Changing careers in your forties and fifties can be interpreted by some as “oh, they are going through a midlife crisis.” This article will help you explore if you are indeed having a midlife crisis or if you genuinely need a midlife career change to experience something new, gain new perspectives, and spice up you’re work-life.
What is a Midlife Crisis?
The phrase “midlife crisis” was first introduced by Elliot Jaques in 1965 and used extensively by Freudian psychologists like Carl Jung. It was described as a normal period during the lifespan when we transition from young people to older adults. During this time, adults evaluate their achievements, goals, and dreams against what they had wished for in the past and what stage they are facing in life.
Are You Having A Midlife Crisis?
If you are looking back on your life so far and feel that you have not achieved the material and social rewards you expected, you may suffer some of the following symptoms.
Signs Of A Midlife Crisis:
Buying A Harley Davidson / Sports Car
The classic tell-tale sign of a midlife crisis is spending too much money on something you do not really need, so it makes you feel younger. But I am not sure that buying a sports car is really a sign of a crisis. If your motivations are that the children have left some, you have more disposable income, and now you can ditch the family car and have some fun with something sporty, then fair play to you.
If you are spending money that you do not have on a sports car so that it makes you feel younger, or be seen as more successful, then you may have an issue. It is all about why you are doing things.
Cheating On Your Partner
Do you feel that time is ticking, and you need to fall into the arms of someone else before you pass from this earth? If the answer is yes, then you probably have an issue.
Drinking To Much
Alcohol abuse in middle age is actually less common than you would think. According to the U.S. Library of Medicine Research, most heavy drinking is done in the late twenties, and most people reduce the amount they drink as they approach middle age. So, if you are drinking heavily, you may be doing it to cover up your real feelings about your achievements and status.
As adults grow older, you would expect that our mood swings reduce with age, experience, and wisdom. This is, in fact, true in general, research conducted by the Society for Research in Child Development found that:
“During the course of adolescence, teens’ moods became more stable for happiness, anger, and sadness, the study found. Although girls had higher variability than boys in happiness and sadness, the rate of change across adolescence was similar for both sexes.”
So if you are finding that your mood swings or the variability of the intensity of emotions are increasing with age, you may need to seek help.
Making Irrational Decisions
Making a drastic career or job change without thinking things through can be a severe issue. Sometimes the feeling of frustrations caused by the ticking clock and your dissatisfaction can cause the onset of irrational decision-making. Have you ever quit your job on an impulse, punched a wall, broken a window, or deliberately hurt the feeling of someone you love. These actions are irrational as they are not in your best interests in the longer-term.
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Do You Need A Midlife Career Change?
Contrary to popular opinion, a midlife career change can be extremely rewarding, fulfilling, and empowering. Staying in a single career your whole life encourages stagnation and no longer provides an intellectual challenge. It is the intellectual challenge that we need to stay mentally fit and young at heart. Also, the change will bring new experiences, social circles, and friends.
Signs That You Need A Midlife Career Change:
Realization Of True Core Values
It is entirely reasonable for an ambitious young person starting out on their career to be focused on establishing a stable job with good future prospects. After all, you may want a partner, a family, a house, and a firm financial foundation to base it all upon. All these things do not pay for themselves. You need to focus on the type of work you like and how much you will be paid for it.
As we mature, we start to realize what our actual core values are. Whether your values are family, fairness, fitness, helping others, or trying to make the world a better place, if your current career does not align with your core values, it is clearly time for a change.
You may have achieved some or all of the career goals you established when you were younger. If so, then great, but is that all there is to life? After all, we are humans, and we continue to change throughout our lives, so it is natural for our life goals to change with us.
Self-fulfillment is as the Merriam Webster dictionary describes it:
If you are not using your abilities and talents, or even if you feel that your current role is not bringing you that feeling of satisfaction, you need a change or career.
For myself, I felt if I were fully self-employed and free from the corporate structures that bound me, that would be the final step to my self-fulfillment. In fact, one of my earliest career goals was that I would work for myself and run my own businesses.
However, I met my future wife and moved to Germany. It was a lot easier to work in an international corporation than start a business in a foreign land without knowing the language. Years later, my career has helped me establish and achieve many of the other things I deemed essential, starting a family, building a house, learning a new language and culture, and developing a career as a corporate leader. But the final piece was missing, the independence of being my own boss. So I took the leap and made a midlife career change.
Freedom From The Office
After years of commuting and even more years of working remotely / teleworking, I wanted to break free of the office. You may feel the same, attending the same building, parking in the same spot, seeing the same faces every working day for a decade. This can be a powerful motivator for change, the will to dig yourself out of the hole of repetition.
Leaving A Legacy
It is incredibly reasonable for us as humans to want to leave a legacy. For many of us that have the patience, great fortune, and privilege to raise a family, our legacy lives on genetically in our offspring.
But you may be seeking something more. What is leaving a legacy for you? Is it having a hospital ward or the wing of a museum named after you? Is it simply living on in the memory of those you leave behind? If you feel that your current path will mean you leave no legacy, then it may be time for a change.
Giving Back & Helping Others
You built yourself up from nothing; now, you have achieved goals and accumulated material things. But you look around, is the world a better place because of your own personal achievements?
If not, and you care enough to even think about this, you may feel that you want to give back. You do not need to be wealthy to give back; you can provide the most valuable thing of all, your time, effort, and love.
There are many opportunities to really help others by making a career change. For example, working for a charity and utilizing your skills can be of great benefit to people. You can participate in community events; you can help immigrants and asylum seekers in your area establish themselves and enable them to start building their dreams. For the world to be a better place, it needs more people to help others.
New Experiences & Personal Growth
Ultimately, it may simply come down to the fact that you do not want to be stuck in one single box your whole life. When you look back on your life and experiences, do you want to see someone who worked in insurance their entire life? Or do you want to see someone who worked in insurance, then became a travel writer, later became a Greenpeace activist followed by a local politician, and lastly, the chairman of the backgammon club?
Does Making a Midlife Career Change Mean You Are Havings A Midlife Crisis?
The answer is absolutely not. Making a midlife career change is what a mature, thoughtful, and intelligent person can do to enrich their lives and the lives of those around them.
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The 5 Best Books on Midlife Career Change
Switchers by Dr. Dawn Graham
How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success
A highly rated book that asks you to consider if you are ready to switch your career.
If the answer is yes, then Dr. Graham outlines an in-depth plan and road map to help you gather your thoughts, understand your values, and ultimately execute the change.
If you seek to change your career, this is a leading resource that is well worth reading.
What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles
A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers Paperback
Known as the world’s most popular job-hunting guide, “What Color Is Your Parachute” is a practical guide to helping you make a job transition.
The emphasis is on discovering your true core values and what motivates and drives you.
Using Bolles’ Flower Excercise, you should discover your key passions and transferable skills. This should enable you to define and execute a clear plan for a fulfilling career and a happier you.
Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett
How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life
This New York Times Bestseller provides inspiring insights into designing and building your ideal life, a meaningful life designed specifically for you.
Designing Your Life is very highly rated by its readers, and I found it a fun experience to discover who I really am and what I really like and value.
The book also focuses not on the end goal but the journey to a fulfilling life. I highly recommend this book.
Halftime by Bob P. Buford
Moving from Success to Significance
Halftime takes a different approach to a career change. Firstly it focuses on people in leadership positions that have already experienced some success. It explores the question, “Well, you have achieved career success, but are you feeling fulfilled?”
If the answer to that question is no, then this book might be for you.
Targeted at the over 40s, this book might contain the inspiring insights you need.
Why Bother by Jennifer Louden
Discover the Desire for What’s Next
Loved by its reader, Why Bother examines the key question of motivation. Ultimately it is that motivation that drives us to change, adapt, and even make a mid-life career or life change.
After decades and working, commuting, raising children, and paying your mortgage, it is quite normal to feel fatigued and tired of life.
Why Bother helps us rediscover why we should indeed bother to change and how to reimagine our lives as we emerge from the fog that is raising a family and working 9 to 5 for 20 years.
I hope this article provided some inspiration and perspective on mid-life career changes for you. I have also designed what I call the Dapper Model for moving through a career change; I hope this provides a solid roadmap for you.