In their 40’s, 50’s or 60’s, many people hit a wall in their career. There’s the “I’ve been let go after 25 years—now what?” wall. There’s the “I need to start doing something more meaningful with my life” wall. And there’s the “I’ve been in the same career for 30 years and if I keep doing this I’m going to lose my mind” wall. What does your wall look like? Based on extensive research, my training as a professional coach, and my own experience with career transition, I’ve identified four stages. Although people’s paths through each of these stages may vary, I firmly believe that thoroughly engaging in each is essential.
After you experience The Change, whether it’s losing a long-time job or reaching a point where you can’t go on doing what you’ve been doing, there is a period of loss, not unlike the stages of grief. In his book Transitions ,William Bridges writes, "To become something else, you have to stop being what you are now; to start doing things a new way, you have to end the way you are doing them now; and to develop a new attitude or outlook, you have to let go of the old one you have now." Only when you've reached the last stage of grief, acceptance, will you be able to move forward to the next stage.
You can't move forward if you don't know who you are at this moment. What are your values at this time in your life? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What skills do you have? What labels have you been given by people, and in turn by yourself? What roles have you played? Who have you become in relationship to your work?
A Fresh Vision:
It's time to set the obstacles aside and ask yourself the question, “What Do I Want To Do?” If you could do anything you wanted, what would that look like? What would a perfect day be like? What kind of people would you like to work with? What brings you joy? What are your passions? How do you want to spend your time? Can you actually make some money doing something you love to do? This is the time for exploration. In the words of Oscar Wilde, "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
A New Beginning:
So you've figure out what you want to do. Now what? You have to go out and get it. Career Transition is not for the faint of heart. Change and Transition take a willingness to go inward; it takes time, commitment, risk, money, creativity, drive, and perseverance. If you’re spending your days parked in a La-Z-Boy Lounger, perhaps career transition is not for you. But if you’re wondering when the rest of your life is going to begin, the best time to start is now.