Six Unconventional Mid-Life Career Change Tips

Mid-Life Career Change

Set forth below are six unconventional tips for making a mid-life career change. Please read all six, and, if at the end of the article you are convinced that the key to a successful transition is the integration of life, work and money goals, please check out the other articles on the Passion Saving approach to money management offered at this site.

The first unconventional mid-life career change tip is to understand that each day you remain at a job you don’t love because the money is good you fall farther behind on your long-term quest for financial freedom.

Making a mid-life career change is a lot harder than making a career change when you are young. You’ve got a lot more to lose because you have already worked your way a good bit up the ladder of success at the career you are in today. I’ve known many people who remained in jobs they didn’t like longer than they should have because the job seemed “good enough.”

That’s often a mistake. When workers are forming an assessment as to whether a job is “good enough,” they usually focus on whether the pay and benefits are good. That sort of analysis passes over the most important matter at issue.

Your financial compensation is only part of the total pay package you obtain from the work you do. More important in a long-term sense is what you learn from doing the job. Think of yourself as a company named “You, Inc.” Your paycheck represents your day-to-day profits. The skills you develop are the result of your long-term research and development project. A company that ignores research and development because today’s profits are acceptable is a company with a dim future.

If you are missing out on the learning experience that is part of the typical middle-class worker’s complete pay package, you are missing out on something of great significance. Most of us are only in the workforce for 40 to 45 years. So, if you pass up five years of learning while you stick with a “good enough” job, you are falling behind in a big way.

Don’t let the financial risks of changing jobs cause you to stay too long at a job that no longer offers much long-term excitement or potential. The financial risks of staying at a job where you are not continuing to learn are often greater than the financial risks of making a well-planned move to something you enjoy more.

The second unconventional mid-life career change tip is to not take the “Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow” maxim too seriously.

There is a good bit of wisdom in the “Do What You Love” maxim. It really is true that the most financially rewarding jobs go to those doing work that so motivates them that they possess the energy to become the absolute best at what they do.

All that said, the “Do What You Love” maxim does not address a critical consideration that you must take into account when planning a mid-life career change. When will the money follow? If you don’t get a reliable income stream in place in time, you might not be able to stick it out long enough at the new career to see the benefits of doing what you love ever generate real-world financial profits for you.

It is a good idea to aim to do what you love. But knowing what you love and developing the courage to chase the dream is not enough. You need to have a plan in place before making a mid-life career change. Not just a career plan. You need a financial plan to protect you from the downside risks you take on in making such a dramatic life transition.

The third unconventional mid-life career change tip is to focus not on work issues but on money issues.

There are lots of work issues that need to be taken into account in putting together a plan for a mid-life career change. You need to take tests to learn what sorts of things you are best equipped to do. You need to talk to people now working in the career you hope to enter to see whether jobs in that field are as enjoyable to those on the inside as they appear to be to those on the outside. But no matter how much you do of that sort of thing, you have not done enough to take the risk involved in handing in a resignation from your current job in pursuit of a mid-life career change.

Career Change at 40

Doing that sort of thing is not enough because, no matter how much you plan, you will never be able to anticipate every possible future development that will affect your job satisfaction years down the road. Jump to a new career without putting a financial plan into place to smooth out both the current and future transitions, and there is a good chance that a few years down the road you will be back in the same sorts of circumstances that caused you to want to make the first mid-life career change.

Even career changes that are successful in the short-term are often not so successful after a number of years pass by. You must explore new career options if you are dissatisfied with the career you are in today. But you must also accumulate the financial resources that will open up options for future changes. Otherwise, you may find yourself five or ten years from now as dissatisfied as you are today but also five or ten years older. Not good.

The fourth unconventional mid-life career change tip is to understand that the real reason for your job dissatisfaction lies within.

It’s not a bad boss that caused you to tire of your current career. It’s not a bad corporate culture. It’s not a bad economy. It’s you!

I’m not playing a game of “Blame the Victim” here. I understand that there are lots of bad bosses out there, and lots of bad companies, and lots of bad economies. There are of course outside forces that play a role in causing you to be dissatisfied in your career. But those outside forces are not usually the primary factor in causing job dissatisfaction, and it is important for you to understand what the primary factor is if you hope to pull off a successful mid-life career change.

When I say that you are the primary cause of your career dissatisfaction, I am not saying that there is something “wrong” or “bad” about the way you feel about your current career. To the contrary. It is natural and good to feel dissatisfaction about a job after you have been in it a number of years.

Career Change Mid-Life

God created us with a desire to learn and to grow over time. It is that desire that is causing you to become dissatisfied with a career that no longer provides the challenge it once did. The surprising thing would be if you never felt a need to pursue a mid-life career change.

The fifth unconventional mid-life career change tip is to be wary of quick solutions to the problems causing your feelings of dissatisfaction.

The biggest pitfall to changing careers is that the same frustrations that caused the worker to tire of the career she is leaving will cause her to tire in time of the career she is starting. The common pattern is comprised of three steps: (1) the work is new and thus presents a challenge; during this phase the work is hard but fulfilling; (2) the worker has learned enough to be less anxious but is still learning more; this is the most enjoyable of the three phases of the typical career progression; and (3) the worker has mastered the work and becomes bored with it.

It makes perfect sense to seek a new career after mastering an earlier one or finding that one is not suited for the earlier one. The pitfall is that there is a good chance that the old frustrations will recur, this time when the worker is older and has fewer fresh-start options open to her.

The better approach is to gain over time a level of financial independence that lets one call the shots to a greater extent than the typical employee. This might mean starting one’s own business or joining a start-up company (that one could not otherwise afford to take the risk of joining) or entering a career that offers more challenges than most (and thus provides a more satisfactory long-term level of fulfillment than most). It is by reducing the extent to which one needs to work for money that one obtains the best possible long-term assurance of being able to spend one’s time doing soul-satisfying work.

The sixth unconventional mid-life career change tip is to see that what you really need is not career planning alone, but a combination of career and financial planning.

Financial planning by itself does not work. For most of us, the idea of accumulating lots of green pieces of paper with pictures of government buildings on the back supplies little motivation. Thus, most of us say that we would like to get around to saving effectively someday, but few of us actually feel inspired enough by the project to follow through on what we say.

Career planning by itself does not work. An individual worker simply does not have control over enough of the factors that determine job satisfaction to be able to put together a plan for career change that stands a good-enough chance of solving the problems that are the cause of his dissatisfaction with his current job.

What does work? Career planning combined with financial planning. Build a nice nest egg, and you gain a level of control over your future career decisions possessed by few of today’s middle-class workers. Acquire a higher level of financial freedom, and all sorts of exciting possibilities open up to you. It won’t matter too much whether one particular new job you choose ends up being the right choice for the long-term or not. Those who gain significant levels of financial freedom early in life enjoy more opportunities than most others for ever more regardless of what happens with their boss or their company or the economy.

How Do I Change Careers at Mid Life?

The other side of the story is that starting to save not to finance an age-65 retirement but to open the door to exciting new ways to make your mark on the world through the work you do can transform your attitude toward saving overnight. I have spoken to hundreds of middle-class workers in the Financial Freedom Discussion-Board Community who save percentages of their income that most other middle-class workers view as beyond the reach of mere mortals. Some members of our community save not 10 percent of their pay, but 20 percent. Some save not 20 percent, but 30 percent. Some save 40 percent. Some save 50 percent.

How do we do it? We aren’t saving to finance an old-age retirement. We are saving for some form of “early retirement.” We employ a number of different definitions of that term, but our common goal is to enjoy the benefits of financial freedom well before we turn 65. 

Many of us began saving in this different and more effective way because of dissatisfaction we felt about jobs we were in. It could be that your job dissatisfaction will prove to be your ticket to a better way of both managing your money and managing your career too. The power of this new approach comes from the integration of life, work and money goals that is its defining characteristic.

Yes, you need to change careers. But you might want to slow down in your implementation of the plan and make sure that the solution you come up with is one that will serve you well for a long time to come. To make a successful mid-life career change, you need not just a job-change plan, but a money-change plan too.

What you really need is a Life Planin which you put your savings to use helping you achieve your most important work goals. Use the motivation you feel today as a result of your dissatisfaction with your current job to drive your future saving efforts, and the next time you feel a need to make a mid-life career change (and there is a good chance that there will indeed be a next time), you will be in far better shape to pull one off quickly and successfully.

Yes, you need to change careers. But you might want to slow down in your implementation of the plan and make sure that the solution you come up with is one that will serve you well for a long time to come. To make a successful mid-life career change, you need not just a job-change plan, but a money-change plan too.

What you really need is a Life Plan in which you put your savings to use helping you achieve your most important work goals. Use the motivation you feel today as a result of your dissatisfaction with your current job to drive your future saving efforts, and the next time you feel a need to make a mid-life career change (and there is a good chance that there will indeed be a next time), you will be in far better shape to pull one off quickly and successfully.

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