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Saturday 18 May, 3:50pm
“Is this really worth it?” my husband asked as I returned from work late again, frazzled and stressed.
He was right, it wasn’t. The realisation had been growing that I wasn’t enjoying my job any more, it wasn’t a passing phase and I wasn’t the kind of person to stick it out until retirement, if my heart wasn’t in it.
I was fortunate enough to have the financial stability to leave my job without having another one lined up, to give me the headspace to really figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of my working career. Since doing this (and no regrets so far!) I’ve discovered many others taking a similar path and picked up a few tips on my journey along the way.
When you’re the only one leaving a job and facing a barrage of questions about “what are you doing next?” when you don’t really have an answer, it feels like you are the only one in this situation. But as I started networking and asking for advice, I found more people making a similar move, who had done the same thing, or were plucking up enough courage to do so.
So what’s driving people to re-evaluate their career in later life?
A couple of people I spoke to re-evaluated their life after someone close to them passed away or faced a serious illness. They were struck by how finite life is and started to think about what they wanted to be remembered for.
Having worked hard for 30+ years I realised there are other things I want to do apart from work and I wanted to make sure I had enough energy for them, rather than using the weekends just to recover in time for the next week.
Finite working career
A friend of mine realised that she only had 10 years of her working career left and she wanted to make sure that it counted. She felt she could do more and had always wanted to work in another sector, she felt like this was the time to make that change or always regret having not tried.
Change in circumstances
Parents I know have found the change immense when their children leave home; on the one hand losing a focus, and on the other hand gaining time (and money) to consider what they want to do now. Others have faced redundancy from a stable work situation, which at first was a surprise and then sometimes the kick they needed to move on to something else.
Another driver contributing to a change has been people’s realisation that they no longer like the culture of their workplace. It may seem too alpha-male, uncaring or unethical. So they have a desire to move to somewhere that is more aligned to their values, work for themselves or set up their own company where they can set the culture.
More financial stability
In later life we start to see the end of the mortgage, have less responsibilities for children and can afford to take more of a risk, either to take a career break and/or move to a more flexible portfolio work set up.
Finally, several of my contacts mentioned how they didn’t have the confidence to make a big change earlier in their career. But now felt they had the skills and confidence to move into another area of set up on their own.
Redundancy or retirement
Some of us have to re-evaluate their life after redundancy or retirement. Some may feel distressed and out of our control by this change of work status, but others may find it is the kick they needed to move onto their own business.
I’m only a few months into my journey of re-invention, but here’s a few tips I’ve picked up on the way from others who have been through the same process. They would also work well for someone moving into retirement.
Take time to really think through what you want to do, talk to others and explore lots of options. You don’t get the opportunity to do this very often, and it’s hard to do when your head is into a job, so make the most of it!
Talk to lots of people! Find out about their career journeys. Ask about their current role or sector. Ask their advice on what you could consider doing. I’ve found these conversations a really good way to crystallise my emerging thoughts and come up with new ideas and contacts to explore.
Explore interests and causes you believe in, but haven’t had time to delve into before. Talk to experts, listen to podcasts, go to conferences, find events on Eventbrite. It could lead you into a new direction.
I’ve found volunteering a great way to explore new opportunities and not only in the traditional charity sector. Offering your services for free to a company or organisation is a way of finding out more about that area and brings you into contact with a whole new network of people and can lead to paid work. It also feels good to be “giving something back” and can give your week structure when suddenly it feels like you have empty days to fill.
Set aside a minimum length of time you are going to take out of the workplace. Set aside some cash or a regular monthly sum, especially if, like me you felt guilty about not bringing a wage in. Get a really nice notebook to write down ideas and figure out where you think best – it might be outside, at home or in a coffee shop.
Make time to relax
Finally make sure you save some time to enjoy your hobbies, pick up with old friends or take a long holiday.
I’m only in the early chapters of my “new start”, but already I feel energised, excited about new opportunities, in contact with a whole new network of people and can see the emerging shoots of a new life that I have the time and space to shape.