Are you looking for a career that combines income and purpose? Many folks on the other side of 50 have been thrust into exploring options outside their primary profession due to unemployment or a down economy; others, still in a job, are looking toward the day they can bid their boss a hearty goodbye and head off to their dream job.
Whatever the motivation, a good dose of reality can lead to greater success in your encore career. This advice is from your author, who “found her calling” in her late 40s and today works a couple of dream jobs.
Rule No. 1: Build a nest egg or learn to live on a lot less than you do now. This may seem obvious, but following your passion will most likely pay far less than your previous salary did. If you really want to be happy in your new career, create a financial plan that reflects this reality, or you can take the advice of my old accounting teacher, who said “Two can live as cheaply as one, if one doesn’t eat.”
Rule No. 2: Test it out. There’s no better method for deciding if your new career is right for you than experiencing it in advance. If you want to run an organic dairy farm in Modesto, take a sabbatical or a vacation and immerse yourself in the job. Within a few weeks you’ll have a good idea if it’s right for you.
If the job is one you can’t “test out,” attend an industry conference, speak with people who transitioned into your proposed field and get answers to these questions: How hard was the transition? What obstacles did they overcome? What new skills did they need to acquire?
Rule No. 3: Develop your skills in advance. Secure careers require experience, skills and, in many cases, training or certification. Want to run a nonprofit that serves the needs of seniors in your community? Besides management skills, you’ll need financial, fundraising, grant writing and program development skills as well as experience working closely with a small staff and a larger group of volunteers.
Ask yourself if you have the right skill set for your dream job. Are you following your plan to obtain the needed training and certification while still earning a paycheck?
Rule No. 4: Build your network. If you’ve spent 25-plus years in one industry, chances are you have lots of industry-specific contacts and those contacts have been invaluable in terms of information, referrals, recommendations, advice and counsel.
Building your new network will take time, confidence, effort and skill. Volunteer in your new field to find the right people to meet. Building that network will be essential for obtaining your new dream job.
Rule No. 5: Show leadership. There’s an industry association for almost every profession, and each one of them is looking for leaders. You almost certainly have a skill they need. Join your new industry association today and find a way to make a contribution. This is one of the best ways to make a name for yourself, to be remembered and to be referred.
Rule No. 6: Give yourself permission to fail. Allowing for the possibility of failure will give you the freedom to make choices and decisions that may sometimes be outside your comfort zone.
Telling myself it’s okay to fail set me free to live my life in a way that aligned with my values and gave me the confidence to keep going when others told me my new business wouldn’t work. That permission also gives me the right to go in a different direction if new insights and ideas take me there.
As author H. Jackson Brown Jr. (“Life’s Little Instruction Book”) said, “Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.”