A seasoned and respected professional once surprised colleagues by saying ‘I’ve been in this job for twenty years, and I have no idea what I am meant to be doing.’ It was not a lack of information that caused the problem, as there were plenty of people and books to supply the answer—it was a loss of motivation, combined with changes that had taken place in those twenty years. It’s not an unusual situation.
Why We Stick With What We Know
There are plenty of people who after years or even decades in a career have lost the joy and excitement it once brought, so why stick with it? We are forever being told that we live in an age when people are expected to pursue more than one career in the course of a working life, but it is not always easy to live up to that promise. What holds us back?
It’s Not Just About Me
A career move doesn’t often affect just one person. There are partners and families to be considered. Can I take the risk of losing an income? Might I have to leave Orlando and start looking for homes for sale? Would it affect my partner’s employment? Do my parents depend on my income as well as my children?
Before anything else, talk to your nearest and dearest. You may be surprised how much they are aware of your unhappiness in your work, and are more than willing to take the risk of backing you in a change. They may be excited by a new location and new routines.
I’m Too Old to Change
The thought of having to learn new skills in middle years is daunting, but no one should suppose it can’t be done. Yes, our brains don’t pick things up as quickly at forty as they did at twenty, but we have gathered skills through experience that more than make up for that. Through life and work we have learned how to learn effectively, and those hard-won lessons will be rewarded by new challenges.
Moving to a new career does not mean that we have to start at the bottom. The most important skills we have picked up (such as dealing with people, making judgment calls, seeing through bullshit) are eminently transferable into any new situation and will make us surprisingly valuable to new employers.
I Don’t Really Know What I Want to Do
We are all a bit bamboozled by the people who have known all their lives what they were meant to do. It’s as if certainty is the norm and we somehow fall short if we don’t have it. But for most people life is an ongoing search. Not knowing what you would be good at probably means you would be good at several things. Starting a new job now doesn’t mean you have to do it forever—there will always be other possibilities.
So take your time, talk to your family, be generous in your assessment of your skills, and start your new adventure.
Eleanor Donnelly works as a careers consultant, and has vast experience from working in the recruitment industry. She especially likes to encourage older people who are stuck in a rut with their jobs, and writes encouraging career based articles for an online audience.