Q: I’m middle aged and not happy about my career. I seem to have goal ADD where I keep changing my mind. Because of my age I feel opportunity has passed me by. What can I do to move myself and my career forward?
A: You can move your career forward because as long as you are above ground it is never too late to become what you might have been. Yes, opportunities have passed you by. However, if you’re staring at the things you’ve missed you’ll miss the openings in front of you.
Self-hatred is a powerful adversary with many weapons. One weapon our self-hatred uses to sidetrack our greatness is regret. We can grieve lost opportunities without getting stuck in regret. Grief helps us acknowledge loss and move on. Regret keeps us in a cycle of self-criticism that does us zero good.
I chuckled at your goal ADD comment. Many of my clients struggle with getting whiplash from changing their mind too often. The cure for goal ADD is pick any path and stick with it long enough to have data about whether it works for you.
Even if you discover the path you picked was wrong, you’ve learned invaluable information helpful to your next decision. When you pick no path, you gather no data, you learn nothing, and you stay stuck. Better to be wrong and change your mind than to stay stuck.
A benefit of middle age is you are not starting out with little work experience. Don’t underestimate your knowledge about work and your industry. When I coach new graduates, their lack of work experience is a challenging deficit.
Think of frustration as fuel in your career rocket ship. You need enough energy to break free of the gravity of your current situation. Anger can provide that energy to get moving, but depression keeps you stuck to your current planet.
Use a sheet of paper to write all the possible paths out of your current dead end. Imagine yourself 20 years in the future looking back on the current you. What would that future you tell you to do? How mad will the future you be if you don’t do something.
In career planning, perfection is highly overrated. Our careers, our mental health and our industries benefit from our willingness to not have all the answers and try something anyway. While we sit waiting to have all the answers, the perfect solution, our lives and careers pass us by.
Many of my clients bemoan during significant life changes that they have no idea what to do. My response is the advice on how to eat an elephant: one bite at a time. If you are reading this column, you love learning and you are capable of change.
The last word(s)
Q: I don’t like many common practices in my industry. I try to tell my co-workers why they should change, but they don’t listen. If you see problems in the way your industry delivers services is there a way to influence improvements?
A: Yes, be the change you want those around you to make. Not only will you create a profitable career niche, but your example is your most powerful influence on others.
(Article written by Daneen Skube)