Mid-Life And Career Floating?

When you were in your late teens you hadn’t quite figured out what you wanted to ‘be’, but you had your whole life in front of you. Besides, there was a lot going on back then; the new job, the relationship thing was blossoming. Friends were in abundance and there was so much energy in your life!

Back then, things seemed bright and you felt you had purpose. You were learning new skills on the job, more senior employees you worked with showed you how to do what it was you needed to know. Of course you were pretty sure some of them should have moved on and definitely saw your chance coming to take their place in the near future and move up in the pay grid. The company would be taking leaps and bounds with the infusion of your generating ideas; surely they’d be grateful for taking them as you transformed things from the way they’d always been done to your new world order.

As you arrived into the 30’s, your perspective changed. A little older and wiser, the folly of your youthful exuberance was understood and you came to realize those older employees who you thought would soon be out to pasture when you were in your 20’s were themselves only in their mid 40’s. They were actually in their prime, and while some have moved on, many have moved up while others have become your go-to co-workers; best buds in the workplace. While some of your ideas are considered, you’ve matured and had this growing realization that other people’s ideas have merit too. In fact, some of your ‘best’ ideas you came to realize wouldn’t have been successful had someone had the wish to implement them after all.

Now it’s you in mid-work-life career and you’re conflicted. You’re hungry for more, looking for something that’s fulfilling, challenging and above all stimulating. You’re wanting more income to do all the things you want in the lifestyle you’re after. However, what’s plaguing you is this nagging itch you can’t seem to find to scratch; figuring out what it is you’d really like to be doing. The thing is that while you’re trying to figure out this big mystery, time is passing. Welcome to Career Floating.

Career floating as I call it, is when you stagnate. You’ve got the skills and ability to do your job and do it well by the way. You’re not the expert yet you’ll one day be, (although you won’t come to fully appreciate this for another 10 years). You’re feeling pulled to do something more, something different. What’s complicating things is…well…a number of things.

There’s the responsibilities you’ve got with respect to the mortgage, your role as partner and parent. It’s taken you until now to become exposed to other possible careers and yet every career move seems to need an education you haven’t got at the moment and a return to school to get what you lack to get what you want means an interruption in your income. How can you suddenly go back to school, incur more debt and give up your salaried income for 2 or 3 years? How long is it going to take to recover all those lost wages and incurred debt?

The more you think on things and try to reason things out, the more you beat yourself up for inaction and over-thinking things instead of making a decision. So when did you come to be so hesitant and indecisive? Oh my goodness! Suddenly you realize you’re becoming Lou – or is it Louise? That person at work that seems to be stuck going nowhere that you snickered about inside when he was talking in the lunchroom about being so unsure of what to do himself. Lou, Louise; their 15 years your senior; there’s no way you intend on being in that same situation in 15 years!

There’s not going to be some amazing advice at the end of this piece. If you’re reading this saying to yourself, “Yes! Yes! Yes! This is exactly me! It’s like he’s talking to me specifically! What oh what am I to do?!” Sorry. There’s way too many of you – of us – realizing that re-inventing ourselves is not just fanciful but downright necessary if we’re to really be happy and re-engaged in our work lives. Things have become too automatic haven’t they? Sure you have to work at things still; the job doesn’t do itself. However, you’re looking down the road at the rest of your work life and saying more and more often, “Is this it?”

Well as you may have guessed by now, you’re not alone and nor are you a failure. Who you are as a worker is only one piece of what makes up your identity. There’s your social and home life, hobbies, your role as a parent, sibling, family member. There’s your free time and spare time, your quiet time and vacation time. Look at life – oops the big, “L” Life any number of ways. Yes you spend a large amount of time at work and therefore define yourself and are defined by others often by what it is you do – who you are. However, it is but one way to define yourself.

You’re no closer to having the curtain pulled back and an answer. This one, you figure out for yourself. Hint: listen to yourself and above all else,

Thinking Career Change?

Are you considering a major change in the kind of work you do? That’s a good thing, whether you end up continuing to do what you’ve done for some time or yes, you do indeed choose to venture off in a new direction. The process of evaluating where you are and where you’d like to be, what you’d like to do is healthy.

Resist the urge to put down your feelings and musings about a new line of work or career change as a sign something is wrong. Acknowledging these feelings and doing some exploring of what you’re feeling and where these feelings are coming from can be quite illuminating.

Typically, thoughts about a career move go through stages where we become aware of our feelings, then we might share these with a significant person or partner and then move to share with the rest of our immediate and extended family, friends, co-workers and employer that we’re moving on. That is of course if we make that decision to move on at all. If after some time of reflection we choose to continue in what we’re doing, then it’s possible that we share our musings with no one whatsoever. The key here is to realize that mulling over a big career move can be a very private experience; we have full control over who knows what’s going on in our thoughts.

There are a many reasons we might consider a drastic career move. Boredom, needing a new challenge, health concerns, being burned out, declining performance, aging, taking early retirement, a company buyout, relocating to another area, a lifestyle change are just some reasons that could prompt these thoughts.

“What could I do that would make use of my skills and that I’d enjoy doing?” Some version of this question is what you may be thinking yourself. Given where you live and where you are in your life, you might also entertain the notion of a return to school to stimulate your brain, acquire some new knowledge or hands-on skills which could take you in a completely different line of work. You may not even mind starting in an entry-level job in a new line of work and be quite content to do so, having no interest in moving up to greater responsibilities; something you might have felt you needed to do 20 or 25 years ago.

So the clock is ticking, days and month’s are rolling past and you’re looking ahead at Life with a capital ‘L’. What do I want to do with the remaining time I’ve got with respect to my work life? We’re not talking your time beyond complete retirement. We live with the assumption and belief we’ll have some time of an undetermined length beyond the day we retire. So we’re looking at the time between where you are now and say, 65 or 68 perhaps as a ballpark figure. How many years is this in your case?

Depending on the number you have after answering that question, you might have a few or many years. You might only have time for one career move or have several years meaning you could have a few career moves left to ponder.

Sometimes what’s needed isn’t a change in career at all, but rather, a change in employer. A fresh start bringing your accumulated skills, experience and education to a new employer. The attraction might be a start-up, where you’re highly valued and your leadership and expertise is drawn on for guidance in some early period where the company is set on just establishing a reputation. Or conversely, a big organization is undergoing a thorough clear-cut; moving in a whole new direction, and the attraction to get on board is exciting. Another scenario is a big organization provides some stability and job security which appeals to you over the stress you feel in the fledgling organization you’re with now. There are so many possible scenarios!

Your financial security – or lack of it – also plays a big part in what you can afford to do or not do. We should also acknowledge some people are risk-takers and gamblers and others less so, hence it’s vital you have a clear and accurate picture of your financial status and know the risks you may be entertaining in making a move. Then again, what might you risk with your mental health by sticking with the status quo?

Some questions to ponder then…

Am I doing work that I find meaning in and is this important to me or not?

Am I secure in exploring other options, including reinventing myself?

Who other than myself, might my final decision to change careers impact?

What is the status of my financial health?

How comfortable am I dealing with uncertainty? For a move seldom if ever comes with guarantees of success.

Do I need to take time off my current job to explore these thoughts or am I able to give them their due while continuing in my present line of work?

What are my commitments ie. mortgage, children, spouse, credit repayments, loans etc. and what weight do I give these things in arriving at some decision?

Of course there are other questions to pose and you’re welcome to throw in some of your own to the comment section below. If you’ve been through or are going through this process now, I urge you to share some of your thoughts.

Are You Contemplating A Leap?

Something interesting suddenly struck me recently and I wonder if you too have had a similar experience; possibly like me, you weren’t entirely aware of it yourself. Or it could be that I’m just realizing it myself and slow getting to the dance!

What I’ve become aware of is a large number of the conversations I’ve been a part of, and the musings I’ve read of others centers on men and women in their late 40’s and early to mid-50’s who are openly contemplating exactly what to do with the balance of their working lives. Now in retrospect it may not be a new phenomenon.

The difference I suppose is that historically there were fewer types of jobs to choose from in the past. With fewer choices available, most people who hadn’t reached retirement had a choice between the jobs they currently had and doing a similar job for another company or becoming an entrepreneur themselves. Most you understand stayed with companies for decades and it was the norm to retire from these employers.

Fast-forward to 2016 and there are more jobs being created than ever before. Technology alone as a single sector has created job titles that didn’t exist just a few months before. Go back a generation and there are even more jobs that didn’t exist because the environment was different. There were no Information Technology jobs because the technology hadn’t evolved to the state it is today, and home computers didn’t even exist.

The consequence of more types of jobs existing today is that there are more choices than ever from which to choose. Add to this that because we are living longer than in the past on average, we have more time to spend in retirement, and we may want to work longer in life to both pay for a longer retirement with less income, or just keep involved longer in our work lives.

Whatever the reason, my sense is that these conversations people are having about exploring employment or work options into their 50’s and 60’s  when they’re in their late 40’s to mid-50’s is becoming more popular. It’s not that people are always disenchanted with their current jobs and have lost interest; although I know of some who would say that is exactly their issue. For some, it’s a desire to do something different; a last chance perhaps to do something they’ve always wanted to do or they finally feel a now-or-never mentality.

Now when they arrive at this point of their lives where there is an urge to explore options, the options available largely are confined to whatever skills and experience the person has in their life inventory. Those of us who have worked in a single sector all our lives may on the one hand have less choices available than those of us who have worked in positions across several sectors. Those who have continued in their adult lives with upgrading their education may be more attractive than those who haven’t to potential employers.

Let’s also say that there are some people who are just more comfortable taking risks than others as well. If you have a conservative nature you may think the person quitting a stable, well paid position for some new venture is foolish, off their rocker, gambling with their retirement savings. On the other hand the person who leaps may be feeling they’ll die on the inside and live with regret wondering, “what if” throughout their retirement if they don’t find the courage to jump into something new and invigorating, mentally stimulating.

This isn’t where I’ll wade in on what is right or wrong – that’s for those individuals to contemplate and arrive at decisions they literally have to live with moving forward.

I do think as I say that the quiet musings or open discussions are just becoming more prevalent of late with the people in my network. Is it a restlessness of spirit perhaps; normal checks and balances that happen throughout our lives and nothing more? I suppose one might say that generally our teen years are about setting us up for emerging independence from our parents. Our 20’s are for exploring people, the world and ourselves, our 30’s are for establishing our futures, taking on responsibilities, finding roots to hold onto. Our 40’s enrich our lives and we reach our potential. Our 50’s we start looking at our work lives and see for the first time a window that’s just starting to close. In our 60’s we have far less compunction to re-invent ourselves and start anew; less willingness to gamble the nest egg. I don’t necessarily believe this work-related timeline is the absolute way it is for everyone.    

I’d love to have you weigh in and comment on where you are in your life at the moment and what musings – quiet or otherwise you are mulling over. Is there something stirring in your consciousness and if so, what’s driving those thoughts for something else? Are you afraid, excited or confused about the growing state of flux in which you find yourself more often these days? What considerations do you have to take to change?

Change can be liberating, threatening, give you your sanity back, put a smile on your face, fill your retirement with memories or empty your bank account. If you continue the course you’re on, will you be okay with the choice you’ve settled on?

What Would It Take To Pry You Out Of Your Current Job?

Suppose for a moment you’re in your fifties, thinking more often than ever before about retirement that’s now a decade or less away for the first time in your life. Suppose as well that your comfortably employed and in no immediate threat whatsoever about losing your job. What would it take to pry you out of your current job?

It would have to be a job perhaps with stability, permanence, a competitive salary and of course match in some way the benefits you’ve been enjoying in your current job; benefits like the same number of weeks of vacation on top of health perks. That’s a tall order, but there it is.

If you fall into this mid-fifties category, you’re in a unique position from all other age categories. You’ve still got income coming in like those younger than you, but you’re in that last decade of employable earnings. When you finally hang up your work clothes for the last time, you’re expecting to live off whatever you’ve accumulated and whatever pension or benefit your country and employer may bestow upon you as a retired person.

Purchases you’ve been making up to now have always been augmented by your next pay to replenish the old bank account. Debts have been manageable because you’ve had a plan to pay them off through your earnings. Large purchases however, such as a new home require much more thought than in the past because of the nagging fear of being retired and carrying forward a mortgage you may not want to be burdened with when your employable income is gone.

It almost sounds like this blog is heading in the direction of recommending you sit down now with a Financial Planner; and while that’s not ever a bad idea, that’s not where I’m going. Look, you’ve got 10 or 15 years maximum left let’s say in your working life before moving into the next life stage. So my question remains, “What would it take to pry you out of your current job?”

Of course if the job you are in brings you great satisfaction, excellent pay and benefits and there’s no downside altogether, the likelihood that you’d change that for something else is less than it would be otherwise. If on the other hand, your current job has become mind-numbing, the pay is only average, the climate toxic, or the work itself brings you little personal satisfaction, you may be interested in a change.

The major concern people in this older demographic generally have is that they are becoming less attractive to new employers. So if they did take a chance and change jobs and for whatever reason the new job didn’t turn out as expected, the odds on a successful job search in their late 50’s aren’t as good as they’d like, and their afraid of being out of work altogether. This unexpected unemployment might use up savings, exhaust a retirement fund, crippling their ability to live whatever style of retirement they envision.

The downside of course is you may still be facing these next 10-15 years of employment in a job that is not really fulfilling your sense of satisfaction.  You’re conscious of becoming stale, stagnant, mentally disengaged; you know that if you were 15 years younger, you’d definitely be looking for greater challenges and more stimulating work. But the mirror in the bathroom each morning shows you’re exactly who you are – nothing more, nothing less.

Ah you’ve become so responsible haven’t you? Yes, you with your mortgage now that’s almost paid off. You’re down to your last 2 or 3 new vehicles, you’ve accumulated all the, ‘stuff’ you wanted at some point and have found yourself telling the family just last month, “I don’t NEED anything for Christmas; really.” A younger you wouldn’t have settled for riding into retirement safe and secure but unfulfilled. You ponder more and more often, “Is this it? Is this all there is? Have I made a difference?”

So you are left wondering if when you retire, you’ll leave your working life having been happy. What if you pondered for a while, a different retirement than the one you’ve been picturing up until now? Instead of the standard, “mortgage free, a few trips a year, time with the grandkids, golfing” picture, what if you envisioned something more unique?

If your view of retirement changed, would that make risking a new start with a new employer now in your mid-fifties more palatable? Getting out and starting anew would stimulate your creativity; challenge you in ways you haven’t been of late. You’d be invigorated anew and whatever struggle to excel and establish yourself again you’d feel would come as a welcomed relief. Instead of playing it safe and secure but losing yourself in the monotony, you’d risk that security but feel like you’re alive again, with a renewed purpose. Retirement would still be looming of course, but you can always adjust that envisioned lifestyle and do things now while you’re in the best health you’re going to be over the remainder of your life.

What would it take to pry you out of your current job? Perhaps some courage, a sense of urgency, a feeling of not wanting to write yourself off just yet and wanting to do what you’ve always wanted to do before it’s too late. In short, maybe a leap of faith that proves you’re still young at heart.

Work A Drag? How Come?

There are a number of reasons why people don’t fully invest themselves in the work they do and the people they come into contact with during the course of the work they are paid to do. I’m not talking about an odd day or two, I’m talking about day in and day out. So if you aren’t giving 100% it’s in your own best interest to know why.

Some people by nature just don’t do much of anything to the best of their abilities; home projects are started and dropped midstream, not really committed to a partner the way you once were, maybe picking up a hobby and letting it slide. Others of course tackle home projects and get them done, work at their marriages constantly and commit to their hobbies because they love them so much.

But let’s look at the person who knows they could be doing more at work and for whatever reason is just coasting along, putting in enough effort to stay hired, but not enough effort to stand out or excel. This is a dangerous person.

Dangerous? Absolutley. You see depending on what they do, they may be making your car minimally safe, your home minimally well constructed, your kids minimally educated, and your job search minimally assisted. I think if I was looking for work, I’d want somebody fully enthusiastic and committed. If I were in school myself, I’d want a teaching similarly enthusiastic about what they are teaching and fully invested in my learning.

Still though; dangerous? Well, look at the possible outcomes. Someone on the vehicle assembly line is doing the bare minimum and not an ounce more. Could your vehicle’s performance suffer as a result? Maybe. Better your car than mine if you don’t agree. And job search-wise; someone helping you only minimally because they are no longer putting in their best might mean you miss opportunities, you stay unemployed longer, banks foreclose on your home, you find yourself in despair and depressed. Dangerous? Oh yes.

So what about you or someone you know? Why aren’t they, or YOU, doing your very best in your job? For some it’s the frustration that the person beside them at work puts in minimal effort and still gets paid the same, so why bother? Ah the race to the bottom of the gene pool is underway. These people are motivated by the external rather than the internal rewards. Give them more money and supposedly they will suddenly perform better. Does that work over the long haul though? Does 30 cents an hour more result in increase efficiency? Could an independent observer tell who makes 30 cents more every hour based soley on observing two employees?

Maybe you’re hanging around because you’re not old enough to retire, but you are old enough to be unattractive to a new employer and the risk that switching jobs brings. Besides, it takes the effort to really look for something you’d find stimulating, and it’s so much less work to just go in and do what you’ve done for the last twenty-seven years. Hmmm…. does this sound like a teacher you might have had in school?

So ask yourself this; if everyone was hiring for the next two months only; if you could have any job, or back to school and learn something new at no personal cost to you, would you stay in your current job or leave? If you think you’d stay right where you are, you must be getting more than a pay cheque out of it. I’d think you are staying because you like what you do and you’re good at it too. On the other hand, if you’d leave and take another job, isn’t your happiness worth the risk?

Suppose you were in your late 40’s or your mid 50’s even. If you really sincerely aren’t finding satisfaction in the job you are doing, you’ve got 20 or 10 more years possibly to grind away every day doing this work you find so hum-drum. Why would you expect to start really living after 65 years old instead of really living right now? Surely life isn’t about doing work we don’t really love only to be, ‘free’ at 65 with maybe 15 years of ‘living the good life’ to look forward to. That’s sad.

Find out what’s really behind your reluctance to put more energy and effort into your work. Is it the atmosphere of the workplace? You might find others feel the same way and maybe together you could do something to change that but everybody thought they alone felt the way you do.

Is your lack of effort stemming from a long commute? Would you be willing to move closer, carpool, lose the wheels and take transit, or get some funky little car that makes the drive fun? Maybe even varying your route would stimulate you differently and provide some visual diversion.

At work, maybe you could transfer to a different job but at the same pay level, change work locations with a co-worker. Even making an effort to be friendlier with co-workers can make them friendlier to you in return.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. Find out what’s holding you back, change things up and regain the pleasure from the work you do. You spend many hours of your life doing, ‘work’, so it only makes sense you find work you find meaningful and satisfying!

What To Do When Things Aren’t Going Right

This post will probably be of most interest to two primary readers. The first group would be those people who know that there is something lacking in their current occupation or if unemployed, know they want to do something different from what they’ve done up until now.

If this describes you, you’ll be having feelings of inadequacy, a lack of challenge and fulfillment, a need or hunger to do something else, and maybe you’re even voicing it such as in, “Is this all there is? There’s got to be more”. Your favourite books might be those like, The Hobbit where some main figure goes on a quest, or the heroine goes on a journey only to discover the truths that lie within like in The Wizard of Oz.

While it might sound smug and trite, when things aren’t going right…..go left. No explore this seriously for a moment before dismissing it. Left field is usually referred to as the place odd ideas come from. Career-wise, it just means that if what you’ve been doing up until this juncture in your life no longer brings you satisfaction, it’s time to consider a departure from that same field or occupation. You’re in need of a change, and if you proceed making the same choices to pursue jobs similar to ones from your past, things are more or less going to remain the same.

The good news is what you are experiencing has been already experienced by countless others and you’re not uniquely unhappy or unchallenged. The bad news is that relatively speaking, most people who are faced with this desire for change don’t actually make choices to do things differently. After all, it’s safer to take the predictable road and do what you’re capable of and keep those around you happy. So you do the same things to pay the mortgage, pay off your debt, and “make a living”. Your mom and dad are so proud of your success, your friends see you as right on track and dependable, but inside, there’s this anxiety building because you’re working to suppress a growing feeling of discontent.

Heading off in some new direction to explore something new and different requires courage. Maybe it will mean returning to school to get an education in a different line of work, bringing on substantial debt in the process. And those around you might wonder about how existing bills will get paid let alone the cost of an education. Or, if travel is involved, those closest to you now might not want you to ‘wander off’ as they see it, but isn’t that more of them wanting you to stay near for their own benefit instead of reaching out to whatever is calling you?

Parents especially get troubled when their adult children pull a major left turn in life. The reason is quite simple really, as they are expressing their own anxiety at something beyond their control that affects them. Bluntly put, each parent generally wants to see their child as happy and successful during their own time on the planet. If your life appears in flux, some of that unsettled feeling is taken on by them too, and they won’t feel better until you, “come to your senses” and settle back in to a routine they approve of. You might as well meet a nice young man, buy a practical home and have two lovely grandchildren while you’re at it!

Look, you’ve only got this one life. At some point, you’re going to look back, (we all do, and you yourself have already probably looked back on your younger years) and when you do gaze over your shoulder, you’re not going to want to see regret over choices not made. Playing it safe would be excellent advice if in fact it kept you happy and fulfilled. Apparently however, something inside is whispering that there is something else you need to explore. This voice can be louder and may be screaming rather than whispering but it’s there in one form or another.

Here’s your difficulty: the longer you hold on to conformity and doing the ‘right’ thing, the harder it will become to move in that other direction. And even when you’ve made the decision to change things up and move in another direction, how do you know the new direction you are contemplating will guarantee success and happiness? Oh I’m sorry, were you expecting a guarantee? Life doesn’t come with those. However, you will feel exhilaration and a release the moment you give yourself permission to go left instead of right.

If going left means a return to school, look up the University or College degree or diploma you want and research the requirements and deadlines for application. You can do at least that much while still hanging on to your present job or career. If an entirely new country is calling or a whole new line of work is required that you have all the transferable skills for, you could take the steps to talk to someone already there doing what you want to do in order to get feedback. LinkedIn for one puts you in contact with people around the globe you could access and speak to in discussion groups or privately.

A leap of faith to go left and take a chance wont’ make sense to those who’d rather you play it safe and do the right thing. But keep in mind, the level of disbelief from others who would rather you didn’t may be just mirroring the level of disappointment and bitterness that they themselves feel when they stood where you stand now and made the decision to play life safe and silence that inner pull to turn left.