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Midlife Career Change is Real: Can you get back on track?

In this article:
  • Did you make a wrong career choice?
  • What will happen if you take a leap and change your career field at your 30s or 40s?
  • My career change journey
  • The dream job: To become a housewife
  • Ooops... wrong turn, how to get back on the right track

At some point in our lives, we question our career choices.  I mean, how many of us were wise enough to know at the age of 16 or 20 what we really want in life? Can you say for sure that you had all the information you needed to not rush your career decision?

At the age of 30 or 40, you go to work every day feeling like a robot sometimes. The bizarre part about it? You don't hate your job, you just don't know where you're headed.  You ask yourself, "Is it just my job now or am I in the wrong field?"  Since many of us can't afford to learn new tricks anymore, we stay on course.  Starting fresh seems scarier than getting stuck.  Still, we ask ourselves sometimes...

Did I make the wrong career choice?

Do I know what I want to happen in my life?

Do I want to be a corporate manager? Start a business?

Do I want to travel the world and earn a living out of it? Be a photographer or a vlogger?

This restlessness is not just a millennial thing.  According to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report, only 13% of employees are engaged at work.

Let's say you do want a midlife career change.  How would you know it's right for you this time?

Obviously, I don't have the answer tailor-fit for you and I'm not exactly at midlife (40-65 years old). But let me tell you my story...

When I was in high school, I told my mother I wanted to be a Psychologist.  I was shy and quiet I figured I'd pass as a good observer. Moreover, people liked turning to me for help and I liked listening to their problems. I give honest-awfully harsh but sound advice (which they normally don't follow). I would say things like, "All men are cowards, none of them can face you and tell you that they don't love you anymore. They stupidly believe that they don't want to hurt you, meanwhile, he is already dating another girl."; Or, "Do you know that you are a masochist? You stay with him not because of love.  You just feel alive with all the pain he is putting you through." 

Okay not good, but I thought I could get better at it with proper education.

Along the way, I realized I wouldn't be able to earn a decent living out of it in the Philippines.  There was not a lot of demand and there is a lack of awareness that it's good to seek professional help for mental wellness.

No idea what I really wanted, I copied my best friend's choice of career - an Accountant. I don't really like Math but I was always good at English.  Yes, my mathematically challenged friends, solving an Accounting problem is a simple combo of Math and English.  If you can understand the problem written in English, and you've memorized the policies written also in English, then you only need a calculator to work out the numbers. Okay... maybe not.  With the help of those skills, I passed the board exam and became a Certified Public Accountant.

"What now?", I asked myself then.

To jump-start an accountant's career, the wise choice would be to apply to big reputable Accounting firms. Well, let's just say, I was unwise and underwent a serious family problem that I ended up in a small firm.  After one tax season, I saw a job opening at a famous cellular network brand and got a job as an Internal Audit Specialist.  The job title was lovely but it didn't mean the job condition was the same.  Some of the work required going out in the sun for fieldwork or going up the mountains to inspect cellular towers!  One super hot as hell day in Pampanga, my body said it can't handle that kind of fieldwork anymore.

I landed an accounting job in a multinational company and found out that I am a natural leader.  Suddenly, it was clear what I wanted to do in my life. I want to go up the ladder and influence people.  My managers also saw my potential and sent me to leadership programs, technical training, and gave me big projects.  Suddenly, being an accountant doesn't mean just crunching big dollars that are not yours.  You can analyze data, help the business grow with accurate information and good presentation skills.  Sorry, I'll stop, you may not be able to relate.

Occasionally, I also ask myself along with other career-oriented women I work with. Would it be better if we have less stressful work so that when we get home we have more energy for our child and spouse? What would it be like to just stay at home and take care of the kids? We also often joke around that our ultimate dream job is to be a housewife.

With some stroke of luck, in April 2019, I quit my job to become a "shufu".  No need to feel excited for me, it just means "housewife" in Nihonggo.

My husband was offered a permanent job in Japan.  We know LDR was out of the question so I did not hesitate to resign. On the other hand, My VISA screams my new role "Dependent and Support only".  [Story of Transition for another article].

During that time, of course, I asked other career women who have already gone the same path and asked how they were doing.  They said they don't regret their choices but they can't say that being a housewife is less stressful.  Huh? What do they mean? There's a warning there.

Now, it's been six months since we moved and it's been nine months of freelancing/unemployment for me.  The phases are somewhat like this (Warning: I have tendencies to be dramatic):

Phase 1 (May to August 2019) - I Don't Miss Work Phase: A planner, a housewife, and a teacher

During this phase, I was just so busy getting things done. All the packing, house search, selling the car, preparing documents, and lots of researching.  I was just so excessively occupied that I could easily brush off some low points, like, whenever the forms ask for my job I can no longer claim I have one. It sucked because I must have filled up dozens of them.

Japan can even make foreign housewives feel worst because all the contracts are signed by the working husband.  Sure, I have credit and debit cards, but the bank will only talk to the main account holder. I wasn't even allowed to send money to the Philippines through Western Union.  I bury any negative thoughts I have during that time. My husband is working his ass off in a new environment and my son stays in school for almost 9 hours.  There was no need for self-pity, I have more time for Netflix 👍 Yey!

I lied on my Facebook post when I said 'no work means no stress'. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night just like when I was still working. Only this time, my worries are lesson plans and how to get productive.

That's right, during this time, I devoted a lot of time teaching my kid how to read. If I'm going to write my performance evaluation for this period, I would say that learning how to teach phonics and playing superhero games with my son was my greatest achievement.

Phase 2 (September to December 2019)- Exploration Phase: A blogger and a tourist

Growing up, I was a bit spoiled when it comes to household chores so I don't really have the knack for it.  Moving out to a foreign country gave me no choice but to do all household chores (except cooking).  I also decided I will try out and explore the things that I've always wanted to do like writing and editing videos.  The family also depended on me for survival Japanese so I had to be diligent in my lessons.

In between job search, data entry work, and visiting places in this beautiful country, I started out this blog and a Youtube channel.  It was all exciting and fun until the New Year spirit with all it's "new opportunity, a fresh start, and new beginning" attitude ruined it for me.

Phase 3 (January 2020) - Confusion and Clarity Phase: The career woman is back

We had a lot of visitors in the house last Christmas, we went out almost every day.  Suddenly, being left alone in the house gave me a lot of time to reflect. It was time to reassess what I really want to do. I have no more excuse. We're finally settled and vacation time is over.

I realized I'm done exploring other career choices and the career woman in me is finally kicking back in.  Sadly, it doesn't include being a vlogger anymore. Do you know how I figured out what my next action plans are?  By revisiting our FAMILY VISION.

Yes, duh!? At the workplace, we start the year right by revisiting our Vision and Mission.  Then we create a Plan out of it to ensure that we will reach that Vision. Think about it guys... why can't you create your personal vision?

Sure, somewhere along the way you made a wrong turn.  Now you question your poor choices and unsure of what to do.  You get help from your mentors but how can they direct you to the right path when you can't tell them where you're headed? Of course, you don't know what to do with your career. You don't even know what to do with your life!

Here is the best advice I got which got me back on track:

1. Create a Vision board
Andy Stanley, a leadership coach & author said, "Personal vision is often the catalyst for wise decisions." Where do you see yourself 20 years from now? Do you want to own a mansion, a sports car, your own beach resort? I'm sure you daydream about it. How do you get there?
There is an old Japanese proverb that says, "Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare."  I hate to say this but if that's true, I see a lot of people living a nightmare.

[Watch out for my next article where I will share how we created our vision board]

2. Look outward and not forward
Forward means looking out for jobs similar to what you are currently doing. But what if you are an accountant who wants to move to HR or IT? I've seen a lot of those. I have friends who opted to be in Sales or be a make-up artist instead of what they originally planned with their lives. Think outside the box. What is it that you are really passionate about?

According to the 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics (US data) survey of baby boomers, the average jobs in a lifetime is 12. Since there is no consensus on what constitutes a career change, they cannot provide data on this.  If you are going to put any effort into finding a new job, why not think outside of your current career too?  I was surprised about the different kinds of online freelancing jobs I discovered - I love this digital world.

3. Do your research
This should be part of your action plan. So you made a wrong turn somewhere or started your journey in the wrong direction.  Maybe google can help you find all the information you need.  You've also met a couple of people by now who can help answer your questions.  Get a career coach or maybe it's time to take that career assessment you did not take before deciding on a course for university.  Find out what job best fits your natural gifts and abilities.  Who knows? You probably just needed some reassurance.

4. Embrace Humility
Before I quit my job, I haven't reached the next goal I wanted but I was on my way there.  Now, it's like starting from scratch. I have to learn new things again and build a name I already have.  Honestly, it helps to think that everyone taking a leap started the same way. There is nothing wrong in being honest with your friends about it, especially if they've been in the same situation.

Generally speaking, changing your career during midlife will be hard but not impossible. Why don't you take one step at a time? Who knows, maybe you'll discover that you are in the right path after all. You know what they say, "If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse."  If you feel lost along the way, just go back to your vision board and remind yourself that every step you take now brings you closer to the right destination.


Listen, I know that you are in a lot of pressure. If you want to get in touch, send me a message on my social media accounts.

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