Career Change: Finding Your Moment In Middle Age

finding your moment for career change. Image of a man looking at his watchI had coffee with a friend last week whom I hadn’t seen in a while. She and I used to work together. Like me, she left that company roughly a year ago. And, like me, she’s spent the better part of this year regrouping to figure out what’s next for her professionally.

We share a lot in common, and not only our previous place of employment. Both of us are working mothers. Both of us would like to launch our own businesses. And while both of us have experimented with different ideas over the course of the past year, our plans have evolved into something much more concrete since we last had lunch in March.

The difference is that while I feel like my new professional life is about to take off, she feels that her future is momentarily on hold. A host of domestic issues have simultaneously cropped up that are distracting her from her goals: some unexpected travel…her kids’ education…her new puppy who isn’t yet house trained. (OK, so I can’t relate to the last one).

Crucially, she is also waiting to find out whether or not she will have to go back to a full-time “normal” job in order to help her keep her family afloat.

I don’t say any of this critically. To the contrary,I say it with great empathy. I was her six years ago. Literally.

Back in 2012, I was again thinking about my next career move. (Yes, it’s a condition. My husband likes to say that I’m an “expert in career change.”) I wanted a job that would be both fulfilling and challenging. But I also had two kids aged 11 and 8 who couldn’t travel around the city on their own yet. The “11+ exams”  loomed on the horizon. (If you’re American and don’t know what these are, consider yourself lucky.)

Plus, we were in the midst of trying to buy a house. Let’s just say that having “unemployed” on your mortgage application doesn’t exactly look fantastic.

So I took a job. I was lucky that it turned out to be a good job with wonderful colleagues. But I knew the whole time I was there that it wasn’t really authentically me. Although I was acquiring a lot of new skills, it wasn’t a place that I intended to stay. But I did stay – for five years – because the timing in other parts of my life was never right for me to leave.

I’m in a different place now. My kids are in secondary school. We own a house. Sure, the banister lifts out of the staircase if you put your hand on it. And our shower was recently replaced because sewage – yes, sewage – was clogging one of the pipes in the bathroom. But the house has four walls and a floor. Mostly, anyhow.

More importantly, I feel like things are slowly beginning to fall into place. I finished the draft of a book I’d been working on for ages. Now I’m trying to sell it. I’ve got some potential clients for my soon-t0-be-disclosed business. I may well fail at both projects. But I have enough energy – and a sufficiently  uncluttered horizon – to be able to “take a punt” now in a way that I couldn’t have contemplated before.

I reassured my friend that she just needs to be patient. This may not be “her” moment, just like 2012 wasn’t mine. But if she’s patient, I’m confident that she’ll get there eventually.

How about you? Did you ever put off something you really wanted to do because the timing wasn’t right? Conversely, did the stars ever align and enable you to take a professional risk?

Image: Photo by Tyler Harris on Unsplash

  • Reply Howard Baldwin

    July 14, 2018, 3:16 pm

    I was battered by the web bust in 2002. Never been so happy for unemployment insurance. Forced to start freelancing. The upshot? My salary doubled over the staff positions I’d had; I was able to put more money away toward retirement (an American tax advantage, because the self-employed pay all their social security taxes, rather than share them with an employer); and I retired at sixty. I was lucky to have a spouse to share expenses, but the moral is: you never know when something bad is going to turn out well. Lemons and lemonade, don’t you know.

  • Reply Leslie Keelty

    July 17, 2018, 7:37 pm

    Hi Delia, just found your blog! This is helpful article to encourage those who are feeling stuck. I got hit back in the 1980’s when the unemployment rate where I live was at a all-time high of 13%. I took the opportunity to go back to school and I also started a business as an image consultant. This was a great time for me to regroup and re-energize and although I decided not to continue with the business I learned a lot and it gave me much needed confidence to be able to sell myself at job interviews and ultimately land a job that suited me. I retired in January after 23 years and although it was good fit for me it’s great to finally be on ‘my time’ without having to conform to corporate policy.

  • Reply delialloyd

    July 17, 2018, 8:15 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your story Leslie. I’m so glad that you are finally free to follow your bliss!

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