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Midlife Career Changes

Many people have thoughts of a career change during midlife but are not sure how to approach such a crucial decision. The challenge of successfully navigating a midlife career change is both exciting and stressful. Some resources that may be of assistance are listed below.

5 Tips for Mid-Life Career Change:  (By Mark Miller-"Whats Next")

1. Understand your priorities and needs.

Who are you and what do you want? Simple questions, but the answers aren’t always easy to find. For those accustomed to achievement, carving out time to do nothing is a challenge. But you need that time to assess what gives you joy, what excites you and fills you with passion.

2. Use a tool or take a test.

Besides taking time out to contemplate your options, there are other ways to jump-start a career switch. In an initial consultation, career coaches and counselors often use tests or comprehensive questionnaires to assess a client’s skills, interests, values and personality traits. You can play career counselor yourself with dozens of self-assessment tests, many of which are available online. Some are free, while others require a fee and sometimes require evaluation by a trained evaluator. Just don’t expect them to provide all the answers.

3. Tell your story.

Mining the past for clues is another time-tested way for career changers to find a road map to their future. Writing an autobiography highlighting critical events, influential relationships and significant achievements often leads to surprising revelations. What were the high points in your career that gave you a jolt of energy and pride? What makes you happy? What do you want more or less of in your life?

It’s just human nature to miss things about ourselves that are apparent to others. You can’t see your own eyes light up or hear your voice change when you talk about the volunteer job at the local elementary school, or that environmental vacation spent cleaning up Mexican beaches. For that reason, career coaches and counselors often advise assembling a team of advisers to help one recall childhood aspirations and career high points. The team might include former bosses, professors, coaches and high school friends. “Just like a corporate board, you want diversity,” says corporate career counselor Richard Leider.

4. Call in the pros.

A major career transition may require expert help. Career coaches and counselors can help clients identify skills, set goals and draw up action plans, as well as provide support during the process. Certified financial planners can help crunch the numbers to make sure the plan is affordable and that retirement is secure. And increasing numbers of planners are adding life-planning skills to their portfolios, so they can help clients with the non-financial aspects of life. With the right help, you can travel down the road to reinvention faster, with fewer bumps along the way.

5. Test the waters.

Research indicates that midlife adults are more likely to make successful transitions experientially rather than analytically. The big revelations come from jumping in and trying new things to see what works.

Luckily, midlife career-changers have plenty of options. Prospective teachers can substitute in elementary, middle and high-school classrooms to sample work with different age groups and teaching environments. Volunteer at a hospital before applying to nursing school. Take a low-paid job at a plant nursery before signing up for a horticulture degree. Internships, sabbaticals, college courses or even brief apprenticeships allow a career-switcher to step out of the daily routine, gain hands-on experience and test-drive that new pathway before quitting a day job.

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