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Want to Pursue a Career Change at Mid Life But Don't Know What to Do? - Ask Your 15 Year Old Self

12/08/2014 13:13 BST | Updated 11/10/2014 10:59 BST

I was searching through some old photographs recently and came across my careers advice note from the meeting I had with a careers advisor 32 years ago at the age of 15. It made for very interesting reading. It shows that I had 2 areas of interest but the one that I was encouraged to pursue was not the one I was really passionate about.

The advice given to me did not explore my reasons for those interests and if it had, things might have been very different...

Fast forward 30 years and 3 years ago, having made a mid life career change at the age of 44, I have finally pursued what I was really passionate about at 15 years old. I had actually forgotten about what I was interested in doing at the age of 15 until I came across my old careers advice note.

Many women are often feeling unfulfilled with their work at mid life

When I made my mid life career change after spending 28 years working in the same organisation, it was to pursue the thing that I was most passionate about and having now reconnected with my 15 year old self, I now realise that was the path I really wanted to pursue back then.

This got me thinking about a lot of the women I work with, many of whom are in their late 30s or in their 40s and 50s and are feeling unfulfilled with their work. They may have had very successful careers in terms of having reached senior positions in their organisations, but despite this, they have not followed their true passion. For some of them they chose the career paths that their parents wanted them to go down.

I have worked with many doctors, lawyers, accountants etc who had not really wanted to enter these professions but they did it because that was expected of them and they were discouraged from pursuing their passion.

Step back in time...

Step back in time to when you were 15 years old, what were your hopes and dreams for your career back then? How has your actual career borne out in reality? How much does it reflect the dreams of your 15 year old self? An Article in the New York Times earlier this year stated that childhood dreams can inspire rewarding second careers. I often find that when clients decide on their mid life career change, it is to do something based on what they were interested in when they were a lot younger.

How much do you still yearn for doing work of the kind that you wanted to do back then? It might be that you don't want to do it exactly in that form but may want to do something along those lines. For me, I wanted to do work helping people, such as working with people in the community. Whilst what I do now does not strictly fall within that remit, when I think back to what I wanted to do at 15, it was to help and support people to live better lives, which as a coach is what I am doing now. Plus, I also do voluntary work supporting people in the community.

How can you make it happen?

If you want to pursue the career that you really wanted to pursue at 15 years old, what will it take to make it happen? Do you want to do this working for yourself or working for somebody? Do you need to retrain or do some studying? When I made the decision to quit employment and start my own coaching business, although I had done a lot of in house coaching training over the years, I completed a Masters in Coaching Psychology in order to gain a credible coaching qualification.

If you haven't got experience in the field you are interested in, what can you do to get experience? Is it possible for you to do voluntary work in order to gain that experience?

Does the idea of making a change seem scary?

Making a career change at mid life can be pretty scary, particularly if you have been in your job for a very long time. What is the thing that scares you the most about making this change? Spend some time examining your fears. How realistic are they? What evidence is there to support that what you fear will actually come true? How have you dealt with similar situations in the past?

Two very common fears that I come across from my clients are, thinking that they are not good enough or thinking that it will not work out and they will end up without enough money to live on. I shall address each of these concerns separately: -

I'm not good enough

When you have done the same role for many years, it can be easy to lose sight of your skills and think that you do not have the skills to do anything else, however, I assure you that you have more skills than you probably even realise. Dig out your job description and reacquaint yourself with your skills, those same skills that got you your job in the first place.

What skills do you have that are transferrable to the career you are interested in? What skills do you need to develop and how can you do this?

Look at how you are in your current role. I am sure that you are very good and confident at what you do. However, once upon a time, you were the new girl. What did you do to establish yourself back then? What is stopping you using those same tactics you used back then to establish yourself in a new role?

Confidence comes with experience and if you can equip yourself with all the knowledge, skills and training you need to do the job, continuously practising it will enable you to feel confident doing it.

It might not work out and I will end up without enough money

I find that this concern is particularly common for those who want to leave employment and start their own businesses. Likewise, for those who may have to take an initial pay cut. Some of the things my clients have put in place to negate this are: -

  • Working out a survival budget
  • Cutting back on lavish expenses
  • Renting out a spare bedroom (you can even do this tax free up to a certain limit)
  • Planning their exit whilst saving so that they have a buffer
  • Getting a part time job whilst they grow their business or reducing the number of days they work in their current role until they can eventually hand in their notice

What else can you think of?

So, to the 15 year old girl you once were, knowing what you now know, what careers advice would you give her now? How can you use this advice to make your mid life career change and pursue a career or business that you love?

If you are thinking of making a mid life career change, what are the obstacles that are getting in your way? I would love to hear what they are and what you are doing to overcome them so please leave you comments below.

If you want to make a mid life career change but are unsure what you want to do, download a free copy of 5 Steps to Pursuing Your Passion at Mid Life: A Guide to Designing a Career You Love.