You’ve worked hard and established a solid career, but now you find yourself yearning for a new direction. If you’re not quite ready for retirement, either financially or emotionally, do you maintain the status quo or do you pivot?
The COVID-19 pandemic served to deepen many people’s desire to change their career course. A 2021 CNBC Catalyst report showed that as many as 50 percent of workers want to make a switch. Location flexibility was a driver for about 40 percent of respondents, but that wasn’t all they were seeking. Almost a quarter of those surveyed said they “want a job with more purpose.” They cited changing career fields (33 percent) and starting their own business (20 percent) among their alternatives.
There is, of course, a big difference between changing jobs and making a major career transformation. If you’re leaning toward the latter, how do you decide whether, when or how to change?
Give your career a checkup
Wharton professor Adam Grant suggests that his students follow health care advice and schedule regular checkups ― in this case, career checkups. Grant, the author of Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, describes how self-assessments and asking introspective questions can help someone determine if their career has just stalled or whether a bigger change may be in order.
In your 50s and beyond, the criteria you use to measure your career health may differ from earlier decades. But like medical exams, the need for regular career checkups is important.
John Tarnoff, career transition coach and author, says, “As we hit 50 or thereabouts, we start to realize, ‘I don’t have forever. How do I want to spend my days? Do I want to really focus on what is most meaningful and fulfilling and purposeful to me?’”
He likes to describe this proposition using the Japanese term ikigai, the concept of living with our meaning and purpose. To help clients apply this idea to their career choices, Tarnoff recommends practical exercises that ask, “What can I do that I love to do, that I am good at doing, that the world needs and that I can get paid for?"
How two people made their decisions
During the three decades that Andrea Young worked as an interior architect, in her personal life she honed her skills in a different area ― culinary craft. “My passion for cooking goes back to being in the kitchen as a child with my grandmother. She made everything beautiful and fun.”