The Second Chance Career: Finding Fulfillment in Midlife
Carla's primary focus for more than two decades was working her way up the corporate ladder in the Human Resources department of a large publicly traded company. Day after day, she worked tirelessly to meet the expectations of her bosses and coworkers until one morning, she awoke with a sickening, sinking feeling in her stomach.
She realized it was her job. Carla had reached midlife, and she didn't like it. She had spent nearly half of her life working in an unsatisfying job, with few genuine accomplishments and the goals of her youth long forgotten. Carla began making a conscious effort to pay more attention to the gap between the reality of her life and the dreams and passions she once had to alleviate the feeling in her stomach. She was determined to seize her only opportunity for a career that would make the second half of her life more meaningful and fulfilling.
Carla decided to pursue her passion for serving the elderly in 2004, and she is now the owner and operator of an adult daycare facility in Houston, Texas. She is currently working on her next project, an assisted living facility for low-income elderly residents.
Is Carla's experience unusual? According to a study published in Prevention Magazine, "79 percent of baby boomers will expect to work at least part-time well into their golden years," the study found. "A growing number of adults see their 40s, 50s, and 60s as the ideal ages to start over in an entirely new field." What motivates adults to change careers? In a nutshell, the answer is midlife.
The desire for a more fulfilling and meaningful career is just one area of focus during midlife transition. When adults reach their forties, at a time when their parents and older relatives are starting to die, the realization that their lives, too, will come to an end begins to sink in. Suddenly, the importance of setting goals and doing what makes us happy grows exponentially. This is the time for aspiring authors, entrepreneurs, musicians, and artists to consider careers that match their energy, vitality, and passion for life.
For the most part, the life cycle is relatively predictable. From adolescence to the age of 30, most of us are preoccupied with figuring out how to become the person we think we want to be. We work and live in that role from our thirties to our forties. However, after reaching this goal at the age of 40, many of us realized it wasn't what we wanted to do after all. After working so hard only to be disappointed, many people in their forties are willing to take on the challenge of taking on more risk and freeing themselves from the burden of others' expectations.
Longer life expectancy also plays a role. People in their forties and fifties realize they still have nearly half a lifetime ahead of them and wonder how they will spend those years. They know they'll have many healthy years ahead of them, so I believe it's a period of making decisions to pursue dreams that are put on hold during their younger years.
Women are well represented in this mindset, with more than ever using midlife as a springboard for positive career transformations. They want a job that matches their energy level and allows them to succeed as individuals. Women in their forties and fifties are increasingly starting businesses, gaining respect, and discovering a sense of purpose.
Carla's story teaches us that midlife should not be feared and that the sinking feeling in your stomach should not be ignored. Both are recognized calls to action. Changing jobs, careers, or lifestyles may necessitate some effort. However, if you truly pursue your passion, the measure will yield infinitely positive results.
Are you willing to make a change? Here are some pointers to help you get started on a successful second career.
1. Make a list of the things you don't have in your life.
Do you yearn to rekindle a childhood passion that you never had time to pursue? Is it music, a sport, writing, cooking, or business? It doesn't matter what, as long as it's something you genuinely want to do. If you already have a clear picture of the passions you want to pursue, identify small, doable steps you can take to incorporate them into your life.
2. Assume you already have a million dollars in the bank.
How would you spend your time daily? Consider the environment you'd like to be in, the people you'd like to meet, and how you'd interact with them. What kinds of activities would you partake in? When you act out your "winning the lottery" fantasies, your passions are likely to surface. Although we aren't all born to be millionaires, that shouldn't stop you from pursuing your dreams and investing more in yourself, regardless of your bank account balance.
3. Use your wisdom and experience to rethink your current career path.
Consider what isn't working and what you want to change. Take advantage of this time to reflect on your life. Do you have any childhood passions or dreams that you gave up on? If you are unsure of what you want to do, consider volunteering as a way to discover new interests. Find a way to incorporate your passion into your daily life. "You don't get what you want out of life, but what you believe," someone once said.
4. Recognize not only your passion but also your strengths.
It is critical to take stock of your life and determine what is truly important. Please make a list of the things you're passionate about, and then narrow it down to those that offer a chance to earn money. What's getting in your way if you're not pursuing your passion? What steps do you need to take to move forward with your plan?
5. Maintain your day job
You don't have to give up your day job to pursue your passion. It's not an all-or-nothing situation. I constantly meet people who claim to be working full-time and pursuing their dreams on the side, in their spare time. You may still need to work while transitioning to your new path. This is true whether you are planning to start a business or begin a new career.
6. Begin immediately
Make a commitment to yourself over the next 30 days to identify one thing you can do to start pursuing your passion—and then do it! Investigate ways to integrate your love with your current obligations and set attainable goals for your first steps into your second career. You'll quickly realize that living and working your passion means having complete control over your life.
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