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The Gift of Longevity—how to change careers in your fifties, sixties and beyond

November 6th, 2017

 

It is a great time for mid-lifers to make the leap to a new career but for some people this means reframing their expectations of employment.

Embracing the new world of work, where it seems likely that many people will continue to work in paid employment into their late 60s, 70s and beyond means a mindset change for not just employers but also, more importantly, for individuals themselves.

Many countries and organizations are facing a critical skills shortage as fewer and fewer younger people enter the workforce and mature workers continue to opt out of mainstream employment.

Among these messages of impending disaster at a conference I attended in Italy it was refreshing to hear delegates from France, Italy and Australia reframe the issues from a problem to an opportunity and to speak about positive aging and the “gift of longevity.”

But so many of the more ‘mature’ clients I coach still feel their age is a problem. They worry that they are too old to change careers, and despair they have left it too late to change.

“My life has been a life of regret,” one of my clients said. At the ripe young age of 45, he couldn’t see much hope of improving his situation.

Similarly, Mike, a professional man in his late 50s told me he was too old to change career. He also worried that employers would feel the same way. After reading this book and some follow up coaching he changed his mindset and opportunities flooded his way.

He’s now working in a role that his friends say looks like it was tailor-made just for him.

“Some really great news—I’ve just heard I got the job I went after.  Can hardly believe it after trying to find a way into this area of work for a long time. For me it’s confirmation of the importance and power of managing my thought processes,” he wrote.

Worryingly it’s not just older workers that have pessimistic job expectations. “Don’t you do what you love when you retire?” one 25-year-old client asked me. I was stunned. “Where did you learn that?” I asked. “It’s what my mother told me,” she confessed.

“Mid-life is a time to reinvent ourselves and make new choices based on what we truly want. The challenge is to look at the changing energy with anticipation. We can throw away the roles that do not serve and open to ones that contain more freedom to be ourselves.” ~Barbara Biziou, Author

 

Are You Stuck In The Dark Ages?

Authors of You Don’t Make a Big Leap Without a Gulp: Having the Courage to Change Careers and Live Again, Mike Fitzsimons and Nigel Beckford, suggest that many people are trapped in a Depression-era mindset, thinking, “I’m lucky to have a job,” or “I’ll sit it out until I retire.”

An article in Time Magazine also confirmed the reality that many mature workers have been conditioned to expect less from the world of work. As a result, they often have negative views or expectations about the wealth of opportunity that now exists.

The reality is that there’s a huge amount of opportunity out there for people wanting more from their working lives than to grit their teeth and bear it, and for those who want to gain greater financial security. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Breaking Free
The greatest challenge we mid-lifers have is to actively break free from narrow views of what is possible and embrace a sense of adventure.

To gain the courage to change careers and the skills to hunt for jobs successfully requires the ability and willingness to challenge assumptions.

Changing careers mid-life also requires a healthy dose of inspiration, a commitment to careful planning and the willingness to take calculated risks.

Fitzsimons and Beckford urge middle-aged workers to rekindle a sense of adventure and embrace the wealth of opportunity that exists now for mature people in the workforce.

Their research suggests that people spend lots of time looking after their teeth and monitoring their cholesterol levels, but neglect to spend time having regular career checks.

Does this sound like you? If so, where and how do you start planning your mid-life career transition?

 

Embracing the new world of possibilities

The Association of Career Professionals International says that adopting a creative and lateral approach to career and work choices is the key to embracing the new world of possibilities.

They urge vocational guidance practitioners to encourage clients to be imaginative when thinking about ways to combine skills, talents, and interests to secure paid employment.

But being creative isn’t the way many mid-lifers have been encouraged to think about careers! You may have experienced the old narrow model of career decision-making where you were told what you could do. For example, women were told their choices were severely limited to roles such as nursing, teaching, typing or being a wife.

Or perhaps you’ve been conditioned to think a job has to be just one thing, and that this one thing, is something you only do from an office, from 9-5 or longer.

Thankfully for people today there are almost unlimited career choices, and various ways to bundle the work week.

Helping people like you think laterally and creatively about careers is my strength and my passion, but first, let’s get you started thinking positively about your life stage.

The Changing World Of Work
Over the last 10 years, we have seen unprecedented change. Globalization and technological revolutions such as the Internet and mobile devices have made it so much easier for companies and individuals to generate income anywhere, anytime.

This has led to many benefits, including a wider variety of goods and services, and a diversity of employment scenarios. Now you have an increased ability to generate income from the comfort of your own home, and greater opportunities to live and work overseas.

Len, aged 54, runs a thriving recruitment business from the beautiful serenity of his lifestyle property. Sally lives on a neighboring property, using Skype, email, and her phone, is able to manage her very successful mortgage company.

And you don’t have to be self-employed to benefit from technological and global advancements. Numerous businesses offer flexible working arrangements to attract and retain staff.

The increased level of commercial and competitive pressures has also meant that companies, and their employees, need to constantly re-invent themselves to keep up. This is great news for mid-lifers wanting to make a positive change.

The Changing World of Work Table

The list below highlights how some of these changes have impacted on work and careers. Add to this list any changes that you or those close to you have personally experienced or know of.

Can you think of any other changes impacting how we live and work? What new opportunities might any shifts in the world of work create for you?

 

Action Tasks! Aging Positively

If you’re like Mike and feel your age is against you it’s time to get a mindset shift. There are numerous ways to maintain a positive approach to increasing age. Here are just a few examples:

1.) Start collecting evidence of positive aging. Compile an inspirational mid-life file and add clippings, photos, quotes, and ‘case studies’ of people who have made it big, or are happy at work, in their twilight years. Look for your role models.

Gather at least 10 examples of successful people in your age group and above. You’ll see a few of my favorite examples in the page that follow.

2.) Create an image board or journal. Paste inspirational quotes, pictures, and clippings which celebrate maturity in the workforce and life. Motivate yourself by adding to it and looking at it regularly.

3.) Turn age into an asset. Don’t be disheartened by people who think your age is against you. Write down a list of the benefits of hiring a mature worker. Widen your awareness of the positives by asking others to add their views. Armed with your own self-belief and a few powerful strategies to market yourself, you’ll be unstoppable.

4.) Network with other like-minded people. Talk to other mature job seekers, check helpful websites, and network with organizations that provide tips and examples to help you succeed and stay positive.

5.) Get career fit. Learn a new skill or get up to date with new technology that will help you gain the job you want. You’re never too old to learn, and you may even discover a new talent.

6.) Rekindle a sense of adventure. Re-awaken dormant creative skills and adopt a playful approach to life. Take on some FTEs – first-time experiences. Can you think of anything you’d love to try? Like Carla Coulson, who in her 40’s gave photography a go, found a new passion and has now made it a rewarding career.

7.) Challenge your assumptions. Divide a page into half. List any negative assumptions you might have about your age and on the other side write some counter statements. Here’s an example to get you started:

Negative Assumptions

Employers prefer younger workers

Affirming Counter Statements

Demographic research shows that companies are going to need to recruit from a more mature labor pool

 

“There is no substitute for bravery, creative thinking, and imagination if you want a rewarding career.”

~ Peter Biggs, Former CEO of Creative New Zealand

 

Plenty Of Time To Make It Big

The encouraging news, according to some experts, is that life begins in the late 40’s. Evidence suggests that many people don’t reach their potential until well into their 50s and 60s.

American grandfather of motivational books, Napoleon Hill, whose best-selling book, Think and Grow Rich, was published for the first time in 1937, discovered from an analysis of more than 25,000 people that those who succeed seldom do before the age of 40, and usually do not strike their real pace until well beyond their 50’s.

This data should be encouraging for those who ‘fail to arrive’ before 50 and offers compelling evidence that people should approach the mid-years with hope and anticipation!

It’s never too late

Here are just a few people who have achieved success in their later years:

1) Author Helen Hoover Santmyer was 88-years-young when her book And Ladies of the Club was published. It stayed on the New York Times Best-sellers list for eight months. It was her first novel in 50 years.

2) A failure at 65, Colonel Sanders was world-famous and wealthy at 80. His father was a miner and his mother worked in a shirt factory. Harland Sanders had to give up school in the sixth grade because he was so poor.

He eventually opened a small home-town restaurant in the Kentucky hills. All looked well until the highway was rerouted and he lost everything. He was 65 at the time and faced with a future barely surviving on social security, his motivation to try again kicked in.

“My government is going to give me a hundred and five dollars so I can eke out an existence. Surely there is something I can do for myself and other people.”

Tapping into powerfully creative questions like this unlocked the key to what would be his major success—his mother’s secret chicken recipe.

Turned down by numerous restaurants at the time he turned potential failure into another inspired idea—franchises. It was an instantaneous hit, and the rest is history!

3) Fifty-five-year-old Rhonda Byrne’s life was at an all-time low. Twice divorced, her father had just died and her career was in crisis.

That was until, acting on an inspired thought, she created the DVD The Secret and later produced a book, both of which went on to become some of the biggest-selling self-help resources of all time.

At the heart of Rhonda’s inspirational series of products and resources is the law of attraction.

“Everything in your life is attracted to you by what you are thinking,” Rhonda says. “You are like a human transmission tower, transmitting a frequency with your thoughts. If you want to change anything in your life, change the frequency by changing your thoughts.”

Action Questions: How can you think positive?

Take a leaf from Rhonda’s secret to success and change any stinkin’ thinkin’ that may be lingering. Answering the following questions may help:

  1. What results are you currently experiencing that you would like to change?
  2. What thoughts would you need to change?
  3. What thoughts would remain the same?
  4. What things have supported you in maintaining a positive state of mind in the past? How could they be helpful now?
  5. Can you think of some other strategies to help you keep your mind on what you want and off what you don’t want?

“We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance.” ~ Harrison Ford, Actor

 

Client Success Story: From Unemployed to Franchise Manager

Aged 48, Ngaire returned to New Zealand after running a business in outback Australia. Things had not gone well after an economic downturn in the rural economy and she walked away from her business. Ngaire tried her hand at a few other things but realized there were few prospects for her in Australia so came home.

She returned penniless and alone with no work prospects. She was unsure if her skills were suitable for more modern careers, and initially thought about learning computer skills.

However, a friend encouraged her to read this book and work through a career coaching process. This helped her recognize and value her experience and realize how her current skills could transfer into other jobs.

Ngaire had always walked easily into work because she had lived in a town where everyone knew her and there was plenty of work.

After learning how to value and communicate her transferable skills and experience she re-wrote her resume and was successful in getting a job as a shop manager for a national food franchise. Her new employer valued her prior experience, maturity and management potential.

Ngaire achieved great success in her role and turned around many problem stores. She was quickly promoted and given more responsibility. Her pay packet received a nice boost too!

It takes courage and strength of character to leave a situation and start over again. Ngaire’s secret to success was drive, determination and a solid work ethic.

Initially despondent and fearful, she is now happy, confident and not worried about her future. Ngaire realizes that there are more opportunities out there and that she has the power to create her own luck and seize opportunities that come her way.

Her employer had the foresight to take on a mature person, and together they benefit in ways they hadn’t foreseen.

Robert Kiyosaki, multi-millionaire entrepreneur and author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, is right when he says, “There is no one in your way except you and your doubts about you. It is easy to stay the same. It is not easy to change. Most people choose to stay the same all their lives. If you take on your self-doubt and your laziness you will find the door to your freedom.”

 

A Time Of Renewal

You are as old as you choose to feel. I know many people in their 70’s and 80’s who are still leading active work lives and enjoying a more healthier existence as a result.

“If you retire you expire,” says 88-year-old Boyd Klap who vows never to stop contributing.

Check out this video (https://vimeo.com/122707475) and watch the value of being mutually inspired and inspiring, and of maintaining a spirit of curiosity through and beyond your middle ages. You’ll see Mandy Scott-Mackie who had just embarked on a mid-life career adventure in outback Australia and hear Boyd Klap who tried retiring many times and got bored! I apologize for the sound quality—Wellington’s infamous wind got the better of us.

 

Action Task! Visualize Your Future

For some, getting older can herald more opportunities. While for others, especially those without a nest egg, or a working partner to fall back on, seeking help to reinvent their lives and careers is critical.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, going with the flow and waiting for life to ‘happen’ won’t provide the emotional and financial security you seek. Actively plan for your preferred future, because that’s where you’re going to be spending the rest of your life.

 

This is an edited extract from Mid-Life Career Rescue: (The Call For Change): How to confidently leave a job you hate, and start living a life you love, before it’s too late by Cassandra Gaisford. To purchase your copy and learn how to follow your passion to prosperity, click here to go to your online bookshop.

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