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Changing Career Midlife-When Work isn’t Working – and what to do!

midlife career imageArticle by Jane C Woods

You can change your life – whatever age you are!!
And I know of what I speak. I changed careers in my late 40s and have never looked back!

For several years I had been dissatisfied with my job but I really didn’t know what I wanted to do instead. Plus, I had a good pension, was well respected in my role, and was on a good salary; in fact I was the higher wage earner. Why would I want to rock the boat? I was in my late 40s and had some strange notion in my head that I really should be settled and the little voices were compelling

Age is no bar to changing your life!

Now, as I approach 55, I look back at the 48 year old me and think how staid and sensible I was in danger of becoming! I now know that Age is no bar to changing your life! In fact, the older we get, the more radical I think we should become. I looked at the life ahead of me and thought, ‘Is this it?’ Was I really going to stick with what I no longer believed in, no longer excited me, or engaged me, for the sake of a good pension in 12 years time?

I was lucky in one respect; I was very content in my home life with two gorgeous grown up kids and a husband of 28 years who was happy to support me in my life changing ideas. It’s really helpful to have support at home, but if you know what you want to do, it’s not essential.

Pension Deficit

I began plotting my escape. My organisation was reluctant to let me go and so I negotiated. I’d stay on a part time basis and see the project through while passing on my skills and knowledge where possible. On my days off, I’d begin to build my own business. And I loved it!
I won’t pretend it was easy, it wasn’t. It was scary and nerve wracking and on some days I could easily be knocked off balance by an encounter with someone who thought I was mad, and said so. But the good days, oh the good days more than compensated for the odd wobble in my confidence! I was loving life and feeling really alive again. Never mind about ‘when I grow old I shall wear purple’; I am happy to wear a veritable kaleidoscope of colours (metaphorically speaking, don’t want to frighten the horses!) I feel younger, more liberated and really in touch with life! I am truly passionate about what I now do and I feel free!

Writing The Book

And one thing I never thought I’d be doing was writing a book! OK, I’m not a Mary Wesley (I wish I was) but I have put together a workbook of exercises which has helped hundreds of women change their lives.

Helping women make positive changes in their lives

One of the most common dilemmas presented to me when I’m coaching or working within an organisation is “I’m unhappy with what I’ve got, but I just don’t know what I want to do instead.” And that’s how ‘When Work Isn’t Working’ was born. Both in my previous career and since launching my own business I have worked with hundreds of women helping them make positive change in their lives. I knew from experience what worked, what really helped. I’d seen those women blossom and heard their amazing stories.

My own PA had turned her life around using some of the content from ‘When Work…’ and is now living in France with her new husband, growing all her own produce, drinking too much wine (!) and is really blissfully happy. She said “I never thought my life could change so dramatically after 50. I am happier now than I have ever been”.

As well as some practical exercises, like the one working out what you need to live on, the book makes use of all the new research on how our brain works, harnessing it to help us change. One example is the use of creative visualisation. You can listen to the one from the book for free on my site. It works well just on its own whether you have the book or not. Click this to try it.

What did you want to be when you ‘grew up’

Here’s a thought. What did you want to be when you ‘grew up’? Do you still have any unfulfilled desires or have you shelved them as unobtainable? While it may not be possible to become a professional ice skater at age 55 you can still learn to skate! Or fulfil your need for creativity by joining an art class, or one on jewellery design, or photography. My latest head shot was taken by Celia Mannings; she used to be a G.P but gave it all up to follow her love of photography. How brave! If you wanted to write you could start a blog. (If that means a bit of instruction on web issues, go do it!)

In my experience a major issue is deciding just what you do want. Don’t let outdated notions of age hold you back. As Barbra Sher, an American life coach says:

“It’s only too late if you don’t start now” So go on, make a start and revitalise your life!
Jane C Woods imageJane C Woods is a specialist in personal development who has worked with hundreds of women helping them achieve their dreams. She’s been married for 33 years to a gorgeous fire-fighter (her words), and has two grown up kids. Her latest ‘best achievement’ was getting a house built for her mother (planners, sigh), who at 81, still does keep fit twice a week and sings with the Golden Oldies. Jane is trying to keep up…

Least likely to say “A man would be better for the job”. Most likely to say “Yes, you CAN do it!”


Fabafterfifty.com. Redefining 50. Celebrating the best half of our lives!

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  1. ruthie (preston lancs)

    May 21, 2011

    I have recently read with varocious appetite ‘Still 25 inside” and have just encountered this site and read the article introducing the book “When work isn’t working” with determined interest, I intend to read this asap!

    I don’t want to seem negative or come across as having a victim mentality however many of these approaches seem to focus on the ‘just do it’ aspect of taking action. This is great and necessary for firing up the enthusiasm and motivating the desire to change direction in later life which is fantastic and it would be expected that hard work and sacrifice would be involved but the mechanics of taking such steps for so many women without a financial safety net and career type worklife history is surely not that simple.

    My dilemma is that through circumstances such as a late in life divorce that left me with debts and penniless and the long term illness of my dependent adult daughter this has not been my experience. I’m sure if one has an established career path and reasonably secure financial circumstances the path is somewhat easier to find. I have the motivation to change the course of my life but feel that there is a gap in the message of the books and the lives of ordinary women trapped in their circumstances such as myself, which unfortunately leaves me feeling even more frustrated with my lot!

    I have felt dissatisfied as I have worked in a job that has been continually dumbed down over the course of the last 14 years to the point were I now could only describe it as pushing buttons 8 hours a day for ‘big brother’ (HMRC). During this time I have following careers counselling I studied and completed a combined honours degree gaining a 2:1, only to find that I am unable to afford to do post graduate study. I find myself with a degree that is really worthless given my worklife history. There is no facility to develope in realistic terms through my current employment. I am determined to make changes but feel frustrated and totally lost as to how to go about it given my circumstances. I thrive on hard work and am not afraid to roll my sleeves and get on with it but I feel that I persistently end up hitting a brick wall. I am not giving up on my quest but would welcome any advice you could offer.

    kind regards

    Ruthie xxx

  2. Jane C Woods

    May 24, 2011

    Hi Ruthie,
    My sympathies. It is hard and I don’t make light of the situation. We have actually spoken before I saw this post so I hope you don’t mind my answering in more general terms as it may help others who are reading the post. And of course, our conversation was entirely confidential.
    First, no degree is worthless and many women would give their eye teeth to have it. You are just not using it at that moment but that doesn’t make it worthless, and it still speaks to your capacity to study and be diligent and follow a course when times were less than perfect. It will come into its own at some point.
    Women tend to gather lots of qualifications but you know, we don’t always need to. I suspect (am generalising) that we hope they show how good we are without us having to do too much trumpet blowing, and of course, there is the old saw of whatever a woman does she has to be twice as good as a man!
    I think the key is to try and find something which feeds and nurtures outside of your work. You need something good and validating to be going in, not just what you are giving out. I agree with Ceri; times are bad and a job is a job. I know you are very well aware of that!
    Sometimes when we feel frustrated we tend to have a scatter gun approach and cast ourselves about widely but not necessarily wisely. It can be much more effective to focus down into one area and concentrate your efforts there.
    You are a a bright sassy woman with a great education and some good life experience. When you can, try out the visualisation which is linked in the piece above and just see what comes up!
    We’ll talk again, and my best wishes, Ruthie.

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