As we launch into 2013, this topic may be eating away at you. As only 6% of South Africans at this point can afford to retire, we probably need to “retire retirement”. By 2020, the 60 plus generation worldwide will have skyrocketed and is forecast to be one billion, and by 2050, two billion – equating to 22% of the world’s population.
At 60, the majority of baby boomers are still active. With an average life expectancy of at least 81, we have plenty of “work life” left in us, whether it’s part-time, full-time or some-of-the-time, for financial reasons, for fun, for the good of others or to combat boredom and loneliness. We need to find new ways of sustaining our longer lifetimes, otherwise the legacy that we leave our children will be a huge burden.
At our age, we tend to reflect on the gap between the reality of our lives and the dreams we once had. We should look at making the second half of our life more meaningful as we won’t get a second chance.
Take stock of the following thoughts when thinking about a mid-life career change –
Do you have a good work life fit?
Are you bored, dissatisfied, suffering from job burnout, reduced productivity, stress related health issues? If you are not balancing your work and life objectives, you run the risk of suffering from all of these. If your career is not offering you a sufficient level of satisfaction, you may need to be in a place where you can contribute and be part of something exciting. A mid-life career change could be personally rewarding, a viable alternative to retirement and possibly necessary.
Identify your passion
Jot down all of the things that have made you happy, your talents, your accomplishments, what you like doing and those dream jobs. Ask others to share their perceptions of your strengths. Consider your values – what matters to you most. If money were not an issue, what would you really like to do? In an ideal world, work is an expression of who we really are. A meaningful and satisfying career meshes with our values, our talents and what is truly important to us.
What is available to me?
Work is not just about jobs. Work could be defined as work for gain, work for the benefit of others, work for meaning, work for fun, work for learning. Researching mid-life opportunities is more fun when you still have gainful employment on your side of time. New ways of working could include career portfolios, new business enterprises, franchising, entrepreneurship, mentors, subject-matter experts and freelancing.
Make learning your lifelong commitment. Online learning, particularly for mid-lifers is overtaking traditional learning. You need to add value to the investment that is yourself. The time to learn is no longer measured in terms of months/years. Time to learn is measured by what you need to learn, and how hard you are willing to learn. As you are part of a global workforce, you need to adjust to changing needs and learning must be a part of everything you do, as change is an inevitable part of your future.
Long term planning
Stay abreast of change and remain competitive. We live in a world where change is one of the few constants. New technologies, economic uncertainties and demographic change have increased the pace and demands of change. Conduct internal analysis and self-assessment and identify skills that you are lacking, learn them, practice them and hone your competencies. New skills also improve your confidence and open the doors of opportunity.
Buying and starting your own business
Research the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. Learn how to manage your fear of risk. Consider changing your mindset from an employee to a person who works for him/herself.
Consulting a qualified life coach could be one of your best investments. A life coach will assist you in identifying your passion while strategically planning your journey to achieve new goals.
Consider flexible working options
In this economic downturn, many organizations are looking at alternative working structures and flexible options. On your journey towards a mid-life career change, consider speaking to your employer regarding reduced working hours, phased retirement, project assignments, job-sharing, flexitime and working from home. Labour costs are a huge burden for most employers, who are looking at new ways in which to manage costs in a competitive, technologically-driven economy.
You may like to consider volunteering in your organization as a mentor. Transferring of knowledge to members of the younger generation is very satisfying and offers countless benefits to the mentee. Or consider cross-generational mentoring – we can all learn so much, especially when it comes to technology, from our younger colleagues. When planning your mid-life career change, seek out subject-matter experts and absorb as much as possible from their vast banks of knowledge.
Making a career transition is not for the feint-hearted and requires a lot of emotional support. Identify your fears and find good friends who are prepared to give you honest, non-judgmental feedback. You will probably find out who your true friends during this time. Most importantly, commit to your career transition – this is one of the most critical factors in your success.
Are you ready for your future? Are you willing to do what it takes to win the battle for your own economic independence?
We leave you with Winston Churchill’s famous words:
“To every man there comes a time in his lifetime, that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered that special chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified to do the work which could have been his finest hour.”