Ask the Right Questions When Making a Midlife Career Change


Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist and contrarian thinker, once said, the self is not something that one finds. It is something one creates. This is very good career change advice indeed!

View career change as the norm

Studies show that people change jobs and even careers as much as 7 to 10 times during their working life. I myself am a case in point. Much of my career has been devoted to teaching and writing in many different contexts, but I've also worked in business and done freelance educational consulting at the corporate level.

I've taught English as a second language at many different settings: high school, college and university. I've trained ESL teachers both in the classroom and through distance education. I've written over a half dozen textbooks for language learning. Many were best sellers. Other career changes include working for an e-learning company, an educational publisher in a management position, and a small merger and acquisitions company.

The quest for new and meaningful work at midlife has become the norm. Experiencing midlife career change and seeking career change advice is a growing trend for many people in the 45 to 75 age bracket. Many are not retiring in the traditional sense. Some are looking to start new businesses. For some baby boomers there is what Marc Freedman calls an "encore career." He describes the growing trend among baby boomers to develop a new career that is both fulfilling and financially rewarding.

Have a supportive network

Sure, I've taken risks. I've had many worthwhile experiences, but it hasn't always been a garden of roses. I've had successes as well as failures. I've had to readjust my bearings on many occasions.

What has helped me keep on track in finding new enriching and fulfilling professional experiences? It helps to have a caring business coach, a network of friends and colleagues in similar situations, and a loving, patient, supportive wife.

Ask the right questions

Moving in the right direction, developing yourself, transforming your thinking takes a reflective stance. Ask yourself challenging questions. Take the necessary time to answer these questions. Be honest!

• Who are you?
• What's important to you?
• What are your dreams, hopes and aspirations?

• What do you want – really?
• Where do see yourself going?
• Where do you see yourself in one year, three years and 10 years?

• What options do you have?
• What possibilities do you see for yourself?
• Are you ready to reinvent your life?

Read some good books on the topic

If you're contemplating a career change, I recommend investing the time to read the classic book by Richard N. Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute? and do the "flower exercise." There is no better way for understanding who you are at the present moment.

My colleague, Dr. Fred Horowitz, plunges into this exercise every few years as a way of reconnecting with himself. It's not good enough to start it. You have to complete it.

I also highly recommend the work of Ernie Zelinski, author of The Joy of Not Working . Offering his own unique formula, he takes an unconventional approach to career change by working less and enjoying yourself more.

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