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Karen M. Black
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Midlife career changes: the truth about reinventing yourself as an entrepreneur

“Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change — this is the rhythm of living.”
– Bruce Barton

Midlife career changes wasn't something that the guidance teacher taught me growing up. Yet, in my 20 years in corporate most recently as a senior consultant, I've changed my focus more than a few times.

Most recently, I went out on my own and began exploring both the life of the independent consultant, and that of an inspirational writer. And believe me, the life of the entrepreneur is a different world. It's equally scary, and exciting.

Using midlife career changes to explore who you are

What I have learned is that midlife career changes aren't really about the job. It's really about something inside you that has changed. It's about who you are today, and what's important to you now.

A short aside: I'm a writer and consultant and I'm also someone who's been knocked around in corporate (layoffs, re-orgs, demanding clients, companies going bankrupt). Sometimes, it was painful.

Yet, I look back and recognize that every bump in the road conspired to lead me where I am today. Living a life of Freedom, away from the 9 to 5, serving amazing clients and writing about what's most important to me.

So whether you are changing careers in midlife yourself, or you’ve been (ahem) ‘compelled’ by your organization to seek new opportunities, use this time to explore yourself more deeply. You, the entrepreneur, will need to be quite different than you, the employee. And no matter your area of expertise, your business >will end up being an intimate reflection of your heart.

Ask: what do I really love to do? What’s my passion? Why did I create midlife career changes now, what’s the meaning of all this? And – how could I transform the challenge of changing careers in midlife, into a remarkable opportunity?

Being gentle with yourself, as you adjust

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
–Eleanor Roosevelt

When in the midst of midlife career changes, make sure to be gentle with yourself. Your world has changed, and your body and heart may need time to catch up. If you're actively seeking ideas, allow your imagination to expand, helping you tap into your intuition and easily recognize the new career that suits you.

It’s possible that you may consider entrepreneurship and then decide to return to the career or profession that is familiar to you – or you may choose to completely reinvent yourself, become an entrepreneur, start a business from home or something in between.

Early in your transition, hold everything lightly, and welcome the best outcome for you. Stay open to opportunities, in every form.

To help you with the uncertainty that midlife career changes bring, I suggest that you surround yourself with positive people and ideas. Entrepreneurship may be the most exciting thing you've ever done: but it's not for the faint of heart.

Releasing the security myth

When I was in corporate, it was really easy to feel secure. I knew when the paycheque was coming, and when I'd have time off. When I went out on my own, I faced a different reality. I'd have weeks where my income was way higher than in corporate. Then I'd have weeks and (ug) even months without being paid. In order to adapt, I had to dig deep in my heart, and re-define what I meant by security.

The truth is, we all have a tendency to “want it now”, and if you’re looking at turning your midlife career changes into entrepreneurship, you will be faced with your own heart views on security. And, they may surprise you.

For you, is security a nine to five job? Or is security the peace in your heart you get from doing something you passionately love, knowing that all will be well?

The former is built on an illusion. The latter, you control and no one can ever take away. When you get there, the feeling is unlike anything else.

Some practical tips

I'm a dreamer, and I'm also a very practical gal. Just in case there are a few twists and turns you weren’t expecting on the road to your own business, here are some practical ideas for you to consider as you begin:

  • Where can you cut back? Keep only what’s useful, beautiful or meaningful. Remember: money is a renewable resource. And! Clutter-clearing is modern day alchemy which creates energetic space.
  • Is this the time to downsize? Perhaps you’ve been considering change for a while and now is the time.
  • Do you have a knack at eBay, or Kijiji? Get rid of stuff. Stuff we hold on to that is not necessary, takes up ‘energetic’ space. It’s also money you’re leaving on the table.

Flowing with the unexpected

“As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit.”
–Emmanuel Teney

Another thing you should know. Your midlife career changes will go through a transition period where for a while, you may not be sure of your new direction. Or if you are sure, they may change or not feel as your plans have “legs” solidly moving you forward.

Here's an example from my own life. Though I ended up in exactly the right spot, the path was not a straight one...

Trial and error from the trenches

In my 40's, I was faced (again) with midlife career changes. I had done a great deal of research on how to make my passion into a business. I spent thousands of dollars on high-end coaching, got some great ideas, and was charging ahead with my launch.

Right in the middle of launching my coaching business, another idea came out of the blue, which I liked, but I pushed aside.

Months later, I realized that coaching wasn’t for me. – I found myself back in the murky twilight zone of transition (an oft-visited place for folks dealing with midlife career changes).

I slowly realized that the idea that had come serendipitously was a much better fit for me. Yet, there was no way I could have planned it.

Planning is no longer is what it was

Are you a planner? Me too. But to get to the next stage of my midlife career changes, and embrace my own business, I had to give some of that part of me up.

Sure, create some goals for next year if you're immersed in midlife career changes. But hold all of it lightly. For the transition period is both a creative and unsettling time, which may last many weeks or months before your new venture unfolds profitably.

Here are some tips for you

  • Use midlife career changes as an excuse to do some research into areas that you find interesting. Expand your imagination. Notice those things that you’ve always found impractical, yet loved. Notice when your heart expands and soars. Notice where you feel scared. It’s all good.
  • Consider meditation, or other stress-relieving techniques to maintain your energy. Meditation is also a way of increasing your intuition, and recognizing opportunities as they come along (you'll need to be able to do this).
  • Explore more about yourself (It's not just about midlife career changes: it's about your heart). You’re changing. Who are you now? Re-take the Myers Briggs. Read What Colour is your Parachute?. Read Callings by Gregg Levoy. Take a reflective retreat.
  • Create a support group. If you have friends going through midlife career changes as well, meet for coffee once a week. Warning! If your friends are complainers – skip this step and fire your friends. Really.
  • Read books you find inspirational. The Magic of Thinking Big is quite good. Or read biographies of people that you admire (I really liked Steve Jobs: a biography) Understand that your soul and intuition is tapped in directly now, and that ideas will come in unexpected forms.
  • Get connected online, and put it out there that you’re going through some midlife career changes and seeking the next opportunity. If you only pick one network, I’d recommend LinkedIn. For some ideas on how to use LinkedIn, I’d purchase Lewis Howes’ book on LinkedIn marketing.

Recognizing opportunities in unexpected packages

“Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer’s daughter.”
–Julius Comroe Jr.

Sometimes during midlife career changes, we get stuck in how we “think” things should look. The title, the job, the salary, the industry, the business model, how quick our new clients should recognize our value and make us millionaires.

As you explore midlife career changes and the possibility of creating your own business, I encourage you to stay open to ideas opportunities. Why? Because they may come in a package you didn’t expect. And – they could offer more than you could have imagined.

Only to say:

  • Stay open to the unexpected during midlife career change
  • Be prepared… to be surprised by serendipity
  • As unexpected opportunities make themselves known, check them out
  • Then, once you know your direction, take big, clear action
  • Re-visit, re-assess often, while continuing to take action as new information comes in.

Final word for now. Steve Jobs was talking about entrepreneurship in the following quote, but he may as well have been talking about serendipity and midlife career changes:

“Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
– Steve Jobs

I hope midlife career changes was helpful to you.

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