Five Things to Contemplate Before Making a Major Career Change

by Kerry Hannon

Midlife career change involves emotional as well as professional challenges. Here are some key issues to be aware of.


The following is an excerpt from What's Next? Follow Your Passions and Find Your Dream Job by Kerry Hannon 





Marketing 101. How good are you at selling yourself? Really? This is a key ingredient for those of you embarking on an entrepreneurial second act. This is a genuine blind spot that wannabe second actors can possess.

You may have had a wonderful initial experience starting a new business or a consulting business but fail to understand that your confidence is only part of the battle; the other part is marketing yourself as you move along from those heady first few months or even years. For people who have worked in a setting where they did their job and delivered the end result to much fanfare, this change can be extremely difficult.

Greenhorn blues. It’s much tougher than you think to cope with being a beginner. It’s unnerving. You feel as though the rug has been pulled out from under you, and your base of support and confidence has slipped away. To have a second act hit, you must be sufficiently open to change in your life. Career changers often underestimate what the transition will bring and how many things they actually appreciate in their lives. All of a sudden, they realize how they miss their old career or the trappings of it, and they are not really open to replacing those things.

Respect. We all like to be treated with respect. We enjoy the admiration, esteem, and appreciation we get from colleagues, people we manage at our current jobs, our bosses, and others whom we come into contact with both socially and professionally. We take pleasure when those around us have a high opinion of us.

But when you move into uncharted territory, you’re a neophyte, the proverbial new kid on the block, starting over at the bottom. This requires some psychological adjustment and fine-tuning. All of a sudden, you are making less, probably making a few mistakes, and not being treated like the experienced professional you have come to be.

Look inside and recognize those feelings. You might even want to hire a professional such as a therapist or career coach to guide you through this more personal adjustment. A supportive partner or best friend might be all the shoring up you need, but it is a transition phase that shouldn’t be ignored.

Making mistakes gracefully. Easier said than done. Face it, the older you are and further along on your professional success ladder, the harder it is to accept criticism and responsibility for screwing up. Your ego just isn’t as nimble and forgiving as it once was. This is the reality, and it happens when you start anew. When you’re in your twenties, you are better equipped to handle the inevitable screw-ups and missteps, let them slide off your back with a simple shrug, and move on. 

When you can accept that trying new things means learning from your mistakes along the way, you will be in a healthier, stronger place to move ahead. Doing things badly is just another step toward doing them well.


What's Next? by Kerry HannonKerry Hannon is the author of What's Next? Follow Your Passions and Find Your Dream Job (Chronicle Books) available May 1, 2010.  Click here to buy it on


by Kerry Hannon | Wednesday, May 12, 2010 | Career Change, Change Your Career

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