Contemplating a midlife career transition? In this section, you will
- Why do you want to change?
- And what do you want to change?
- What is the timeline for your transition?
- What are my financial needs and restrictions?
- How might this affect my relationships?
- When do I need to pack it in?
- Learn the industry.
- Mental Health and well-being
- Continue developing in your new field.
- Manage your expectations.
- Engage in self-care.
Ask yourself the big questions
If you are considering a career change, there are a few things you may want to think about before you make the transition. To ensure you are prepared and making the right change, reflect on some questions.
Why do you want to change? And what do you want to change?
You need to be realistic about the change you are thinking of making and think about the outcomes in your life. The change you need does not require leaving your current organization or career path. Consider what types of changes would fit your needs. Remember your goals such as financial goals, quality of life, and professional goals. Think about what your end goal may be, will this change get you closer to your goal or will you regret the choices you make?
Contemplate the type of career which suits you best. Consider the process of self-discovery and think about the roles you are drawn to.
This diagram highlights John Holland’s six distinct career interest types. A better understanding of your career interest type could give you clues to the career transition that is right for you.
What is the timeline for your transition?
After you have had time to consider why and what change you want, make a plan. You want to think about the timeline for your career transition. But also have a back-up plan if steps in your timeline need to be adjusted. You are always able to reformulate or re-evaluate your plan as you journey through.
Although it should be mentioned that not everyone can think it over and plan before they need to make a career change. Unfortunately, some of us must jump a step ahead and get right into the career transition process after involuntarily leaving our careers. But even if you did not make the choice to change careers you can make the choice to pause and do some planning before making any decisions.
What are my financial needs or restrictions?
There are financial and personal costs that go into the career transition process, so a plan will aid to make sure you do not waste time or accrue unnecessary costs for yourself. A necessary step may be saving up for the financial cost of transition and any lapse in employment income.
The plan does not have to be perfect but just have a rough idea of what you are going to do next before you act blindly—without considering the cost.
How might this affect my interpersonal relationships?
You should also make the time to have discussions with loved ones about the changes ahead. This will help make the career transition smoother and more likely to be supported by those closest to you. Changes in work life will inevitably lead to changes in home life, so consider the impact and the support you may require.
When do I need to pack it in?
Before you leap in, define your walk-away point. It is important to know when you are no longer able to continue down this new path and need to reconsider your direction. You may find yourself coming to the end of what you have to offer for this new career. You may need to make another career change, perhaps back to the career you had before or a new path entirely. Trust what your instincts tell you. Do not feel like you must follow through on your choice just because that is what you thought you would want at the start of the journey.
Assemble your transition toolbox
After you have made the decision to change your career there are a few steps you should consider to set yourself up for success.
Developing a solid foundation of skills, specifically transferable skills, is essential. Audit your skills so that you have a firm grasp of what you bring to the table and what skills you might need to develop for your ideal career.
The aim is to undergo this process of career recycling, where you can reframe or refine your previous skills to recycle into your new career. You will have several skills which are transferable and able to be recycled. You just need to figure out what they are.
This figure overviews some areas of transferable skills.
Some transferable soft skills are in higher demand than others. These include conflict management, time management, stress management, communication skills, emotional intelligence, storytelling, and change management.
Take a deep assessment of what you have to offer beyond the surface-level, resumé lists. There are many skills or abilities you may not think to consider. Asking yourself these questions may help:
- What are the top skills I have acquired throughout my career?
- What skills do I consider my strengths?
- What skills helped me obtain the greatest results?
- What skills do I find myself teaching others?
- Moving forward, what skills do I prefer not to use?
- What skills do I want to use in my next role?
Learn the industry
You will need to consider what education, courses or certifications required. There are several educational requirements you may need to attain for your new career field. Different continuing education requires different financial and time commitments. Some examples:
- Professional degrees
- Bootcamps can often offer elevated level of knowledge and skill in minimal time
- Courses and certifications
There may be conferences or workshops specific to your industry which you can attend to develop skills and educational experiences. Keep in mind what financial abilities you have and what education is essential to the position.
Other options may be volunteering or doing unpaid work in the field to learn more about the work. You may need to start with the basics and build up after you have the chance to earn an income to support further education.
Expand your professional network beyond your existing connections. Utilize the network you already have but also try to branch out and find new connections.
Consider reciprocity relationships which will benefit you and your new contact. You may want to see if you can find a mentor in the new career path you are on. You can join professional associations or networks for your specific industry. Share your insights and successes with others—they will want to do the same and you all benefit.
Always remember you are not alone. Countless others have gone through similar experiences so if you need wisdom or support, think about reaching out.
Depending on the industry, consider help from professionals in networking support such as a recruiter. You may not have to do all the heavy lifting to meet the right people, a recruiter can assist you in finding a good fit. Career counselors may also be an option to assist you in assessing your skills and marketing yourself to the right people.
Health and well-being
Career transitions can be extensive life-changing processes. They are often mentally, emotionally, and physically draining.
Regular introspection can keep you updated with your overall health while keeping your transition on track. This is crucial for involuntary career transitions, as they have less planning and more stress compared to voluntary transitions. Regardless, introspection is one way to ease a career transition.
Consider these reflection questions to start:
- Have I accepted and grieved my old career?
- Am I ready for changes in my routines, relationships, and lifestyle?
- How are my strengths and weaknesses affecting the transition?
- Am I keeping up with my self-care?
- What am I doing to ease the process? Is there anything else I can do?
- Am I letting negativity guide my decisions?
Foster post-transition resilience
So, you have made your career transition, but you are not done yet. Continue your learning and skill development. There are no shortcuts to a successful career transition, you must be patient and continue the marathon. It takes time to make a successful career transition and you may face many challenges along the way. But enjoy the journey along the way. Embrace the new exciting experiences and the time of self-exploration.
You may face doubts about your abilities to succeed, so be mindful of your mental wellbeing. There may be negative thoughts that you need to overcome. Reach out for mental health or counseling support if you need it. Career changes can be quite stressful so be aware of the personal and emotional costs. You will probably have to face many fears, of failure, rejection, etc. But try to push through the fears. Overall, your career transition can be a success if you work to prepare yourself and get the support you need along the way!
This content speaks to general trends found in research literature. It should not replace careful consideration of individual career situations, nor can they take the place of consultation with mental health professionals.
This document is an extract from the report Resources for Mid-Life Career Changers: Final Report and Web Content, for a research collaboration between the Indexing Society of Canada/Société canadienne d’indexation (ISC/SCI) and the King’s University (TKU) in Edmonton. Supervised, honors-equivalent psychology students conducted the research in partnership with the ISC/SCI as a capstone senior research project in their senior seminar. The ISC/SCI Executive committee collaborated with the King’s Community Engaged Research (CER) Program to initiate and design the project.
The CER Program at the King’s University facilitates university-community partnerships in which student-supervisor teams engage community partners in the design and implementation of research that addresses community-defined needs. For more information, please contact the Program Manager, Dr. Elim Ng (Elim.Ng@Kingsu.ca).
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