Yes You Can Reinvent Yourself (and Your Career) at the Midpoint
OK - dust off your hands, clean out your cubicle, turn in your ID badge and toss your resume onto the fire of your career reinvention. Time to break out of the same traditional and expected pathway to retirement that your parents and grandparents followed, time to find your passion and your future and an entirely new way of earning.
Many mid-lifers find themselves stuck, wishing they could do something different, outside of the usual 9-to-5 rut. They yearn for more freedom and less stress, but concerns about the cost of healthcare and fears of losing a steady and generous paycheck keep them glued to the office chair, afraid to give serious consideration to making a change. There are mortgages to pay, college tuition checks to write, long-awaited vacations to take, retirements to fund, maybe an aging parent to care for, and a steady outflow of cash requires at least an equally steady influx to maintain budgetary balance.
But, just for a moment, consider the "What if?" scenario. What if you started that home-brewing business you have always dreamed of? What if you sold everything, bought an RV and toured the country (or the continent)? What if you were able to generate a steady income from your own boutique shop of curated and unique items? What if?
We have all heard stories of friends, colleagues or relatives who saved for years, made their plans, retired at 65 - or sooner - and then suffered a series of health issues that turned their retirement into a rotating schedule of medical appointments, pharmacy runs, hospital stays and recuperation. What a terrible twist of fate, but it happens more often than you might think.
On the other hand, I bet you also know of at least one person who has done the unthinkable, left a stable and lucrative job without another job lined up, and somehow managed to pay the rent, put food on the table, gas in the tank and generally manage just fine.
You see - it IS possible. But just as a rock climber checks and rechecks his carabiners, ropes and safety harness, anyone considering such a significant change needs to properly prepare.
1. Assess Your Finances
Your reinvention won't get very far if the money runs out, so be sure you have enough of a financial safety net to support your next move. Depending on your situation, you may need twelve months of expenses saved, or eighteen - the appropriate amount is up to you. But if you are considering a complete career change, you will need enough money to support yourself while you establish a reputation in your new field or get your new business off the ground. And don't forget healthcare. Your company may offer the option of continuing on with your current healthcare plan, but it will cost you, and you will need to figure that into your expense calculations.
Will the new career or business require expenditures to get up and running? That will have to come from you savings as well, so be sure to include a list of business expenses when figuring your post-paycheck budget.
2. Establish a Plan
Once you are free of your daily work responsibilities, how will you spend your time? A short break is good to allow yourself to rest and recharge, but you don't want to lose your momentum by taking too much time off. And the break does not have to be complete. If you do not yet know what you you want to do next, jot down ideas as they come to mind so you can review them later. Better yet, have a firm plan outlined before you leave your job so you know what needs to happen and when. Will you get a part-time gig to generate some income while you transition to your new chosen field? Will you need to make other life changes - downsize, eliminate one vehicle, postpone that trip to Hawaii - in order to remain financially whole?
And what exactly will you do to move toward your new career? Do you need to go back to school, or invest in equipment and/or a retail space? How will you establish yourself and your expertise? You will need to revise your LinkedIn profile and share with your connections, and maybe start a website and a Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram page to promote your business. Start a blog. Learn about search engine optimization and how to apply the concepts to your page(s).
The important thing is to be sure you have an idea of where you are going before getting on the career transition train, otherwise you may find yourself landing in an unexpected - and unwanted - destination.
3. Network, Network, Network
It is very true that no man is an island, and anyone looking to make a major mid-career change will need help, ideally support group or mentor to provide guidance through the process. You can start by networking with the friends, colleagues and connections you have in place, spreading the word of your new venture through a quick email or phone call. You may find that a friend of a friend is an expert in your new field, is looking for help or knows someone else they can refer you to. You never know until you start putting yourself out there and marketing yourself - and your business.
4. Just Do It
Nike's iconic tagline applies to much more than athletic achievements, and it can serve as the call to action for your new venture. You can plan, you can budget, you can network, and you can market, but at some point you will actually have to DO something - brew the beer, open the store, sell the house and buy the RV or put pen to paper and write that novel. It will be the actions you take that will ensure your success, and only you can put in the time and hard work needed to succeed. You may find that initially you put many more hours and much more effort into the new venture than you did at your last job, but the rewards - when they come, and they will - will be that much sweeter for being yours and yours alone.
Yes, you can reinvent yourself mid-career, with careful planning, a keen eye on the savings account and a fire in your soul. So identify your objective, establish your plan and JUST DO IT. You won't look back your life when you are eighty and think shoulda-coulda-woulda, you will smile and be very, very grateful you jumped when you did.