Midlife career exploration is different than in college. You’ve got years of work experience and hard-earned skills, but you also might be tired of using those skills.
Many feel trapped by the money and time they’ve invested in getting good at something. It can be difficult to decide whether to do something entirely new or just to put a new spin on your current career.
Step 1: Track Your Time
One of the best ways to answer that question is to track what you do throughout the work day. Note what you’re doing and how energized you feel. Use a 1-10 scale, or sketch happy/sad faces, however you like to do it.
The important thing is to jot notes down at least three times a day. Try to document your work activities for several days. On Friday, look back on your notes. What activities earned the lowest energy marks, and what skills were you using? Be on the lookout for things you’re good at that drain you. These burnout skills may be a key source of your unhappiness.
Step 2: Consider an Assessment
If you’re having trouble with the first exercise, you may want to try an assessment. Careeronestop.org, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, has an assessment that takes 10-20 minutes and suggests occupations based on your skills.
The test links to a wealth of data about careers in the Department of Labor’s web site. If you suspect your feelings of burnout stem from low pay or lack of advancement opportunities, for instance, this site can give you ideas for better work using similar skills.
This also is a great step to take if you don’t necessarily want to go back to grad school or retrain for a major career shift.
Step 3: Develop a Growth Mindset
One of the hardest parts of midlife career change is the guilt people feel about turning their back on skills they’ve developed. It can be hard to decide not to do something you’re good at. It can be harder to risk pursuing new skills.
Often times we hit a certain age and we think, that’s it, I’m done. This is as good as I get. I’ve felt that way sometimes, but I don’t buy it. That’s a lie we tell ourselves.
We’re capable of so much more. We can learn new tricks, us old dogs. Believing that and then acting accordingly is called a growth mindset, and I’m sure you’ve heard the term floating around the web.
If we’re capable of learning, of growing, then our curiosity becomes more valuable. What would you like to try to do better? How could you learn a little bit more about that skill? Consider these questions when you’re trying to pivot in your career.
Next week, I’ll look at how you can use personality as a lens for exploring careers.
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