Why Changing Course ‘Later’ in Your Career Life is Actually a Good Idea, Part 2
This is part two of a two-part series on changing course in the late stage of your professional career. You can read part one here.
What Are the Wins?
The positives of making a career change are obvious. Most people are giving something back in some way while gaining a good deal personally. Many really enjoy being in greater control of their careers/lives. Research shows that a common theme among those who successfully change careers is the flexibility and the challenge of learning new things at a different stage of life — and once success has already been achieved. More baby boomers switch careers not out of financial necessity, but for the intellectual stimulation and the chance to finally pursue some life passion.
A significant trait of successful career shifts is the mental acuity of these individuals and the ability to find new value. The 50-plus generation has spent the past 50-plus years needing to learn new technologies and experiencing unbelievable transformations. Most don’t want this to end. Whether being a Wal-Mart greeter, learning about retail distribution or launching freshbenies, these people benefit from mental stimulation and a new level of emotional contentment. All of this, with the ongoing trend in healthy lifestyle activities, has to be a positive for the health and well-being of people and ultimately the economic and social future of the nation.
What Are the Challenges?
Of course there are challenges in all of this, and not every attempt to reinvent oneself in the workplace leads to immediate or resounding success. Even more, there are definite risks. Reinvention can mean pushing beyond the “comforts” of location, lifestyle and line of work. Some have more comfortable economic means that enable them to take greater risks or happily engage in low-paying but high-emotional efforts such as driving a school bus. It helps if the individual has spent his/her career thinking about Plan B, C or D before it's time to move to one of these plans. Maintaining networks and utilizing connections is essential, and those who haven't done this will find it more challenging to make the right career shifts later in life.
People who successfully make later-life career shifts must be flexible, open and creative. This is easier to believe than the reality, particularly for those who have spent their professional lives in more long-tenured and focused industry careers. It takes tenacity, conviction and the ability to not be influenced by the word “no” to keep moving forward while figuring out what next should really be.
And sometimes, turning one’s passion into work just isn’t that easy or that great. One of the authors of this article decided to turn her passion for cooking into a catering business, but found that she couldn't abide by those who weren't “wowed” by her dishes. She found out the hard way that food for many was just sustenance, not magic. Hence she turned to consulting — and happily cooks for family and friends who share her passion.
When the Upsides Outweigh the Downsides
We ultimately posit that the risks and challenges are well worth the effort if you truly want to reinvent your career later in life. You will be happier if you do the prep work and the planning. You'll achieve a sense of continuing to contribute. You may feel a significant sense of giving back to the community. You'll continue to flex your brain and be energized by learning new things and finding new experiences. You'll be wiser and probably experience less stress and less boredom. You must take control of your second act career. You'll be busy and not bored. You'll feel a greater sense of self-worth. You may successfully turn a passion into a position. You'll probably stay healthier. You'll definitely be more interesting to others. And you might earn significant money. Society will benefit and so will you. So take the leap, take that chance. We argue it will be well worth it. However, don’t underestimate the difficulty, the challenge or the planning. Focus on the benefits and the wins; that’s all that matters.