midlifedude

Man at midlife making second half matter

Archive for the tag “new careers for older workers”

Good Money

When I would tell people I got a new job to start a new career in another state and would be moving, one of the first questions they’d inevitably ask was, “How much will you be making?” Or, so as to be less crass, “Will you be making good money?”PileOfMoney

In our competitive, capitalist, consumerist society, it is only natural that money is the first thing that comes to mind when someone accepts a new position. To be sure, why would anyone choose to move more than 500 miles and three states away for a job if not to make good money?

I had three answers for that question, and all had validity:

  1. Yes, of course I would be making good money, because there’s no such thing as bad money.
  2. No, I wouldn’t be making good money, compared to the much better money I had made in previous jobs.
  3. None of your friggin’ business what kind of money!

The answer is not simple. My job as a therapist under a two-year provisional license pays considerably less than my previous positions in public relations. I am at the entry level in the mental health field, where salaries and pay, though variable depending upon many factors, are relatively low compared to many other professions.

However, my job pays considerably more annually than the series of Gig Economy counseling internships and part-time and temporary jobs I had pieced together for the final two years of my counseling master’s degree program after leaving my full-time job. So viewed from that perspective, my new job does pay good money, and I’m grateful for that.

In midlife, we evaluate what we’ve already done and what we’d like to do with our remaining years, which no longer seem infinite. Priorities change, as we shift from the achievement-oriented, ladder-climbing, self-focused goals of younger adulthood to an increased desire to make a contribution to others, pursue meaningful activities and leave a legacy. My change to a career in counseling reflects the internal re-evaluations of the midlife transitional period.

When you realign priorities and make a significant change, there will be sacrifices. For me, one of those was money – good money. I knew that consequence of my decision from the start, when I embarked on the graduate program nearly six years before actually entering the counseling field. But I ignored that inescapable fact at the time.

Now that my new level of pay is a reality, I’m adjusting my life and budget to match. I may not yet qualify as a full-fledged Minimalist, but I’ve moved closer to that end of the scale in my spending, decision-making and thinking.

I don’t want to minimize the importance of making money – good money – or pretend I don’t care. It certainly helps in many ways and I always endeavored to make good money – at least the best I could in any given circumstance. I’d certainly rather be well-off and feel secure than poor and living anxiously paycheck to paycheck. Wouldn’t everyone? Fortunately, I have some financial cushion, enough to allow me to overcome the financial anxieties of making a career change, but far below some golden threshold to claim money doesn’t really matter.

But making ever more good money – however one defines it — isn’t the end-all be-all path to an ever more glorious Shangri-La, as a 2010 Princeton University study concluded. The Princeton researchers found that no matter how much more than $75,000 per year that a person earned, their “degree of happiness,” or emotional well-being did not increase. It also found that, though earning less than $75,000 in and of itself did not cause people to feel more unhappy, it did magnify and intensify negative feelings from life problems they had.

Beyond the practical realities of how I spend and the reduced margin of discretionary money available to save or burn compared to my previous work life, I’ve had to make a humbling mental adjustment: Here I am, in my 50s, peak earning years, with two graduate degrees, making less than half of what I made at my last full-time job, and less than or equivalent to many workers with much less education or years of experience than I have. Yet, I would still contend I am making good money, not bad money.

I gain fulfillment and a sense of purpose and contribution from counseling people and helping them improve their lives. Work is stimulating, rewarding and challenging, which I couldn’t always claim before. I look forward to my future in this new profession, and its many opportunities for learning, growth and entrepreneurship.

For those reasons, I know I can take this to the bank: I am making good money, with the promise of better money to come. When you truly enjoy what you are doing for a living and apply yourself with a passion because of that, the money naturally tends to follow. Good money.

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YOLO: Don’t Fear the Late Career Change

Good news for “older” workers seeking to change their careers and find more fulfilling work comes from the American Institute for Economic Research in a new study, New Careers for Older Workers:

  • Among workers ages 45-and-over who attempted a career change, 82 percent of late-in-career changers were considered successful.
  • The majority of successful career changers said that the change made them happier.
  • Many successful career changers saw an increase in income.
  • Possessing transferable skills is one of the most important factors in determining the success of a career change.

The majority of late-in-career changers reported that their stress levels declined, it did not take too long to find a job, and that they felt they were following a passion. An obstacle was pay cuts, but career-changers reported that after a period of hard work and persistence, their incomes rose.

The study concludes that a career change later in life is “a viable choice” for those seeking work in an occupation that uses their current skills, and that one determinant of success is gaining a realistic view of what the transition will entail and preparing for it. While the study can’t dispel the common perception that age discrimination in hiring exists, it does offer some evidence that some employers are open to hiring older workers.

I have changed careers once before – from journalism to public relations – which isn’t such a big leap. Like the study said, that change involved transferable skills. I made another career change that was prompted by market conditions, as did many career changers in the study. Consecutive public relations job layoffs motivated me to try a new career that I had contemplated before, and I entered a Baltimore teacher-training program for career-changers and non-educators. But I didn’t last long in that field, and jumped back to PR.

Now I’m halfway through a graduate program for counseling while continuing to work in PR. I am not sure where my program is going to lead, or if I will necessarily change careers again. It’s a journey of faith, and I’m enjoying the process, the learning and the people. If I were to change careers ultimately, my income level would surely drop. But I also think there would be potential for my income to exceed my current level if I switched fields, with hard work, certain choices and passion, as the study indicated.

My program is full of potential career-changers in their 40s or older. In the class on Group Theory I just completed, there are two engineers – including one who is going to retire from his position in two months when he graduates and embark on a totally different career path. There’s also an accountant, a nurse, a fashion designer, a financial professional, teachers and former military members. Every one of them seems happy and inspired that they are pursuing a new path. It’s invigorating. The passion and investment of self is palpable. Some feel called to what they are pursuing; all seem to feel a sense of liberation to be pursuing their sense of vision for themselves. For many, it is a deeply spiritual quest.

So for anyone who thinks it’s too late or that they have too much to lose or that a change would be doomed to failure and prove to be a big mistake, take a look at the results of this study that suggest otherwise.

And to feel a little younger at heart, consider the millennial, social media buzzword delivered by a student commencement speaker at my daughter’s high school graduation: YOLO, as in “You Only Live Once.”

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