This from the perspective of someone who has done it: changing careers later in life is a total pain in the neck. From immature bosses to having to agree with bad decisions by company management because “you don’t have experience in your field” to having people take credit to what were so clearly your achievements and ideas….oh WAIT! That happens to everyone ? Even if you stay in a career you hate? Yeah..So, then:
- Whether you are in a career you hate or happily forging on with the dream job, you’ll have to put up with politics and personalities, so you might as well change careers and enjoy the things you do, right?
- No matter how much you love the field you are in, some BS is going to come your way – some BS that will prevent you from doing passionate, productive work you were born to do. However, if you truly love what you do, weathering those storms will be far easier than if you are sitting in
But, let’s look on the bright side: the wonderful emotional advantages age and experience that can help you navigate that new career with ease and efficiency.
- You see the big picture.
Whereas at 25 you’d steam, fume and gnaw your teeth because your boss is now telling you “we should do X” – the very X you were trying to convince him to do months ago, because a coworker speaks over you in meetings and aggressively tries to take over your area of expertise…now you just don’t care. Or perhaps you care a bit, but you let it go.
You are able to let it go because you look at the big picture: this is the boss who gave you a great career opportunity, that thieving coworker is, after all, a friend and a future reference. These are people who will in the end consciously or unconsciously admire you more for staying mature in the face of their blatant IP theft. So, you let people have little things, and you focus on the grand things to come.
- You are emotionally mature.
By now, people’s petty hangups, insecurities, and gossip don’t irritate you any more. If you are not a negative person or don’t want to be a part of the gossip circle, you know how to elegantly rebuff requests to join in. Perhaps more importantly, you know that your career and life don’t depend on it.
You also know that most people are a bit insecure, and that their coping mechanisms are going to be all over the place. The professional world is one big kindergarten. You smile, stay nice, and go back to doing a great job.
- You know how to say no.
When I was younger, I had a boss who worked so hard that her lips would turn blue from cold in the room (it was so late that the heating got turned off), and who would not eat for 7 or 8 hours because she ate two meals a day. Subconsciously, regardless of the fact that I was paid far less, and an hourly employee at that, she expected the same kind of “devotion” from me. And I was dumb enough to follow, which left me exhausted and with no life outside of work.
Nowadays, I say it when I need a break, even if it is, God forbid, twice a day. I am able to demand a work style that makes me most efficient, and won’t break me in the long run. I also know that I am likely not going to get fired over this. The worst that can happen: some tension and a few passive-aggressive jokes. Or getting fired. Which is better than being blurry eyed, inefficient, and, ultimately, unhappy at your job.
- You know your worth
The first months/year(s) in the new career are hard. You know you are smart and talented, but many won’t get it (it takes smart people to know smart people, and many people you’ll encounter are not that smart). That’s OK. You have your ego in check, and you march on, slowly introducing your ideas in a friendly manner, making alliances with the right people, and letting your ability naturally shine through. This versus the dissatisfaction of the yesteryear, when all that injustice felt personal, disheartening and insurmountable.
5. You know how to manage people
It’s just how it is: people around you are not always going to be professional or mature. There’ll be those who yell. There’ll be those who want a constant companion, not a colleague. There’ll be those who respond well to an open conversation and removing tensions in a mature way, and there’ll be those who’d rather flex the boss muscle or constantly poke at you with borderline unprofessional comments. You in your 20s? Exasparated and frustrated. You now? You choose your battles – mentally file your nails during yelling, introduce boundaries to wannabe-best-friend, and even put people in their place as needed. Gently. It’s kindergarten, after all.
Now, I am not saying that any of the situations above are going to be easy. Some days it will all be harder than others, and some days you will, yet again, curse the fate that put you in your dream career later in life. But that’s all temporary – after all, you have also learned to breathe, exercise, confide in the right allies, and move forward with your chosen career.
It is, after all, “The War of Art”:
“The professional endures adversity…He reminds himself it’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, then to be up in the stands, or out in the parking lot”.