Starting a new career midlife

The mid-career job pivot

Making a career change later in life

4 minute read
Starting a new career midlife

Back in the day, the typical work arrangement was to stick with the same company for 20-30 years – if you were a real go-getter, you might have climbed the corporate ladder a few rungs.  

Nowadays there is a chop and change in the workforce and many professionals choose to dip their toes in various industries and roles over their working life. 

So what gives people the lightbulb moment to leave their current workplace mid-career for something entirely new? 

Top reasons people make the switch

Eating your Cake too Founder and Career Coach Claire Seeber said professionals usually made a career pivot due to three key factors – lifestyle clarity, a lack of fulfilment and burnout. 

“There certainly comes a point where we step back and think about the lifestyle that we want to live and the things that are important to us from a values perspective – for some people that might be financial security, flexibility and family,” she said. 

“A lack of fulfilment can create the need for a career change."

“We make decisions about our career pathways at such a young age, we pick the subjects that we’re good at in school and, based on our score, we go and we study that at university or pick up a trade and land a job based on that thing we studied.

“For a lot of people, they get 10 or 15 years down the track and realise it’s not that fulfilling.

“The third reason is down to burnout and being worn out. I observe trends in specific careers, particularly in roles that are very people-facing, these are often HR, nursing and teaching roles.

 “I see people get to a point where they just get worn down and they need to do something different.”  

Job slump versus job hunt

According to Ms Seeber, asking yourself why you want to change your career is a great first step – decide if you need a complete career overhaul or some help out of a vocational rut. 

“As a first step, I recommend that people drill into whether it’s the job, workplace culture or team that is making them feel unsatisfied, or if it’s the career itself,” she said. 

“Reflect on your average work day and then get a piece of paper out, draw a line down the middle and figure out all the things that you enjoy about your job. 

“In the other column, write down all the things that you don’t like and don’t enjoy.

“I get people to analyse that list and try to make an assessment – are the things you don’t enjoy related to the workplace, the culture, the team or the manager, or are they related to the tasks or responsibilities.” 

Get off the hedonic treadmill

When you’ve been slogging it out at the same job for years, it’s hard to imagine doing anything else, which is why Relaunch Me Founder and Career Coach Leah Lambart recommends getting out of your comfort zone and reassessing your values. 

“Like many people, I didn’t have any career coaching at school and didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I ended up studying a commerce degree and my first job was working for an accounting firm, she said. 

“Socially I loved the firm and the social activities that came with the job, but day to day I struggled with the work, I had no interest in it and I didn’t enjoy it.

“During that time, I explored a lot of opportunities internally within the firm. I spoke to lots of recruiters and it was through those conversations that I decided I would like to try recruitment myself. I moved into recruitment after six years in accounting.” 

Assessing your current skillset and thinking about how they might translate into a new career can help you narrow down your career options, according to Ms Lambart.

“The first thing is to understand the skills you’re using day to day, often people can easily talk about the work that they do, but they find it hard to articulate the skills that they’re using to do it,” she said. 

“For example, someone who is working in a retail shop will be using customer service skills, conflict resolution, problem solving and communication skills. 

“There are a lot of transferable skills that we have, but we don’t realise how transferrable they are.

“It’s important to work out the skills you currently have in your current role and then once you’ve identified other career options and understand what skills are needed in that job, you can fill in the gaps where you might be lacking.” 

Gaining new skillsets

To land the job of your dreams, it might not be necessary to drop a small fortune on a university degree to gain new skillsets. 

“I always encourage people to explore options outside of university, obviously with some careers such as nursing or engineering, you have to do the qualifications to be accredited/ registered,” Ms Lambart said.

“Sometimes there’s no way around studying at university but other times people tend to make a career change through networking and short courses instead of undertaking years of intensive study.” 

Ms Seeber said it was important to consider your lifestyle needs and assess your budget prior to a career pivot, especially if study or a lower starting salary were on the cards. 

“We’re kidding ourselves if we think we don’t have to step back and reflect on financial obligations, family and lifestyle needs – we need to make sure those needs are met,” she said. 

“From an obligation perspective, if you have a family and children, that financial security is going to be far more important for you than perhaps someone that is younger and still living at home.”