For some people it’s a pivotal event which triggers a career and life re-evaluation, like redundancy, bereavement or divorce. For others, it’s something quieter: a growing sense of dissociation from what we have been and a growing sense of wanting figuring out what and who we want to be and do in the next phase of our lives.
Some might call this a mid-life crisis, but it’s not always about destroying the old in order to discover the new. It’s about stepping back to assess, and to shape the path for our future. As we all enjoy the benefits of living longer and more active lives, reaching midlife, doesn’t need to be about burning out in a blaze of glory, or quietly fading away. Instead, it can be a more managed, meaningful transition to a new, fulfilling and purposeful future. A time of deciding what works for you today, and what will still be valid tomorrow.
Here are our five top tips for making the right choices when it comes to your midlife career objectives.
1. Know what you’re good at. And what you’re not
Sometimes we become so used to doing things in our working lives that we forget to appreciate that those things may be complex or difficult for others to do. There can be a whole range of skills that we’re taking for granted, or that we’re accidentally minimising the value of.
What are you good, or great at? What parts of your current and past jobs have you enjoyed? And conversely, what is it that you struggle with, or simply get done but don’t love, or don’t enjoy doing at all?
Simon Long, Growth Director at 55/Redefined explains: “Understanding your motivations and skills is crucially important. Sometimes we don’t recognise what they are. Identifying your weaknesses is just as important. Pretending, or fooling yourself that, you’re something you aren’t isn’t good for your wellbeing or your career.”
Write a list of what you’re great at. What the key skills you have? What do you love doing? Then write another of all the things that you aren’t good at and that you don’t enjoy. It’s a great start point for navigating the route forward.
2. Identify what makes you happy
Simon suggests this is something you do with others. “I encourage everyone to sit down with people close to you and critique together what matters to you. Happiness can be an elusive quality, so aim for what makes you feel ‘contented and fulfilled’. When I did this for myself, I knew I wanted my career pivot to focus on paying back for having been so fortunate with so many great opportunities in my working life. Working at 55/Redefined, has meant I am surrounded by people that I admire. I’m enjoying work that makes me more excited than ever.”
What does ‘contented and fulfilled’ look like for you? What is ‘enough’? How are you going to get there if it’s not something you’re currently experiencing in your work? If you can identify the things that matter, you can seek those out in your next role.
3. Growing your sense of purpose
“Getting to 50 and feeling a need for purpose, but not knowing what to do about it is a conundrum,” says Simon. Over a period of two years, he worked for several organisations, looking for something that answered his need. Finding It at 55/Redefined, challenging ageism in the workplace means he’s “now working for a cause that resonates deeply with me and I have a sense I can do something really valuable in the second half of my life.”
While not everyone needs a cause to deliver them career happiness, it can be a great benchmark for identifying where you’ll find personal fulfilment in your work. Even asking if a sense of purpose is something that matters to you is a useful exercise. And if it does matter, then trying to identify what that purpose is, and where you might find it can really help you with your career pathway.
4. Don’t underestimate the value of your experience
The experience and knowledge that comes with having spent decades in the workplace can add enormous value to any organisation. What the over-50s can bring to the workplace and the value they can add is something that the world is slowly (some might argue far too slowly) waking up to.
As the workplace landscape evolves to become more inclusive for older workers, multigenerational teams are going to be a valuable asset. While younger team members may have a grip on current trends and technology and boundless enthusiasm and energy, there’s no replacing the wise head of someone who has been there, done that. A shared learning environment can benefit everyone. Make sure the value that your experience can bring is something you showcase when speaking to recruiter.
5. Not everyone has to be a leader
As we get older, while some will still have just as much drive and grit to make it to (and stay at) the top, for others, priorities can change. Maybe we want to work fewer hours or have less responsibility. There’s no shame in that. Even if you’ve been a leader before, you don’t have to be a leader now.
Evaluating your whole life – not just your career – and understanding where work fits in the bigger picture is crucial. Knowing what the payoffs for having a less senior role might be, whether that’s less stress and responsibility and more downtime to pursue other interests, is important to understand. It’s not a sign of failure or weakness to say that leadership is not what you want anymore.
It’s Time to Chart a New Course
As we reach midlife, it’s easy to feel invisible, or that our time to shine has passed us by, but that simply isn’t the case. It’s a question of what we want to shine for, and how we want to shine. And that begins with understanding that you aren’t the same person with the same priorities that you were thirty years ago. And that’s okay.
Just because you’ve always been in one role or career pathway, doesn’t mean you have to continue there, if your motivations have changed.
So, ask yourself: Who do you want to be today?
When you’ve assessed where you think you want your next work move to be Jobs/Redefined’s jobs page is the ideal place to find jobs with age-inclusive employers who are actively hiring people like you.