How Do I Know if a Mid-Life Career Change is Right for Me?

If you want to make your dreams come true,

the first thing you have to do is wake up.

~J.M. Power

Find yourself frequently bored at your job?  Caught yourself daydreaming about doing something different? It’s not uncommon for professionals to find themselves at the mid-point in their career imagining doing something else even if they are highly successful and proficient in their occupation.  Sometimes the boredom is a brief encounter and when the next big project or challenging assignment comes along, the leader is re-engaged.  For others though the lingering continues, leaving the leader feeling perplexed.

What causes some leaders to feel a void in their careers when

they still have many years of work ahead of them?

We assume that once we get the right job, find the right partner, and have children, all is steady and on a path of happiness.  But the truth is life just doesn’t work that way and it is usually at the mid-point of our lives that we begin to feel stuck and start asking questions like,

“Why hasn’t life turned out the way I thought it would?” 

“Why am I unhappy even though I have a great career and family?”  

“Why do I feel like I am missing out on something bigger?”

As an Executive Coach and Psychotherapist, I have learned that the bigger questions about life that surface should not be rejected.  These queries are coming from a deeper place, sometimes unknown to our conscious selves.  These urges usually surface subtly and can be quickly overlooked or denied.  This is where curiosity as a leader can be extremely useful.  Instead of dismissing these thoughts or feelings, explore them.  Anyone who quickly rejects them is missing out on an opportunity to grow.  Even if you stay in your current career, you still have an opportunity to learn something new.

According to James Hollis, PH.D. and author of Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life,

“… In most cases we come to this point in our life serving a diminished view of ourselves.” This is because we repeat the script and expectations of the first half of life. Some of these scripts  come to us through our family, schools and community and sound like;

You should follow in your father’s footsteps and be a lawyer.

Careers in the health and financial industry are the most dependable.

You should be more like your brother and get a PH.D.

All of these statements could have a bit of truth in them, and were probably delivered with positive intent. However, it is only in the second half of life that we have the opportunity to rewrite the script that fits our true selves. The second half of life provides a shot at getting ourselves back again by engaging a larger world, one more complex, less safe, and more challenging.  

Ways to Explore Whether a Mid-Life Career Change is Right for You

  • Begin jotting down your thoughts, ideas and emotions. This step honors the part of yourself that is sometimes outside the range of consciousness, but knows what is right for us and is reporting to us via our bodies, emotions, and dreams.
  • Share your ideas with a close friend who will allow you to think out loud without a lot of advice and will keep your conversation confidential.
  • Consider working with a Coach who is trained in self-examination and self-reflection. If you are just exploring the possibility of making a change, you need someone who can help you identify what these thoughts and feelings really mean, not build your resume.
  • Engage in this process sooner than later. If your wiser self knows that a change is needed, you don’t want to wait until a crisis occurs in your career. Start the process now even if you don’t make a change for three or five years. You will feel more confident and prepared to make the transition once you are ready.