Career Change at 40? 10 reasons to hire a career coach
What is it about being 40 that prompts dreams of a new career? You’ve carved out a successful path, been promoted (more than once), you’re known in your field, have a team that admire you, and you’ve achieved some real accolades…..
Something is missing. And it’s getting louder and more insistent.
What drives a career change at 40?
It could be something about you: the things that are most important to you today have shifted in priority. Perhaps you need more flexibility now, or you’re no longer prepared to tolerate how your core values clash with those of the organization you work for. It’s wearing you down.
It could be something about the role: when you started on this career path you loved the face to face interaction with clients on a daily basis – but now it’s all spreadsheets and social media. The work has changed.
It could be something about your situation: since having your children, you don’t want to spend a week away on a business trip, and burning the midnight oil really doesn’t cut it any more. You want more balance.
It could also be something about being 40: sadly, you’ve been to one or two funerals this year and not just for grandparents either. Life suddenly feels shorter. You keep coming back to one question:
Is this it?
And the word you keep returning to is MEANING.
How can you be proud of what you’ve achieved in your life? How can you explain it to your children so they are proud of you? What difference are you really making? Yes, big questions.
But it’s a huge decision!
Yes, changing career paths at 40 is certainly a big one. You’re probably locked into mortgage repayments, have expectations of family holidays, weekends away, even school fees or club memberships. These are all non-negotiable.
Or are they? Are all of them essential to your well-being, and perhaps the well-being of others who are tethered to your fortunes? Have you ever followed that thought through to its natural conclusion and worked out what might actually be possible?
What if you continue as you are and pretend everything’s OK? Maybe you’ll be able to convince yourself and the dissatisfaction and soul-searching will recede. ‘Work is called work for a reason,’ as your dad used to say.
Inside your head there’s a battle in full swing – some call it ‘cognitive dissonance’ and, according to Brené Brown, it might go something like this:
Script 1: ‘I’m falling apart and need to slow down and ask for help.’
Script 2: ‘Only flaky, unstable people fall apart and ask for help.’
Our tendency when faced with this kind of cognitive dissonance is to firstly deny it, and when that doesn’t do the trick, go shopping, reach for that after-work glass of red, ramp up your busy-ness, or whatever your preferred ‘numbing’ technique might be.
If you recognize this behaviour and take a closer look, you may start to realize that you owe it to yourself to at least explore alternatives. How can you look back at your life with genuine satisfaction if you haven’t at least tried to explore more meaningful alternatives and attempted to build a new path that was more authentically you?
So, if the possibility of changing direction becomes so insistent that you’re compelled (for your own sanity) to give it some serious thought, how can you give it the very best chance of success? (You already know the answer to this one!)
If you want to make a difficult decision about legal matters, you consult a lawyer.
If you want to help your dodgy knee recover after that gym injury, you seek out a good physio.
If you want to know where to invest that inheritance, you ask a financial adviser.
And if you want to understand how to make a carefully-considered career change, a change that is most likely to have a strong chance of success, you employ a career change specialist.
There are fully-qualified and experienced career change coaches who have made this their life’s work. They understand what’s involved in a successful career change in terms of process, mindset, the coaching relationship and accountability. They know how it works, they’ve seen it succeed, they’ve been a part of re-invigorating careers and empowered their now-fulfilled coaching clients.
But How Exactly Can a Career Coach Help?
Here are 10 reasons to hire a career coach – especially if you hate asking for help!
1. The process
A good career change coach will have a proven programme or approach and will have successfully coached clients to achieve the desired change of direction. They know the gradual and systematic build it takes to move clients from doubt and confusion to clarity and confidence in their new path.
2. The professional qualifications
Like any professional role, career change has its own set of qualifications. These vary from PG qualifications in Career Guidance/ Career Consulting/ Career Counselling/ Career Advising; CIPD career development qualifications; and accredited coaching qualifications. Many people describe themselves as career coaches, but they may not have a specialist knowledge of career change, even if they have authentic coaching credentials.
3. Support, challenge and accountability
Your career coach will place you centre-stage, will work with you to define your vision and aspirations, and work hard to help you achieve these. They’ll support you through the twists and turns, challenge you when it looks like you’re under-selling yourself or doubting your abilities, and hold you accountable for the work you say you’ll do. They work on your agenda, not theirs. They’ll keep the momentum going.
4. Space and permission to explore
A career coach takes your dreams seriously. You have full permission to imagine a wonderful future, range into unknown territory – places you’ve never allowed yourself to believe could become reality for you. And when you’ve discovered the one possibility you want to work on bringing to life, your career coach will help you build a bridge, face the challenges, appreciate the reasons it could succeed and tackle the barriers to success. Dreams start to become reality.
5. Being seen, heard and not judged
When was the last time you spoke honestly about the future you want for yourself and others you care about? When have you dared to explore, without fear of judgment or cynicism, what you could be capable of? This is one of the huge benefits of investing in a career coach – you will be seen, heard and taken seriously. You will never be judged. Unlike friends and family, they will not tell you what you should do, but ask the best questions to help you find your own answers.
6. Defence Against the Dark Arts
We all have them. Gremlins, inner critics, saboteurs. These are the voices that pipe up as soon as we tiptoe towards the edge of our comfort zone. Their chorus is, ‘stay where you are’, ‘you’re safe here’, and their crescendo (usually in the middle of the night) is, ‘these ten catastrophes will happen as soon as you hand in your notice.’ A career coach will have strategies and tactics to counter your gremlins, to recognize them for what they are, and work to achieve your true capabilities.
7. Ingenuity and Possibility
Career coaches believe change is possible. Very often they have a successful career change under their belt themselves, have experienced how it feels and how it can succeed. They can relate to your experience. They are realists, they are creative, resourceful, and will enable you to push against doors you always thought were locked.
8. Clarity, Direction, Action
All of these together will bring you:
· clarity on what you are looking for and why
· specific direction of travel
· action informed by both of the above – plus momentum to keep the energy flowing
9. A CV (when you need one!)
If you work through a proven career change process, identify your target role, make connections in your chosen field and start knocking on the right doors, there will come a time when you may need to refine your CV, enhance your online presence (LinkedIn for example), develop some intelligent strategies and tactics to secure the role or the way of working you have identified as the keys to your new kingdom.
A good career coach will be able to support you with all these – but only after the WHYs are all locked in. Only then do you know WHAT you need a CV or LinkedIn profile to do for you.
10. 100% Focus
When you invest in a career coach, you buy concentration, expertise, creativity, experience and a laser focus on you and what you want to create in your life.
Do you know what that feels like?
So how are you feeling about changing career at 40?
I changed direction in my 30s, 40s and 50s. The truth is, it’s never plain sailing. Twice I needed to re-train. But it is, in my experience, the route to greater fulfillment, authenticity and a more substantial sense of purpose. Today, I feel I have found the work that lines up my talents, my values, my strengths and my ‘ikigai’ – my reason for being. I’m rewarded for doing the work I love.
According to Coldplay: ‘Nobody said it was easy’.
But, it’s undoubtedly a clearer road when you have a coach along for illumination and rehydration.
And the final word to Maya Angelou:
I’d love to be part of your courageous new world.
Image: Joshua Coleman (Unsplash)