A new you – time for a change!
Five years ago Rosie Linder was a well-paid businesswoman with a safe and satisfying career, but despite loving her job she had an idea that just would not leave her alone. After much internal debate, as well as discussions with friends and family, Linder slowly downsized her job while launching Peppy Pals, a company that develops apps, movies, and e-books that focus on teaching young children about social and emotional intelligence.
“Leaving your safe zone and starting your own business is difficult and scary, especially if you don’t know anything about the industry you’re going into,” says Linder. “I was entirely new to the start-up world, so my first mission was to find a passionate and skilled team who could help me realize my idea, as well as funding to create our first demo. I love what I do now but the decision to give up a safe monthly salary and normal 9-5 working hours was difficult to make – but definitely worth the risk.”
Whether you’ve been on your current career path for 20 days or 20 years, taking a new direction could be the best thing you’ll ever do – but it’s a path fraught with challenges.
People today are born with a smartphone in hand and they understand the digital world like a mermaid understands water. The old model of following a single career path or staying in one job or with one company for life is no longer the norm, and as digital disruption continues people in mid-life are questioning their careers and their place in the world – and more and more are making big career changes, due not to necessity, but to choice.
“Many people are in jobs because of their image, because of expectations of themselves as well as the expectations of others, such as friends, family or society,” says Angelica Carr, CEO at AIM Business Coaching, and Director Strategist and Executive Business Coach at capital investment management firm Gale and Phillipson. “There are a lot of people who feel disappointed and angry about their work. This can turn into a cycle of blame, where they blame others and themselves for their unhappiness, which then becomes shame and then passiveness. The end result is they feel incredibly stuck.”
‘There are a lot of people who feel disappointed and angry about their work and feel they are in a vicious cycle they can’t escape from’
Carr says that it’s important to tap into those feelings as a way to evaluate what you really want out of your working life – and then take the next step. But how do you take the decision to change careers without causing too much disruption to your life and the lives of those relying on you?
“It’s easy to say ‘Yeah, I love taking risks’, but you have to align your vision with your goals – and keep reality in mind,” says Carr. “We all have a lot of commitments in mid-life – family, mortgage, kids and a host of other obligations. These are crucial considerations and it’s not easy to say, ‘Well, darling, I’m going to finally open that vegan café I’ve always dreamed about’.
“You have to look at your whole mind-set surrounding stability, change and risk, and then bridge your vision and dream with reality. We become more confident as we age and not as reliant on others, but it’s important to lay the groundwork for a big change. You have to take steps in a pragmatic and systematic way. Just taking the leap and jumping in can lead to disaster.”
After 20 years in the corporate world, Toril Natvig left her career behind to pursue a long-held passion for photography. She sees her former career as beneficial to her current one.
“Photography and the creative world have always been a secret passion of mine, but I grew up in a family of academics, so I felt pressure to be responsible and develop that side of myself,” says Natvig. “I don’t regret going into the corporate world, though. It gave me a solid financial foundation and an understanding of business. Creative work is my passion but you still have to know how the nuts and bolts of how things work while building a new business.”
Christian Dinesen, Executive Master Coach at Dansk Coaching Institut, agrees that skills learned in one career can be instrumental in making a success of a second career, and by the time they hit mid-life, many people have the financial means to take the plunge.
“Those choosing to make career changes are doing it more and more out of opportunity, not fear,” says Dinesen. “They see that now is their chance to change horses – they have some money socked away and maybe they see that they’ve gotten as high as they can go in their current career. This is particularly true for women, who still face the glass ceiling.”
Dinesen says that one reason more people are making career changes these days is the growth of mindfulness – people want a more authentic life experience and are questioning the ‘value’ of things. They’re often finding that just having the basics and not needing a huge income or the flash car is more valuable, particularly in mid-life, which is when many people start to ask ‘Who am I really’?
“Up until the age of 18 or 20, we adapt to our parents, to school, to the idea that we follow rules and learn how to do things and how to not do things,” says Dinesen. “The next stage, from about 20 to 40, is where we try to integrate that version of ourselves into our adult life, such as work, our own families and other areas. Then, around 40 we start to say ‘screw that – I’ve done everything right, lived my parents’ values and society’s values – now I want to do something for myself’. They return to core values they had when they were younger, the ones that have less to do with money and more to do with passion.
According to Dinesen we also live longer and face a less stable job market, and it’s often at mid-life that we start to question what is left of our careers and our lives.
‘Those choosing to make career changes are doing it more and more out of opportunity, not fear’
“We work for the bells and whistles – the house, the two cars, the nice furniture and big trips, the family dog, the kids – then we hit 40 and we’re not happy. All we’re doing is focusing on bread winning and we keep running on the hamster wheel. We are no longer present in our lives.”
People increasingly want a purposeful life and to be in control of their destiny, and those who are most successful at pursuing a long-held dream or simply want out of the rat race are starting ventures on the side while hanging on to their job until their business is viable. It’s a lot of hard work and you have to have the stamina but for many it’s worth it.
“Scandinavia is a fantastic place to be an entrepreneur because you have so many organizations you can turn to for support,” says Rosie Linder. “The road to success for Peppy Pals has been bumpy and there have been times when I’ve had to stop and think ‘What am I really doing?’, but in the end what’s the worst thing that can happen? I can always go back to a full-time job – and I’d have regretted not taking the chance to live out my dream.”
Published: September 25, 2017