Exposing Myths Around a Midlife Career Transition
23 September 2013 at 10:14 am
Maria Simonelli created The Career Redesign Program in a bid to help people, particularly for people aged between 40-60 years old, make a successful career move. In this opinion piece she addresses the myths that surround a midlife career change.
If you dream about a different career, but have not acted on this dream it may be because you have been put off by the myths we subscribe to or the mind games we play on ourselves when it comes to change.
Once we get to our midlife there are many reasons we tell ourselves why we shouldn’t take the risk, but there are more reasons why we should confront those assumptions.
Read on and let’s explore how the myths, combined with the mind games, can be the biggest impediment to a career transition.
I’m too old to change
Ok, let’s confront this myth head on, the feeling that it’s too late to change or that you just can’t change. By our midlife we can honestly say we have worked hard to get to where we are and it’s challenging to think about change, especially when it’s wrapped up in the fear of starting again.
But big changes are possible and what often needs changing is our entrenched beliefs about ourselves and our abilities. Remember beliefs are just thoughts that have been reinforced over time from our families, culture and our situation. But what’s the alternative if we are empty and unhappy.
I think its time for a light bulb joke: “How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? One but the light bulb has got to want to change.”
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not naive about age discrimination in the workforce. It does exist and it’s real as many employers don’t consider older people for advertised roles and perpetuate the view that older employees won’t change or learn new things. But we can counter these expectations by making sure we have upgraded our skills, especially when it comes to technology.
In the end this is not hard – the hard part is confronting what’s holding us back. What’s the mind game we are playing when we would rather not confront the fear of what comes with change?
I’m being selfish by thinking about a career change
There are two aspects to this one. The first is the belief that you should be happy with what you’ve got.
It’s a tough job market out there and the economy, we are often told, could go through another crisis any minute. So basically who are you to be thinking about change now?
Let’s tackle the “it’s tough out there so keep your head down”, which is constantly reinforced through news about downsizing and outsourcing.
There is no doubt that the economy is changing and employment and hiring practices have changed.
But what makes it tougher is the mindset that we don’t need to change too. If we hold onto old beliefs and practices then we’ll not be as effective in transitioning across roles.
But even more fundamental than this, is the belief that we are being selfish to want more – more satisfaction, more happiness or more meaning from our careers and that stops us from even attempting to make change.
This shows up for midlife women who were taught from a young age to put others first and reinforced by the superwomen phenomenon – you’ve seen this and probably experienced it.
We can do it all – look after families, be a great partner and daughter and be effective at work, maybe even help out in the community or at our children’s schools …
And then if there’s anything left over we’ll take that for ourselves. Well that’s clearly a recipe for burnout and exhaustion.
We must prioritise ourselves. Only then will others around us be happy. I didn’t say be selfish but we can go for win-wins.
There’s one perfect job out there for everyone
The bad news is that this is the single biggest myth of the 21st century. There’s one thing out there that you are supposed to be doing that will make life perfect … you just need to find it!
Well good luck. How long have you been searching for this perfect role that will match all your interests, skills and personality?
Worse still we end up being paralysed with fear after we’ve spent all this time looking for the perfect job only to feel disappointed when we land roles that just don’t fit.
Think about the mind games we play about three months into that new job, just around the time when we have to front up to the probation review.
The good news is that the question is wrong. What if it’s not one job, one role, one place?
What if you don’t have to choose one thing? What about thinking about exploring and creating a lifestyle that meets our needs and then think about how work fits around this?
What’s the best thing for me to do now? It’s the most common question we ask ourselves, we weigh up the pro and cons to come up with a logical, analysed and well thought out answer, based on loads of external input.
What if I said you can’t think your way out of this? What if I said that you can’t use the same thinking that got you into this, to get you out of this. (Apologies to Mr. Einstein for this mangled paraphrasing).
What if you don’t start this process with your head but with your heart? What if the solution is not external to us? What if finding your career sweet spot requires you to spend time with yourself?
To be curious and to explore those things you love doing, that you’re good at and that fit your values.
And don’t panic when you don’t know immediately how this will happen. This will grow and evolve as you identify those strengths and match them with what’s important now.
By getting clarity on what you could be doing and matching this with the lifestyle you want, the answers will show up as the unconscious mind will look for opportunities to create the next steps.
Mind games are a funny thing when combined with our inner story. That thing you tell yourself about why you can’t transition into a new place.
Are the stories you tell yourself standing between you and the next great move?
For Career Redesign Program Melbourne workshops go to www.careerredesign.com.au