As a seasoned career development coach, I work with clients who span decades and occupations. And I’ve never felt a moment like this, when people in their thirties to sixties, in professions as wide-ranging as retail, insurance, high tech, and entertainment, are expressing a deep longing for a career change. With the pandemic having upended so much of the status quo (perhaps even your job status), it has also created an opening to rethink the nature of work and how it coexists with modern life. Knowing if this is the right time for a career move is a lot to contemplate. And I’ve seen how the question can feel both overwhelming and paralyzing.
Guiding clients through the process, I suggest they sidestep that big question, at first, with smaller questions that are easier to tackle, which starts with understanding their motivation for change. For some, the impulse can be as straightforward as wanting to be better compensated with a heftier title for a role in which they’ve excelled. For others, it has been like a long-simmering pot, with readiness for a career that was put on the back burner years ago, out of practicality. “Wanting to have an impact” is a phrase that often gets mentioned. I have clients who’ve been mulling over an idea for a start-up that they’re finally eager to check out, as was the case with Alex, who was a Project Manager for most of his career, but now wants to take a shot at being an entrepreneur before heading back into full-time employment. Human Resource professionals tell me that the two most stated reasons on exit interviews for employees wanting a change are not feeling valued by supervisors, and not having enough opportunities for advancement. And that echos what I hear on a regular basis from coaching clients.
The new definition of the workplace factors into people’s thinking about how to approach their careers, going forward. As the pandemic changed the relationship to a physical space outside the home, many people got accustomed to working remotely, with an ability to more easily manage school pickups or tend to doctors appointments for aging parents, as well as the casual dress code. According to Pew Research, 60% of workers said they’d like to continue working from home, given the choice, up from 54% in 2020. I’m coaching a client named Jennifer, who recently left a role as Director of Operations. She went through a series of interviews for a new position and learned that she’d be expected to be on-site five days a week. From home to work and back again would require a three-hour commute. For Jennifer, that was enough of a non-starter, and she turned the company down. Before remote work had become a more accepted practice, Jennifer might have said yes.
Assessing the feasibility of a career change is something that needs to be faced, head-on, which I had to do during my own career transition. When I was thinking about going back to school to become a coach after twenty years in a vastly different field, I had a lofty goal beyond the job itself. At almost sixty, I wanted to show others that it was possible for career reinvention even later in life. This was important to me, because in my darkest moments before figuring out the way forward, I could only hope that this was true, with few models in my midst. Now, I wanted to prove it. (And I did!!) I say this to encourage you to dream big, no matter what your age. Yet, it’s essential to know the basics of what your career change will entail in advance, and a lot of that comes down to money. If like me, your career change requires retraining, that takes time and money. And similarly, if you’re leaning toward starting your own business, will the enterprise require funding? If so, do you have access to possible investors? Or at least, are you willing to create and follow a networking trail to find those who do? Depending on your family situation and the people who might rely on you for financial support, it’s essential to do an honest accounting, so you know you’ll be able to make it through to your end goal.
One of the reasons why I love being a coach is because it’s about supporting people to take action to reach their goals, including the fulfillment of a dream. But career change takes effort. When I encounter the overwhelm that often accompanies my clients’ longing for change, we make a step-by-step plan that they’ll be confident to achieve.
Having a passion for change can be an enormous incentive, not to be underestimated, and as I work with people, I always make sure to understand what would feel joyful and most meaningful for them in their next role.
As we go through the process together, we explore what’s driving the desire for change, the key priorities, assess the feasibility, and ways to test the idea to give them more security about the move. Having a neutral sounding board (outside your inner circle), along with accountability, are important components to achieving big goals like a career change, and the support of a coach helps maintain momentum. So, if you can make your way to work with a coach, I highly recommend it. Also look for Mastermind groups to join, with others sharing similar goals, as another means for accountability.
Allow your passion to be the fuel, know that it’s possible at any age, find support, and most importantly, take the first step, today!