Career decisions are now seen as choices made across a life pan, not a one-time life events, and making a change has become more acceptable. As life roles change, so do our priorities. Many adults seek a change when original career aspirations are not met, or when their career is no longer congruent with present values and interests.
Or sometimes it just feels that no matter what they do to refresh or re-energize themselves, their present career is no longer personally fulfilling. If you are in this state of mind with your current career, you aren’t alone.
Adults in mid-life career changes are usually making broad changes in their lives. The trend now among adult students is to move from business and technology into helping professions such as teaching, counseling and human services, perhaps in response to the events of Sept. 11. Starting a new career is a process that can be self-awakening and give you a new zest for life. It can also lead to a variety of emotions, such as fear, anxiety, self-doubt and a sense of loss, especially if there is a close relationship between your career and your personal identity.
What should you do? Begin by talking to friends, reading career books and seeking counseling advice.
If you’re not sure which career to select, start by identifying your skills and interests.
- What do you do best? These are transferable skills and can relate to people, things, ideas or concepts.
- What do you like to do? Identify how you most enjoy using those transferable skills. Do you like to plan and direct, or are you a hands-on person?
- Where do you want to use your skills? Think about the best working environment for you. Do you need autonomy and flexibility?
Your current skills may transfer easily to another field. If that’s the case, you just may need to reorganize your resume and find an agency that can help. Or you may need to supplement your skills and knowledge with further education.
If you’re sure about the career path you want to take and discover that education is required, begin to research higher education institutions. Look for colleges that cater to adult learners and that offer flexibility in course schedules, accelerated learning and intensive classes that are designed to cover a full semester of material in five or six meetings rather than 16 weeks.
Child care may also be a necessity, and some colleges have on-site child care. Also, look for experienced admission counselors who can relate to the issues facing adult students thinking about career changes. Some colleges even have personnel to help adults make mid-career changes.
It’s never too late to return to college. Here are some points to consider.
- College entry can be a gradual process.
- Past academic records can be erased.
- Every student has specific goals and fears.
- Career counseling and job services are available.
- Many colleges specialize in programs for adults.
- Initially, you may be able to register as a nondegree-seeking student.
- You can receive credit for life experience.
- Asking for help is the critical first step.
Ultimately, this process is about finding your mission, motivation and sense of purpose. As we live, love and learn with greater meaning in our lives, we begin to realize that connecting with our inner compass is the key to happiness.
Nicki Veldhaus changed careers after 18 years in corporate management to join the College of Mount St. Joseph, where she works with adult students. She is assistant director of adult and transfer recruitment. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (513) 244-4538.