Career Change For Those In Their 40s and 50s

By Career Control

I recently met with three career counseling clients in their late forties-early fifties.  In each case, the client had come in to shift careers.  Each had spent 20-25 years in a career.  While each had variations regarding their career unhappiness, each had suffered for the last several years in some combination of boredom-anxiety-low grade depression related to work. The details have been changed but the broad themes are factual.

Jim has been at a Fortune 500 company for over two decades. High income, big title, and, relatively speaking, reasonable freedom in his job.  Indeed, some of his friends think he’s crazy to seek out something new. Jim has not only been bored for years but also seeking to build his legacy.  He’s always been interested in serving others or doing something more meaningful than his current work.

At best, Jim finds his current work to be “net-zero” in his words for his contribution to the world. Longing to find something that would shift his legacy, Jim had heard of my career counseling practice but was actually more intrigued by how I shifted from doing something entirely practical (big city attorney) to something highly idealistic (education-entrepreneur). We had an amazing conversation.  I think I simply “tipped the balance” to make Jim commit to moving on to his own idealistic venture.  I contributed in one distinct way: Jim needed to hear someone who had done what he had hoped to do.  Since most all his friends/acquaintances were corporate types, Jim had no one to model.  My contribution was not much in my mind but it was what he needed.

Peggy has been “trapped” in the insurance industry all her career.  She never had interest in the industry but, like many, she drifted into her career and then stayed due to the practicality of contributing to her family/children’s finances.  Now, with her kids out of the home and finances in reasonable order, she, too, wanted to move onward.  She had an idea for a business but no idea how she could build one.  “It seems overwhelming.  I’ve been stuck in a cubicle for 20 years.  What do I know about building a business?”

Fortunately, I do know something about building businesses.  By transferring my knowledge for how to build service businesses in Connecticut, I may have contributed to a genuinely life-changing transition.  I don’t want to claim that it is easy to start a business. But, I do know its easier than ever and that I can help people “quick-start” their way to entrepreneurship.  In Peggy’s case, she left beaming because she thought her children would so proud of her if she starts a business.  She didn’t use the word legacy but that’s what she meant.

Hank… Poor Hank. Hank told me that he has been reading articles from a dozen other career help blogs for several years.  He has been unhappy in his job most of his life.  Like Jim and Peggy, his finances were in decent shape.  He needed to work but did not need to make big income  I gave Hank very distinct advice regarding how to change his career.  He agreed that the advice was spot-on.  But, he knows himself, he can’t bear to take risks.   Even when I walked him through risk-analysis and even when he agreed that the risk of things going poorly were minimal, he kept coming back to his inability to change.  “I almost wish I was fired. Then, I’d have to do something else.”

If you are in your late 40s/early 50s and want to change your career, you should make every effort to explore making it happen.

Be like Jim and Peggy.  Embrace change and build your legacy.