Career Changes in Mid-Life: Tips & Strategies for Success
With the job market changing and mid-life looming before them, many are considering a career change. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median time that employees had spent at their jobs in 2018 was a meager 4.2 years. While there’s no doubt that this number is much smaller than it has been in previous generations, there’s a big difference between changing your job and making a full-blown career change.
A career change often requires new skillsets, industry knowledge, training, and you have to hit the reset button on your professional experience. When you wait until mid-life to change your career arc, the shift can be even more jarring.
If you’re in your 40s or 50s and you’ve decided to take a leap of faith by heading back to school to “reset your career,” you’re not alone. Many have gone before you and others are currently are taking this well-trodden road along with you. Here are a few tips and strategies to help you find your bearing, survive the chaos, and make sure that you do everything in your power to end up in a more fulfilling and satisfying professional situation once all of the dust from the change settles.
Furthering Your Education
Most major career changes require some form of additional learning in order to equip you to excel in your new field.
Going Back to School
The most common way to go about filling in the skill gaps for your new career is to return to school. Fortunately, there are many options available at this point. You can:
- Take the traditional route by applying to a college with a physical campus and strapping on that backpack full of textbooks.
- Take the modern route and apply to get your degree from an online institution.
- Get a certification or take a third-party training that doesn’t require a full Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree.
- Attend a trade school to learn a highly-valuable skill such as plumbing or dental hygiene.
Whatever you choose, do your homework beforehand and make sure it’s well worth the time, money, and effort that you’ll be putting into the education itself.
Fields in Need
Another factor to consider as you go about choosing to further your education is what your new field of work will be. While you can simply choose to follow your passions, often this can lead to frustrations and dead ends. It’s the old “can’t fit a square peg into a round hole” scenario. Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you can follow whatever career path you want. In order to find success and enjoyment in your work, you must find industries that actually need your skills and passions.
If you look for a field that is growing and has plenty of job opportunities in the future, you’ll have a much better chance for ultimate success. Here are a few suggestions for fields to consider:
- Teaching is always in high demand. You can either get a degree to become a teacher, an instructor in a professional workplace, or even a higher academic position such as a college dean.
- Look for a job in the healthcare industry. Most healthcare sectors are growing at break-neck speed. Registered nursing positions are set to grow 12% from 2018 to 2028, much quicker than usually predicted.
- Become a social worker. Social workers can find themselves occupied in schools, prisons, and various other organizations. In addition, their demand is high, as the number of social worker jobs is projected to grow at 11% from 2018 to 2028, again, much faster than average.
Surviving Your New Lifestyle
Along with lining up your new educational trajectory, it’s important to prepare yourself for the stresses and strains that this new shift is going to bring. Stress is a normal part of life. Trying to eliminate or minimize stress will only lead to more stress. Instead, remember the following items to help you manage the stress as you go along.
Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy
It’s important to take care of your most basic needs as you go through a career shift. The bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs consists of things like:
In other words, the basic staples of life. Make sure to review this list on a regular basis in order to maintain your health with a holistic approach that includes tending to your body’s basic needs.
For instance, make sure you’re eating a healthy diet and consider adding supplements like ginseng and ginkgo that have been used for centuries as memory enhancers. Also, find ways to get regular exercise, schedule adequate rest, and tend to basic cashflow and bill paying items like heat and air conditioning as well as your mortgage.
Watch Your Mind
While you may have the most control over the way you outwardly behave, it’s also important to address your mental state, as it can be a major contributing factor to your behavior. This is especially true when you’re going through the stress of a major life change, as it doesn’t take long to feel completely and utterly overwhelmed, mentally speaking.
Keep a sharp eye out for common student struggles like depression and anxiety. Look for cognitive distortions in your pattern of thinking, and regularly incorporate practices like meditation and prayer to help you maintain your sanity on a day-to-day basis.
Set Up New Routines
Finally, make sure to establish healthy routines to help you stay fit and focused over the long term. Take the time to establish study routines that work for you (for instance, are you a morning person or a night owl?). Make sure you have a morning routine to lean on as well, as that can be a lifesaver when you’re running on an empty tank.
You may even want to establish routines for how often you’d like to check in on yourself to ensure that you’re sticking to your health goals, observing your mental state, and following your routines.
Conquering Career Changes
While a career change can feel like a scary thing, especially when it takes place mid-life, it doesn’t have to be. If you take the time to establish healthy behaviors, focus on legitimate goals, and set up routines to help you get through the challenging bits, you’ll be able to complete the shift in your career arc with as little drama and as much success as possible.