The big factor in career change over the last couple of decades has been having to accept that the days of a job for life are well and truly over.
As technology becomes ubiquitous and the pace of life quickens, we’re having to become more nimble and dynamic than ever before.
First, we had the GFC and now Covid.
External shockwaves like these can completely upend a person. Entire industries such as tourism, airlines, entertainment, restaurants and countless others have collapsed or contracted out of sight.
Radical change can hit personally, too. An injury or health complication, becoming a parent or having to care for parents… so many events can flip our career on its head.
Consider the situation of a woman I spoke to yesterday.
Career Change at 50
Pre Covid her mainstay career was working as a musician. Post Covid, her work completely dried up.
Each year she had some seasonal work where she took school photos part way into the school year. But with schools shutting down, so did that supplementary income.
Over the last few years, she also had sporadic work offering team building events.
Not this year.
Career Change Jobs
The last piece of this woman’s portfolio career involves offering hypnotherapy, something she has recently become quite capable at. With her other work in hibernation, she has been channelling all her focus into this avenue. Before Covid it was very much a fringe part of her life. As she has poured energy into it, the work is coming in and proving to be highly satisfying.
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discovered that the flow state occurs when our skills are being used and there is an element of challenge to what we’re doing.
As a musician, the lady I spoke with wasn’t finding flow as she was continually doing cover material that provided little challenge. When she began offering hypnotherapy she had to master a new skill and the flow state returned.
Few of us go out of our way to invite shockwaves of change into our lives. Afraid of having to leave our comfort zones we have a terrible tendency to stay in ruts.
New frontiers by definition are unsettling and daunting. But as Paulo Coelho pointed out:
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal.”
Career Change at 40
The short documentary, Lemonade, was created to capture the impacts on over 130 000 advertising professionals who lost their jobs in the Great Financial Crisis. The film reveals how many of them found their lives expand. Those who were once paid to be creative in advertising were forced to be creative with their own lives. And it paid off.
In order to thrive in this era, we have no choice but to become highly adaptable. Embracing change is important but so is having someone guide you through transitional periods and provide some objective perspective. Unfortunately, few people seek out career guidance and of those who do, many find little value in the career advice they receive.
Career Change Advice
A recent British survey stated that almost half of those over the age of fourteen either had no career advice, very poor advice or limited advice. It appears that our culture isn’t too concerned about helping us find highly engaging careers, despite the fact that we spend more of our time working than in any other activity.
Career Change at 30
After Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism, career guidance was not even a consideration. Instead, professionals advised her parents to institutionalise her. Gifted with a strong mother who guided and encouraged Temple, she discovered her place in the world as a livestock-handling equipment designer. Not only did she find her niche and individual expression, she branched out from the divergent fields of animal science and autism education to also become a professor and author.
Each of us has the same potential to find work that uniquely fits us and delivers a deep and abiding sense of satisfaction and joy. The fact that such a small proportion of people feel engaged and enlivened by their work suggests that finding our sense of fit doesn’t come very easily.
Looking for Career Change
The first challenge we face today is the paradox of choice. Rather than being thrilled by the vast amount of jobs and work options available today, we paradoxically become paralysed by it. It is less daunting to choose from the traditional array of professions (doctor/lawyer/accountant) than it is to take the path of Temple Grandin and spend years honing in on your niche.
A second challenge is our tendency to play it safe in life. Most of us settle into a velvet rut whereby we become resigned to a lack of fulfilment in our work, just as long as we have enough consolations from the income it affords us. As the philosopher, Rousseau pointed out in the opening sentence of The Social Contract:
“Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.”
Lastly, there is a dearth of elders or mentors who have followed their authentic path in life and can guide the next generation. When ancient cultures followed the principle that it takes a village to raise a child, members of a tribe would notice different facets or latent gifts within its young people. One downfall of our individualist society is that many languish when it comes to finding how to best match who they are with suitable work.
Temple Grandin wasn’t merely fortunate in being able to find her fit; she had the continuous guidance of her mother, teachers and other allies, to complement her innate determination and willingness to try things.
Having personally navigated each of these challenges and many others, I am well placed to help others discover their work-related alignment and sense of integration.
When what you do leaves you disconnected and depleted, you’re vocationally out of sync. This global slow down is providing a perfect opportunity for reevaluating one’s life trajectory and defragmenting. One of the best career change quotes I’ve struck is this short phrase from futurist Buckminster Fuller:
“The minute you begin to do what you really want to do it’s really a different kind of life.”