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Career Change at 30, 40 or 50

This post provides a how to list on career change for people in already established careers.

Career change, bored of job, job frustration, new career

1. Trust Your intuition

You are bored, angry, frustrated. You feel under-stimulated, under-utilised, disrespected. You are overworked. You are unsatisfied but can’t put your finger on why. You feel like a square peg in a round hole.

You may have a good job that other people think is impressive. Or you may have a job that you find soul-crushingly miserable. Either way, you are not proud to tell people what you do. Most nights before work you have feelings of dread about the next day. You are tired.

Doing a job that is wrong for you is horrible.

So even if, on paper, your job seems perfect, trust your intuition. What you feel is as important as what you (and especially what other people) think.

This is where you should start. With your feelings. Trust yourself.

If you have persistent misgivings about your job, the feelings are telling you something important. They are telling you that you want or deserve something better or something different.

2. Is it the company or the job?

Sometimes changing companies is what you need. Perhaps the ethos and atmosphere of your workplace is a bad fit. This can be tricky to ascertain and since career change is potentially costly, and certainly time consuming, it can be frightening taking the leap. Often the first step people take toward career change is to take a similar role in a different company. This buys time (or wastes it, depending on how you look at it) and enables you to test whether it’s your choice of career or your choice of employer that is the problem.

I did this very thing. In fact, I did it three times within the same profession. How I wish I hadn’t. Because what I discovered is that the company ethos wasn’t relevant – I just didn’t like my job.

I’m not suggesting that this is necessarily true of you, but as someone who wasted ten years doing something that wasn’t right for me, I suggest that you can circumnavigate the same kind of costly error, and find out for sure before putting out the feelers for a similar role in a different location. How, you ask? Through coaching.

“Aha”, I hear you say, “you would say that, you are a coach”. Well, yes, that’s true. I am a coach. But I wouldn’t be a coach if I didn’t think that it could be valuable to people like you. So, if I may, hear me out.

Career change, new job, new career

3. Figuring out if the job fit or the culture fit is wrong

One way to figure out if it’s the job or the company is to change companies. But consider this: when you get a new job you are not able to apply your critical faculties in the same way as through considered reflection.

A new job takes up a lot of your time and mental resources.

You have to apply for the job, jump through all the recruitment hoops, start your new role, get acclimatised to different working practices and systems, get to know new colleagues and clients, socialise with your new team… all this stuff takes a lot of time. On top of that, once you are in the role you would be rightfully weary of quitting even if it felt like the wrong fit. You wouldn’t want a strange blip on your CV or resumé. It would be unhelpful if, during this time, you were continually questioning whether the job was right for you. To find that out, you would need to experience the job and do it uncritically for a period of time.

Before you know it, you have been in the job for two years, and it is only at this point that you can finally appraise the job for what it is and how it feels to you.

This way of doing things is as time inefficient as it is pointless.

4. Take Stock

What you need to do instead is to take stock. Your intuition is already telling you that something is amiss. You need to get to the root of the problem.

You can do this in two ways. First, do an audit of your values. Second, appraise your role and your company with your values in mind.

This is fairly complicated stuff, because really getting to the core of your values without all the noise of what you do is hard. This is where coaching helps, because a coach will dig down beyond the surface and help you to distinguish between what you can do (and therefore may feel you should do) and what you want to do. They will help you to get clarity about what you fundamentally value.

I’ll give you an example from my own career change. When I worked in theatre my job was creative (writing and directing shows), administrative (managing people and processes) and pedagogical (I had to know about the mechanics of teaching and had to be able to teach). If I framed my values in terms of what I did well, I might well (and probably did) conclude that I wanted to do a job where I could utilise my people management and persuasive skills, that required creative planning and thinking, and where I could pass on new knowledge.

However, what I failed to recognise was that all these values were simply manifestations of my job. I was looking for the elements in the job that I could attach value to. Had I dug deeper I would have found that what I really value is helping other people to unlock their skills and talents and to see them succeed; having immersive experiences where I could bring my thinking and problem-solving skills to bear; and being autonomous and independent.

Had I l focused on what really motivated me about my work I would know that helping and supporting, not teaching, is my main value. I was most excited when anybody I worked with found joy or self-belief or independence. I would also know, had I dug deeper, that when working with other people what I value most is sharing my skills and knowledge, and giving people the space and the support to grow – I like facilitating, not leading.

Instead of working this stuff out though I got a leadership job with a different company. And then I freelanced doing similar work. What would I have done had I known this stuff about myself sooner? I would have been more confident about what suited me and what didn’t, I would have freelanced part time to pay for myself to do my master’s part time seven years sooner, I would have established my solopreneur career earlier.

So was it time wasted? No, it wasn’t. I learned a lot along the way. Regretfully though my confidence was badly eroded because I was frequently unsatisfied, but there were still things to enjoy – good people, new skills, interesting experiences.

Which brings me to my final point.

Career change, change journey, career path, new job

5. Enjoy the ride

The most important part about career change – whether you take the long-winded route, or use a coach to get straight to the heart of the matter – is to enjoy the ride.

The destination might be far off in the distance, so if you are always focused on that without taking in the views along the way and enjoying them, you will remain forever unsatisfied


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