5 tips for planning a mid-career career change.

Mike Lovell//August 25, 2023

New Career Chapter One motivational concept typed on retro typewriter.

5 tips for planning a mid-career career change.

Mike Lovell//August 25, 2023

For most of us, our careers are the basis of our personal identity.  

When people ask “What do you do?” people don’t typically say “I’m a father/mother” or “I’m a caregiver.” 

Our answers to that question typically reflects how we relate to the world—“I am an electrician,” “ “I’m a pharmacist.”    

Our career gives us a sense of destination — and the jobs that we take are like steppingstones along the way.  

So it comes as a surprise if we suddenly wake up one day and realize “I would rather be doing something else.”  

Making a career change is more than simply changing jobs. It is setting a course for your professional career and the next stage of the personal life of both you and your family. 

Validate the change of direction 

Know Your Why 

There are all good and valid reasons for wanting to leave one job and look for another but changing jobs should not be the pivot point for making a change of career.  

As you reassess what you are doing with your life, your North Star should be guiding you towards that which brings fulfillment to your life.   

That may lead to opening the door to a new career, but it may also be pointing you to revitalize the career that you already have. 


Create a vision  

If your WHY is leading you towards a new direction now it’s time to sharpen the focus on the new reality: what would you be doing, who would you be doing it for, and where would you be doing it.  

Ask yourself key questions like- 

  • Are you seeking the freedom of being an independent business owner or should you be seeking a job in your new career?  
  • Are there jobs available in your new career?  
  • Do they offer paid positions or are they looking for volunteers?  
  • What types of employers offer this type of work?  

Use online research tools and ask people already working in the area—you may uncover new possibilities or downsides that you hadn’t considered. 


Sanity check your career plan against your life plan 

Making a career change is one of those rare moments that gives you an opportunity to review the big picture and see how your life is all coming together.  

Living and working through the pandemic has led many people to reassess their work and their lives. The experiences of remote work, home schooling, no daily commute, and more time spent at home with the family have all combined to bring about a greater awareness of what is really important in life. More and more, people are realizing that they have a choice and “it doesn’t have to be like this.”  

One Mom asked herself “What am I going to remember? Getting to the office early or spending that time taking my son to school each morning?”  

Planning for your new career gives you a window of opportunity to make sure that the important people in your life are on board with this new direction. Don’t leave them disenfranchised—at a minimum—it is important that at least their feelings are considered, and their opinions are heard. 


Know yourself 

It is important to search inside yourself and to be honest and realistic about whether you have the capabilities to successfully pursue your new career. 

 You will want to check if there are specific skills, certifications or other factors such as age requirements and constraints and check whether you can meet these constraints.  

If your vision is to set up your own business to pursue your new career ask yourself do you have the skills necessary to run your own business.  

It is easy to fall into the trap described in Michael Gerber’s classic book, the E-Myth Revisited. That is, they are a technician, for example, a plumber, hairdresser, dentist and so on, and they are good at what they do. They start to think to themselves, “Why should I work for this idiot boss of mine? I’m good at what I do—I’ll start my own business.” This is one of THE major mistakes made by most small business owners. They go from working for an idiot boss to becoming an idiot boss  

Reflect on what has made you successful in your current job. 

Be honest about how successfully you can function if those things are not part of your new work situation.  

It can be difficult for us to be realistic about what we see when we look into the mirror. Our self-perception can easily be distorted by a combination of inflated ego and feelings of self-doubt. Seek the honest input of your mentor or other reliable colleagues.  

A powerful trick is to play your own devil’s advocate. Explore the notion of “What would be the best scenario if I had to stay in my current career?” Ask yourself questions like What is the best outcome if I DON’T make a career change? Explore the possibilities of how you could regain fulfillment without the need to cut the cord and switch to a new career path? 

Plan the transition. 

Once you have validated your decision to open the new door, it’s time to start work on planning your shift. 


Make a transition plan 

There are two threads running through your journey from Then to Now. The first is the situational change. Things like ”Where will we live?” “Where will my office be?” “What is our new household budget?” “Where will the kids got to school?”   

The complementary change that is often overlooked is the transitional change—the psychological and emotional experiences that people go through as they exit from one situation and come to grips with the realities of their new life. 

Letting go is challenging for everybody. It is challenging to leave a familiar situation, especially if you are part of a team.  

“Downscaling” can be very difficult. This is an area which can be particularly challenging for senior professionals as they are faced with letting go of the executive privileges and support resources that came with their seniority.   

It is important to be realistic and avoid being over-optimistic when you make your transition plan.  

Starting with small steps.  Scoring a few wins right from the outset will give you momentum and build confidence as you find your feet and become established in the new career. 


Wrap up 

Starting a new journey is exciting—you’ll be anxious to get started, and that’s OK.  

Just remember that you are starting a change process—Treat year-one as your transition window for making a transition from your yesterday into your tomorrow. It is vital to keep focused as you build your foundations-avoid shiny things that will distract and lead you off track.  

Mike Lovell is a consulting coach and advisor in Lancaster, PA. Learn more at https://beagreatconsultant.com