CASE STUDY > Career change at 40
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word 'career' as a person's "course or progress through life (or a distinct portion of life)". This definition relates career to a range of aspects of an individual's life, learning, personal values and work. This is often where the issue arises, as people embark on careers at an earlier stage in life and can realise that it's not now aligned to their values, or how they want to live their life.
What about a career change at 30? ... or a career change at 50 or 60?
Making a career change at 40 can be transformational, as it involves decisions that will impact on the responsibilities people have often amassed by this age. Changing a career at 50 or later can often throw up a review of the 'whys', as people delve into what is now important to them and what is behind the desire or need to change a career.
Whilst making a career change at 30 or even mid-20s is seen as perhaps easier, as your financial needs aren't usually set in stone, it can be just as transformational or even traumatic at this age. A doctor, for example, might realise the self-sacrifice needed to endure a medical professional is not what they thought at 18 (understandably). They can find themselves held hostage to a identity crisis where their sense of self is lost, along with their confidence and believe themselves stuck on this path, indebted to parents and ashamed of 'not coping' or 'giving up'.
Similarly, if you want to change your career direction at 50 or 60, there is the spectre of "am I too old?" as we struggle against social expectations of thinking of retirement at this age. However, this is increasingly becoming an outdated notion with more opportunities to help people at any age find a more fulfilling role in life, and in their work. Online courses, part-time study and the hybrid workforce and portfolio career move us beyond the 'career for life' with its golden handshake often becoming a trap as the golden handcuff.
Jo's Story: from IT to a wellness business and beyond
Jo was an entrepreneur with a successful yoga and nutritional business that she was proud to have built up from scratch. She was however, realising that she felt increasingly disillusioned about her business, jaded from the amount of admin work to market her classes, and missing the connection with her clients as her business went to online sessions during the pandemic.
Her biggest concern was that the health and wellness benefits that her clients were feeling, was actually leaving her feeling drained and exhausted. She wanted to embody the calm, serene yoga teacher working closely with the natural environment, not a stressed out workaholic enslaved to her computer. She was beginning to resent her business and the time it took away from her young family.
How can you change a career at 30 or 40?
Jo also worked part-time in a marketing role in an IT firm. She was good at her job, but it was unfulfilling. She was sure she didn't want to give it up as it supported the family financially, but she was concerned it was stopping her put all her energies into her own business. Was she sabotaging her own success with her part-time job?
She was nearing burn-out, running from job to job, and finding herself confused about which career direction to take. Whilst she wanted to live her values of a career with mind, body and spirit in balance, she hadn't taken into account that using similar skills to her part-time IT role would leave her feeling similarly drained and unhappy. Putting the courses online, marketing the courses and promoting the sessions with all the admin involved with membership was not the holistic connection of people with nature she'd envisaged when she set out 2 years ago. Working from home wasn't bringing the work life balance she thought, just constant disruption and sleepless nights worrying about what to do.
How coaching helped
Coaching started to get beneath Jo's motivations and establish her true values and strengths. Recognising her skills as a negotiator and communicator gave her a new sense of pride in the 2 years she'd spent networking and building up a strong community around her wellness business. Her clients wanted to work with her, to come back, and to recommend her. This allowed her to see that moving away from the business, resting it or even stopping it completely, wasn't an ending, but a necessary phase for a new beginning.
Coaching revealed a strong desire for Jo to 'nurture people's innate ability' and help people develop themselves. She began to have a wider perspective on the many careers that she could bring her talents to, and the skillsets of being 'a campaigner ENFP' personality type that would connect her more closely to people. The phrase that rang true for Jo was written in black and white as "It can be hard for Campaigners to maintain motivation in a job that doesn’t enable them to help people or create community in some way".
Jo applied for 3 new roles on the strength of these new insights. She began to feel positive and happy about her future, irrespective of what job or business she may or may not be involved in. She was confident now in her decision-making process and knew how to find a new career direction with a purpose in life, as well as a good worklife balance. For Jo, this meant resting her business until the children were older, and working away from home where she could focus and enjoy the energy of a community of like-minded people. She is also doing some online courses in communication and HR to help boost her skills in people development.
“I felt grateful having some guidance, insight and empathy through a bumpy patch and that the sessions had enabled a new perspective and cemented a change in direction.”
Interesting reads & watches:
Try this at home:
We often get hooked on one idea, and don't fully explore all the ways you can tie your values and your inner resources to a new career. The Spectrum of Possibilities can reveal some new options.
Draw out a horizontal line of 10 boxes on a piece of paper and mark them up as 1 - 10
Headline this with a phrase that makes you feel energised about a new possible career. eg. Doing something with nature to help people reach their potential
Write the smallest idea in the number 1 box eg. Read books on ecopsychology or nature's effect on happiness
Write your wildest dream in the number 10 box eg. Run a working-holiday retreat on a sustainable small-holding in Andalusia
Fill in the other 8 boxes and review the full spectrum of possibilities.
Are there some that would actually work as well, or start you on your path to your dream? e.g. join a community allotment with volunteers from all walks of life as a social enterprise.
This is just one of models, tools and approaches that can be used in the coaching sessions. Some are from neuro linguistic programming, cognitive behavioural techniques, career coach framework or positive psychology. All are evidence-based and tailored to fit each client.