if everyone cancelled at the last minute?”

  • “What if they were all horrible people (or other such less gentile words)?”

  • “What if they all stand up, walk out and ask for their money back?”

Essentially, I was party to endless fearful conversations led by my own brain, trying to get me to turn around, let the babysitter go home early and do something less scary instead (see sofa photo above).    It was bloody hard to keep driving towards (what I perceived to be) imminent failure.

Did I turn the car around and head back to my comfy sofa? 

Only in my dreams.  The shame of not doing what I ask my clients to do on a daily basis would have crushed me.  I did exactly what I advise all of my clients to do…I took one step outside of my comfort zone and analysed what happened.  

 

Incase you were wondering...this is what I look like pretending to be brave...

Incase you were wondering...this is what I look like pretending to be brave...

  • I stepped out of the car after doing my 2 minute power pose (from Amy Cuddy's tedtalk) in the surprisingly gigantic commuter train station in the middle of nowhere. Still alive.

  • I walked in the door of the Zoo Cafe. Still alive.

  • I pretended Rebecca my co-host and co-owner of the Zoo Café that my nerves were excitement. Still alive.

  • I noted Rebecca’s eye for design which had transformed the venue from funky commuter café offering trademarked Cups of Awesome to sparkly, inviting, candle-lit group cave. I smiled. Still very much alive. I might even breathed!

  • I said “Hello” to the first smiley, lovely career-stuck individual. Not only alive but I could feel my shoulders relax to half-mast.

  • I nearly bear-hugged that poor lady simply for turning up but when I got close, I could sense a little of her own personal nerves. I breathed. It was going to be ok. I had not thrown myself to the Lions. This was an experiment not a death sentence.

 

The “Experiment and analysis” phase is something I talk a great deal about with clients who are a fair way down the un-sticking path.  There often isn’t a big leap from one career to another but lots of testing of mini-ideas and noting how the world reacts.  That evening, I re-lived all the feelings I had had when I first started the business and crikey it was painful...very far from comfy.    These experiments and tests are outside our comfort zones…but that’s kind of the point. 

If you’re not stuck, you don’t need to try anything different.  BUT, I was vividly re-learning how trying something different can be bloody scary. 

As more people joined us and had a little glass of something awesome to take the edge off the cold evening, I kept breathing and “braved up”.  The experiment had begun.

Here’s what happened in my group experiment:

  • 6 absolutely wonderful, successful career mid-lifers walked through the doors. They hailed from music, media, advertising, IT and banking industries. They had totally different disciplines, different family situations, different health situations, different reasons for feeling stuck and different fears of being stuck forever. But they had something in common: they were all, by their own admissions, “stuck”.

  • After introductions, I talked a little about what being “career stuck” looks like from my research and then I dug even deeper and exposed myself as someone who had been horribly stuck three few years ago. I talked about my own brand of focused-grumpy at work and stressy-distracted at home for years and told them about the day when enough was enough.

  • We then discussed the very simple key to short-term career happiness – and some of the complexity behind that idea.

  • We then worked in pairs to discuss the top three things that stop mid-lifers taking control of their careers and top three things that mid-lifers feel when they do regain control.

  • I presented some of the findings from my upcoming mini book “Dare to Hope” which tells how it actually feels for a selection of midlife career changers before and after they changed their careers (sign up to my newsletter and I’ll send it to you when it’s finished).

  • We also uncovered the secret to longer term, sustainable career happiness.

  • Then we did a mini-super powers session which resulted in everyone leaving knowing how to find their own brilliance but needing time alone to think quietly.

  • Finally we ran through my Beginners Guide to Mid-life Career Change” (which you can download from my website).

So what? Here’s how one scary, vomit-inducing experiment has changed my business:

  • I am planning a whole range of these introductions to the “Secrets to career happiness/Career re-design” workshops across the Surrey in 2018 with a similar format. (Get in contact with me if you’d like to co-host one in your locality)

  • Based on feedback, I’m toying with the idea of breaking my programmes up into modules and offering each of these as group sessions.

  • I’ve pressed “go” on an idea I have been working on for a while - The design of my first ever 5 day MidlifeUnstuck Transformation Programme in Bordeaux. It is specifically aimed at mid-lifers who are stuck but need to get away from it all to think clearly and would enjoy long country walks, exercise classes on site and healthy food in luxurious surroundings. This is a collaboration with the marvellous bespoke retreat company Pure Retreats. The first two retreats of 2018 have already sold out there are spaces left for March. Check it out here

Test question result: Was it possible to teach a small group the basics of unsticking their careers in 2hrs in front of people they don't know?  

Yes.  My programmes last between 3-6 months so it would have been impossible to un-stick those individuals fully but I hadn't set the experiment up to fail.  What was possible was for me to connect with a larger group of people in their 40s and 50s in order to share insights on re-designing their careers and for them to learn the basics on how to start the in-sticking process at home.  I tried to cover a great deal in one short session and the openness to learning and interest in how to get started from the attendees blew me away.  For confidentiality reasons, I cannot name these brave, curious individuals who had had enough of banging their heads against brick walls.  But I am delighted that they came. 

Some of them, I hope, will go on to choose a coach to help them on a one-to-one basis.  Others may join some of the future group sessions and move forward over time.  Others may sit down over the following few weeks and work through the beginners guide to pinpoint what it is they want, what it is they are great at and what changes they could make to impact their career enjoyment positively. 

I don’t believe there are any other options because once you know there is a possible way out, you can’t choose to stay stuck any longer.

For me, this was a very worthwhile experiment that has had a profound impact on me and my business.  Whilst I was undoubtedly afraid, many good things have come from the experience. 

Was the experiment slick, perfectly presented and did everyone walk off in a cloud of career happiness?  Of course not, but it was priced accordingly.  That said, I changed the world more than if I had stayed at home on my comfy sofa that night! 

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Dare to Hope is my new mini-book which has be carved out from my research interviews with 50+ interviews with successful mid-life career changers.  To get it emailed directly to you, sign up to my newsletter and it’ll be with you as soon as it is ready.