Midlife career switch alluring Age ideal time for soul-searching | Journalgazette.net

Bill Ward | Minneapolis Star Tribune

The revelation came on a treadmill. Sharon Billings had tired of IT resources work and quit her job. A subsequent workout changed her life.

“I have always been an animal lover. My cat was sick and I took her to the vet, and the care and compassion I saw there really got me thinking,” Billings said. “Then one day I was on a treadmill at the gym and saw a commercial for vet tech school. I thought, ‘I could do that.’ ”

And she did, becoming a certified veterinary technician in her early 50s. Now 59, Billings manages cases for the pet poison help line at SafetyCall International in Bloomington, Minn. – and “I love, love, love what I do every day.”

In a turbulent economy and rapidly changing workforce, many people are taking to heart the phrase “chosen career” by pursuing a passion in a profoundly different profession. The jobs may not be as lucrative, but the emotional payoff can make up for the difference, they say.

Such moves are particularly prevalent among people in their 40s and early 50s, but don’t automatically attach the catchphrase “midlife crisis” to them.

“It’s more a reset than a crisis,” career adviser Gaye Lindfors said. “In that age group, people frequently want to reset their career goals and their life goals. They’re asking, ‘Does my life really matter?’ And if it feels like there should be something more, ‘What am I going to do differently?’

“And then they frame it around their job. Chances are it’s more than the job.”

But often it is the job.

Jim Anderson spent years as an attorney for a private trucking company “and never really enjoyed the work,” he said. When the company went out of business 12 years ago, rather than pursue a similar job, he took a career aptitude test.

“And it turned out that I should be teaching,” Anderson said. “It was actually what I had wanted to do back in the 1970s.” So he spent two years getting a master’s in education and has been teaching middle school for a dozen years.

“When I was a lawyer, it got to where I hated going in on Monday,” he said. “I was even physically feeling the effects of not enjoying work. Since I started teaching, I can honestly say I haven’t had a day where I didn’t look forward to going to work.”

Karen Anderson was so impressed by her husband’s transformation that she followed suit, giving up her dental hygienist career to become an artist.

These changes tend to unfold more often in mid-career rather than early on for several reasons, according to industrial/organizational psychologists.

“Once people get to that point in their life, it’s almost like they’ve kind of figured out who they are and what their strengths are,” said Carol Lynn Courtney of Courtney Consulting.

“And when people get to their 50s, the kids often have left home, and it’s allowing them to look at their life or their work and even start things that they might do in a different way.”

Having at least a measure of security on the financial front is important. Karen Anderson said they had done Jim’s changeover “by the seat of our pants. I would advise people looking at doing this to have a financial plan to go along with it. It’s been a struggle.”

Read the full article online: http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20120513/BIZ/305139960/1031/BIZ


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