The Career Coach is In

Obstacles to midlife career change

I am thinking about making a career change and am feeling overwhelmed. I am a 52-year-old male and am really anxious about it. Any tips?

Midlife is a lot like being a teenager again--only with more wisdom. We may not stay out all night and run with a wild crowd, but many in their 40s and 50s experience the same restlessness and yearning for change. We're still asking questions about what we want to be when we grow up, but the concerns are deeper, more profound. This time we won't settle for less than what makes us truly happy.

This is especially true for the work we do. Yes, we want to pay the bills, support a family, save for old age. But, many of us now want our work to be meaningful and make a difference. We ask ourselves if not now, then when? What better time to act on those unfulfilled dreams? Work is one of the most profound ways we live our true selves, and now is the time to start doing that.

Yet, it can seem as if there's a chasm between the knowing and the doing. We know something's not right with our current job or career path, but we tell ourselves to live with it. We set goals but feel too overwhelmed with daily life to try something new. We worry that to make a change to follow a dream would be selfish, especially if it means a loss of income, or upsets our family and friends.

In fact, every person living out his or her dreams gives a gift to the world--he or she inspires others to do the same.

"We often hesitate to follow our hearts, to grow, because of perceived barriers," writes Carole Kanchier in "Dare to Change Your Job--and Your Life."  Her book is one of many resources that help break down those barriers, the two biggest of which are fear and confusion.

Fear makes us think we're too old to change. We think, "If I switch jobs now, I'll have to start over at the bottom. What if I fail, then what?" Fear is normal, and it's important to acknowledge it. There are numerous tactics to help you through the fear. The most powerful may be looking to others who've gone through life/career changes.

Many of us are confused about what we want. We're often clearer about what we don't want than what we actually do want. We may have lived out others' expectations of us for so long we're not even sure what actually makes us happy. Or we're not certain how to turn our many talents and skills into meaningful work.

Coaches are an excellent resource to help you ask the right questions to sharpen your focus and goals. They can guide you to imagine and create real work that isn't just a job, but a whole new life.

Whether it's a new career or small shifts in how you work, making a change in midlife can bring new energy and joy to your life--like being a teenager again--only better.


Marshall Brown

 |  September 17, 2010; 6:36 AM ET  |  Category:  Career Change , Career Coaching , Career Management Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: What is job satisfaction? Part 3 | Next: Finding joy at work


Please report offensive comments below.

Prepare to bite your tongue frequently if you are changing careers at the age of 52. More than likely a 52 year old with their training, knowledge, and experience will be rewarded by having to deal with the new age of sub standard managers. Managers with very thin skins, who do not tolerate alternative opinions. Managers who fear those with experience and knowledge from hands on work. Managers who don't know that they don't know. I would suggest trying to go into business for yourself at that age. One thing is to never lose your self respect or sell your soul to any incompetent superior just to get along.

Posted by: bobbo2 | September 20, 2010 11:04 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Post a Comment

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company