How To Bring About a Mid-Life Career Change

It's not enough to be ambitious and driven. Having your very own group of cheerleaders is vital if you want to bring about a radical career change or launch a business.

It's not enough to be ambitious and driven. Having your very own group of cheerleaders is vital if you want to bring about a radical career change or launch a business.

The world has turned entrepreneurial and women, it seems, are particularly keen to launch themselves in the business world. More female entrepreneurs are starting up businesses on the high street than ever before, with many of them in the 50+ age group - known as 'encore entrepreneurs'. Meanwhile, half of all vocational qualifications listed on the Qualifications and Curriculum Framework last year were awarded to those aged over 30, and one in four awarded to those who are 41-plus.

Women are hitting their middle years and deciding they want a second bite of the career cherry, often opting to do something completely different with the rest of their professional life. Instead of sticking with what they know or, post-redundancy, trying to cling to sectors where their faces may no longer fit, they're upskilling and retraining to move into sectors such as retail, information and communication technology and business.

But what if you're not one of them? What if your genius business idea, that brand new career or the novel that only exists in your head remains an unfulfilled dream - what if it never actually sees the light of day?

It took me four years to get my business idea off the ground. Like many freelance journalists I was finding it a struggle to make a reliable income, and had started dabbling in other ventures, but change careers? I had no idea where to start, and was terrified of failure. And how would I keep earning enough money to live off? My fears, lack of knowledge and worries over practical issues led to years of procrastination, frustration and unhappiness. Every time I saw a headline about amazing entrepreneurial women founding groundbreaking new businesses or redefining themselves with daring new careers, I'd inwardly seethe. How did they have the wherewithal to make it happen? Where did they get their knowledge and confidence?

One of the biggest things holding women back is not having the right kind of support. People around us don't necessarily always understand our ambitions. We feel shy of telling friends and colleagues, partners can't fathom why we don't just get on with it, and our parents may fret over anything that threatens our future financial security and warn us off taking risks.

Joining women's business group Sister Snog changed everything for me. Membership didn't come cheap, but meeting likeminded entrepreneurial women, successful ones who'd already made their career transition or launched their business, gave me a wealth of knowledge and support to draw upon. Socialising, networking and learning with these women meant I had career mentors on tap. A new UK group has taken things one step further. DrivenWoman meetings are for women who have dreams they're struggling to make happen, whether that's launching a viable business, making a radical career change or writing a long-dreamt of novel. The monthly meetings are like 'weightwatchers for the soul' as members discuss their progress and commit to their next steps, exploring way to tackle the obstacles and time-management issues holding them back. It means your hand is being held by clever and supportive people as you navigate your way round the perilous rocks of career reinvention. You're less likely to lose your way or give up when you hit an obstacle.

Waiting for plans to be perfect is unrealistic - it often takes a few goes, a few incarnations, before we get a crystal-clear picture of how to succeed. Dream projects can't happen in isolation - we need advice, ideas, support and feedback from likeminded people. For me there were many baby steps and a couple of blind alleys, but eventually I 'd gathered enough knowhow and confidence to become a fully-fledged press consultant and copywriter, as well as a journalist ( Last year I finally found my groove and I haven't looked back since. But - like they always say in Oscar speeches - I couldn't have done it on my own.


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