Managing the Transition: Midlife Career Change Part 1
As the years went by, my enthusiasm changed. I went into business and marketing and I lived it. I held an optimistic view, especially when meaty projects and promotions allowed me to grow and advance over the years. Then an ugly stage happened. It was the age of large company consolidation. Companies started trimming the fat, looking for opportunities to reduce, often cutting costs by eliminating jobs. I was forced to lay off great employees year after year. I was left with my colleagues to ‘manage change’, to help our staff overcome the loss of their team members, to take on excessive workload, and to absorb profit-first philosophies from senior management. I became very competent at riding the waves. Change management became a high competency skill for me, yet inside my head, a storm was brewing. I was suffering from intense anger, fear, and cynicism. midlife career changeT
Then, Boom! The biggest change of all happened. I lost my job at 43 and I was faced with midlife career change. It sent me into a tailspin of self-doubt, helplessness, and pain. Before this, I was successful at my job, achieving constant rewards and promotions. Yet, I ignored the signs of yearning for a different career and of changing my path to a career that could nourish my soul, as opposed to the one that was consuming my being and resisting my desires. I lost my purpose, and I lost my identity.
What was happening was that I wasn’t managing myself through change.
I was resisting it.
Only because I couldn’t find a way to deal with it.
Troy’s experience with managing career change was different. Although he too had to manage change every day as a freelance TV and video editor, bouncing from one project to another. He was constantly looking for new work, but he saw his alternative, which was working in a pressure cooker of a corporate environment that he experienced years earlier. In the past, opportunities to advance were limited, without the chance to choose interesting projects. He was yearning for something better, a more meaningful career that excited him waking up each day, but he knew midlife career change would be hard.
We all deserve to have a career that lights us up (as much as it did in our early days of our careers), which is why we chose to manage ourselves through a new change.
Two and half years ago, Troy and I made a bold move to reinvent ourselves – to live, work and travel independently and redesign our careers to suit us. These last two years have been some of the scariest and most challenging, yet the best years of personal and career growth.
We needed new tools to manage our way through this change.
It is no wonder why it’s difficult now, since we face new worries and new challenges as we step into our mid-life. Twenty years ago, it seemed simple.
In fact, for us in Generation X (anyone 35-49 years old), and many of or readers, we are labeled as the most worried generation, especially when it comes to our ability to feel prepared for retirement, our fear of midlife career change and paying for education. This is explained in this infographic below by ScottTrade:
It’s no wonder why we feel this way in fact,
– We must discover how to now ‘fit’ into this new world – where some of the tools and skills we used in our earlier careers may no longer work.
– If you are in a job for a long time, it requires facing many new areas of the career market that you do not know.
– Ageism is also a reality. According to a Forbes Article on Ageism, despite our years of experience and our skills, we face the challenge of convincing employers we can still function in the job market. Such as whether we have the stamina to handle the job; if we are up to speed with technology; if we can work with younger staff; if we are willing to try new things; or if we will feel insulted with accepting lower salaries. These are challenges we need to thwart as we look for meaningful work.
Midlife career change is impossible without managing the transition in our own minds.
There are three critical steps to managing the mind games and emotions with Midlife career change:
1. Accept that change cannot happen without some level of turmoil, anarchy, and madness.
“Fear, uncertainty and discomfort are your compasses toward growth.” Celestine Chua
- Job loss, searching for new work and change can lead to depression, anxiety, as well as physical and mental health issues. It doesn’t have to be that way. But do you want to be included in this statistic?
- Positive changes in your life can’t happen unless there is some sort of struggle. Otherwise, we would want to change every day.
- You will face a wave of emotions, which is perfectly normal.
- The internal struggle may not happen immediately. But often, people quit when it gets hard, pushing them to return to the safety of their comfort zone.
- Bad thoughts and stories about ourselves will surface, and this is also perfectly normal.
So, acceptance of this inevitable outcome is crucial and you are not the only one feeling this way.
2. Remain calm and put a different perspective on the situation.
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”- Charles R. Swindoll
Right now, this may seem easier said than done, and quite impossible, but let me explain:
- The natural reaction is to panic. Acknowledge that you are moving into a new chapter in your life. You may not control the situation, but what you can control is how you react to it.
Resources to help calm down
A. Mantras: I use this mantra several times a day to calm myself down – and I say it out loud:
“These are unexpected circumstances beyond my control, but I choose to react positively as always. Any change gives me the opportunity to grow. In fact, I will find work that interests and excites me!”
B. Meditation: Yes, meditation works, and there is a science behind it. It has worked for us time and time again to relieve the stress and anxiety in our life.
“The first thing to realize is that reality isn’t what’s actually worrying you, but it’s your fixed habit of mind that’s causing you to respond to everything with anxiety.” – Deepak Chopra.
Want to give it a try? Here are some tools we use to practice meditation are:
- Calm – Great for beginners and it explains the science behind it.
- Headspace – Great for beginners
- Insight timer – A free app featuring ‘a la carte’ various meditations and for different levels and different needs – morning, inspiration, sleep.
Treat this as a huge opportunity given to you to create change, instead of wallowing in the fear of change.
3. Gratitude, Space, and Action
If you don’t, you are going to face massive difficulty navigating through the ups and downs of this new order.
A) Practice Gratitude
- A 2012 study published in the Personality and Individual Differences journal shows that grateful people are more likely to take care of their health. Our health is everything. If we aren’t healthy, how can we discover and enjoy meaningful work? Grateful people exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups with their doctors, likely helping with energy, stamina, and longevity.
- Gratitude improves your psychological well-being. A research by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, confirms that gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression. Depression can be a symptom when managing change.
- Gratitude improves psychological health.Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, such as frustration, envy, resentment, and regret.
- People who practice gratitude were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experience more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge. Isn’t this the perfect way to reduce the frustration of looking for a new job in a challenging job marketplace?
- We love the 5-minute Journal as a tool to practice gratitude. It is literally 5 minutes of pleasurable reflection each day that can make you accountable of your emotions.
- Journaling – You don’t need a fancy journal to do this. You can begin writing in your own journal by focusing on the little bits of joy in your life. Try asking yourself what you are grateful for in the morning and a reflection about your day in the evening. No matter how small it is, it helps. (Even if the only thing you enjoyed from that day is the food you had for dinner.)
- Gratitude Workbook – Our friend David Ryan from Reinventure.org has a simple e-book that can help you practice gratitude. The good thing is that it is available for free on his website when you sign up to his newsletter. His website is all about creating change in one’s life and, in this case, coming back to your creativity to enable change.
B) Make Space
Physically removing yourself from your surroundings is one of the best ways to clear your head and create space for a new perspective. It can include an afternoon surrounded by the outdoors, going for a long run or workout, or reflecting in a coffee shop. Travel, of course, is one of the best ways to gain a new perspective, which led to my popular post about: How travel changed my views about the corporate world.
Resistance to change during this process will be obvious beyond the waves of emotion that we covered, and you will most likely experience PROCRASTINATION at some stage.
“Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.” ~ Victor Kiam
“Procrastination is the thief of time.” ~ Edward Young
Who wants to lose the opportunity to find meaningful work or lose more precious time in one’s life?
And staying in the doldrums about it won’t help either.
- During my transition into my career, I read a great book about career transition, called It’s your Move by Marge Watters. Chapter 3 helped me move through the emotions and feelings associated with my job, losing the feelings of being a victim and, instead, looking forward to the journey of my career transition.
- More action resources coming in Part 2 of our Midlife Career Change Series.
You aren’t alone in this process, but you do need to take care of YOU.
Please tune in for Part 2 next, where we continue sharing about the journey of our mid-life career change, and the specific actions we took toward creating new careers.
How about you?
What feelings come up for you as you manage or managed your path to a career change?
What has helped you work through your career transition? We would love to hear from you.
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