You’ve enjoyed your career for the past twenty years – maybe more. And now you’re wondering: Maybe it’s time to switch gears. A whole new career. Work at home. Retire. Or maybe you’re forced to revise your career due to layoffs or transfers.

(1) Expect midlife career change to be easier than entering the world of employment for the first time.

Most likely you enjoy a financial cushion: savings, home equity, and a retirement fund. You also have demonstrated skills and experience. If you’re employed, your company probably offers resources for developing new skills and managing the transition.

(2) Expect midlife career change to be harder because you’ve invested in a career identity – way beyond skills and values. When you introduce yourself as, “Here’s what I do…” you are also saying, “Here’s who I am.”

(3) Expect to change your appearance as you change careers.

Sadly, many individuals and organizations really do judge a book by its cover. Clients who want to start a business often are surprised by the increased need to dress up for presentations. An Armani label on a suit? A good start. But are you wearing this year’s suit? Colors that your target market deems “appropriate?”

Many career changes have opted for lower income in exchange for the opportunity to stay home and work in sweats or shorts – and, for women, say good-by to high heels and pantyhose forever.

(4) Recognize that career change often requires a geographic move.

Let’s face it: Some places are just better for some careers. Your cost of living may be lower in a small city, but your opportunities to network will be limited. On the other hand, the lower cost of living may allow you to experiment with riskier ventures.

Often your own business doesn’t depend on geography. Examples include Internet businesses, mail order shipment, and free lance writing. But you may need to keep on top of mainstream trends and where you live can influence your credibility.

(5) Expect to change your roles in all aspects of your life.

Family and community will view you differently. You may have more or less time for your family (and they will view you differently). Board members based on the prestige of their day job. Some volunteer activities require you to be available on certain weekdays.

(6) Plan for a new social support system.

Lunch with coworkers. Drinks after work. Dinner with old friends on Friday night. You don’t realize how much you enjoyed this support until it’s gone.

Friendships change. When you leave a career, former colleagues can regard you with envy or suspicion. They won’t understand your new world and the new challenges you face.

(7) Forget the myth, “If you can’t be happy here, you won’t be happy anywhere.”

Many of my clients experienced career change following what seemed to be a midlife crisis. They were surprised to find their whole world looked different.

And that’s why I say, “Career breakdown can be the first step to your major career breakthrough.”

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., works with corporate executives, business-owners and professionals who want to transform career breakdowns to career breakthroughs.

Cathy has created the 21-Day Extreme Career Makeover and authored Making the Big Move: Transforming Relocation into a Creative Life Transition.

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