For starters, this isn’t a column about the type of transitioning that’s been in the local news recently. Instead, it’s a follow-up to the column I wrote a month ago about my decision to change career paths and address my mid-life “situation.” As I said then, calling it a “crisis” made it worse somehow and if anything, glorified an already stressful period in my life.
But I must admit, not only was it a therapeutic experience, it was validating and liberating, as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders, allowing me to move forward with confidence and conviction.
Since that column appeared, I’ve been frequently surprised at the reaction it created, resonating with many people finding themselves at a similar crossroads. Granted, friends and family were expectedly polite and supportive, but it was the words of complete strangers that humbled and impressed me the most.
As it turns out, while I was searching for the light at the end of the tunnel, and feeling emotions of frustration, isolation, lack of direction and motivation, I was, according to the many responses I received, in a very crowded tunnel.
It soon dawned on me that the nature of my “coming out” story of sorts, had the potential to help others and to encourage them to get through this trying and difficult stage. What was especially unsettling about much of their feedback though was how many people felt trapped and isolated, to the extent it prevented them from taking any action at all.
And let’s be honest, they’ve had good reason. After all, we’ve seen so much these past few years, and have had so many friends and loved ones who seemingly had it all, take falls from grace that would’ve never been imagined not long before. But in this despair lies an opportunity to transition, versus remaining trapped.
Arguably the most important thing to remember in all of this is that work is only part of our total life experience. It describes us, but doesn’t define us. At the end of the day it is, and should be, only a small portion of what represents our overall lives.
Consequently, I decided to focus this particular column on the transition process of career change. For those of us in the midst of, or considering, a career change, it can seem that no one around us is listening. Perhaps knowing that others are searching for the same outcome will prove to be the impetus one needs to take the next step, or any step for that matter. The bottom line, transition sounds a lot better than “mid-life crisis.”
A well-planned transition process is vital if you’re considering a career change. A wealth of research and self-help information is available, but according to most researchers, your readiness for change depends upon four key factors:
1. Self. Your personal responses to change, including attitude, aptitude and mindset.
2. Situation. Changes in roles, duties, responsibilities, relationships with people, routines of work and activities, assumptions of what can be done better or worse in the new career.
3. Support. From family and friends, networking connections to broaden career opportunities.
4. Strategies. Taking action to change the situation, change the meaning of career, or change your attitude and expectation to fit the new career.
Planning for a new career not only involves matching your personal strengths and weaknesses, skills, knowledge and experiences to the new job, it also is about fitting your “occupational career path” into a “life plan” that will bring more meaning to your life, and hopefully more value to your retirement.
My personal journey through this transition concentrated heavily on how I could best match personal skills with the requirements of whatever came next. As I mentioned in my earlier piece, having been a licensed realtor in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, prior to moving full-time to Rehoboth four years ago, greatly eased the consideration process of what lies ahead.
For me, it was an obvious decision, yet one I had to become comfortable with over the course of several months. A decision like this should never be made hastily, but at the middle of one’s life, it’s even more imperative to weigh all the options wisely. Doing so increases the long-term likelihood of success and also of validating your original decision to change. Change is inevitable. Being prepared for it, not so much.
So as I write today, my focus is on a bright future in real estate and on working to do all I possibly can to reach that goal. My advice to those in the same boat, particularly those who reached out to me recently, is the same advice a dear friend once gave me years ago…always trust your gut. If it’s telling you it’s time to make a change, don’t turn a blind eye and avoid what’s plainly obvious.
To ignore signs of frustration and discontentment only denies you the opportunity of possibly discovering a more positive and fulfilling life experience. Embrace it!
Chris is a regular contributor to Letters from CAMP Rehoboth and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.