Do You Feel Lost in your Mid-Life Career Transitions?
This article will provide you with increased insight into the world of experienced people who want or need to re-enter the employment rat race. It is aiming to provide guidance for career coaches/counsellors but is just as useful if you yourself are ‘lost in transition’. Sometimes mid-life career changers may be overlooked when we consider the need for career guidance and counselling.
However, the changing worlds of work as well as economic reasons have forced many people to search for jobs. We will discuss how career counselling can assist and what additional services we can offer We are going to explore some of the differences between career advising for young people and mid-life career changers who are people with life experience. Why do people seek help from career advisers? Some of the subjects about which people approach career advisers:
- Information about possibilities
- Pointers to the future of a particular area of work
- Referral to a particular scheme, course or employer
- Tips on presenting themselves in person and in writing
- Guidelines on what action to take and when
- To check out that they are on the right lines and are taking a sensible approach
- To get help to see what they might like to do
- Encouragement to keep on trying
- Motivation to burst through barriers
- The confidence to aim high and to success
- To answer the question: Where am I going in my life?
Most people feel a bit scared and can feel very vulnerable when they have to ask for help. (Think of visiting a doctor or dentist) Even if the matter in question is not personal, it can feel a little humiliation to ask for help because it means admitting that you don’t have all the answers about your life. This is especially true of some adults who feel that being grown up means they should know exactly where they are going and what they hope to achieve. On they other hand, young people are more used to consulting adults, and might feel more comfortable about asking advice.
When taking feelings in to account, remember that especially people that have been made redundant or have been unemployed for some time may not only feel anxious about asking advice but may also be depressed and very cynical. The treatment they may have received at places like Centrelink and Job Network Agencies may have left them with a huge chip on their shoulders. This means that they could come in the career counsellor’s office with an attitude!
My experience has been that the first thing I need to do is to get through the barriers that this demoralised person puts up. Empathy and respect can open the way into constructiveness. Funny enough, something as seemingly obvious as a genuine smile and a warm handshake, as they first meet with you, can be seen as a sign of respect.
Through the years, especially when working for CRS Australia as an employment consultant, I have often applied for positions, even when I did not need work; just to keep in touch with what if feels to be unemployed. I often went through the interview experience so I would remember what it was to be nervous. Even though it was never the same because I was not desperate and needy, it helped me to keep feeling a little of what the client feels.
Mid-Life Career Transitions. I have found that Super’s theoretical life-stages model may need some revision. Socio-economical realities of life today tell us that people must be prepared to:
- change jobs several times,
- to change occupations sometimes,
- and to consider radical changes to the form their employment may take;
- such as a port-folio of part-time or casual jobs, or self-employment.
As we prepare to assist a larger proportion of mature adults to make career transitions, we should appreciate that their career problems often have been forced upon them by circumstances beyond their control. Let’s explore how we can understand and assist mid-life career changers.
What are some of the reasons for mid-life career changes?
- Women want to return to work after home duties.
- People have been injured or ill and need to look for a different career.
- Redundancy is forcing people to become job seekers
- Midlife crisis makes people realise they want to do something different
- Healthy people in their forties from the Defence Forces, who are now expected to retire
Can you think of other reasons? Full-time workers are more and more becoming an increasingly limited commodity. Our aging population and the anticipated retirement of the baby boomers is worsening this shortage. Furthermore, many of working Australians are now self-employed.
What have you experienced?
- Think of some experiences you’ve had with mature-age people (in or outside work settings who are trying to find work or change direction).
- What were some of the perceived barriers?
- If you are the this person try to think about your own situation.
As you see, the transitions may be smooth or rough, anticipated or unexpected, voluntary or involuntary. Some people will come to you upset about a crisis situation. They may be fed-up with an unreasonable boss OR the increasing bureaucracy and paperwork in a job. They may be sick of commuting. There are lots or reasons and situations.
HOW CAN WE HELP OR RECEIVE HELP?
- Career Guidance
- Motivational Encouragement
- Demonstrate Research calling
- Resume preparation
If the client does not get to the interview stage look at the resume. If the resume does not open doors, look at how you could change it.
- Selection Criteria
- Interviewing coaching
What are the most important points to teach these job seekers about what employers look for when interviewing?
- UNDERSTANDING OF THE JOB – RESEARCH
- ABILITY TO DO IT- SKILLS & EXPERIENCE
- ENTHUSIASM – ATTITUDE
- ABILITY TO FIT IN AND WORK WITH CURRENT TEAM – INTERPERSONAL SKILLS
A PROGRAM FOR MID-CAREER CHANGERS.
We are dealing with two very different age groups such as a 17 year old High School student who will complete Year 12 this year and a Middle Manager who is about to be out placed from his position in an industrial company. Although the basic program will be following similar steps, there are differences that come into the program when dealing with Mid-life changer. The key differences, are that with the mid-life person there would be an emphasis on analysing past experience. We would also be looking more closely at roles that have been established, as well as values and needs. Sometimes these values and needs may not have been met in the past.
Let’s look at a possible nine step-counselling program The first three steps are essential for mid-career changes, while the other six are useful in any standard career counselling program.
CLARIFY THE REASONS FOR CHANGE
Both the client and the adviser need to clarify the reasons for the career change. This will also assist the client to share his story and express feelings that could be painful and confused. It is important that the career changers feel you are on their side. Some people will feel secure and optimistic and is contemplating a voluntary change. They may not be completely sure about the reasons for change but just have this ‘gut’ feeling they are following. Clarifying reasons for a career change will give better chances of achieving future goals.
PROVIDE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE EXPRESSION OF EMOTIONS.
Career changes may be very traumatic and there is a need to allow the client to express emotions connected with it. There may be feeling of anger or betrayal. If the emotions are dealt with first it will clear the way for productive efforts to find and achieve new career goals.
An empathetic careers adviser, using sound practices, can often turn crisis into opportunity. As career adviser, you must expect that some of your clients, however calm they may appear, are trying to handle a traumatic career transition.
EXPLORE THE BROADER CONSEQUENCES OF A CAREER CHANGE.
The client also needs to face the broad consequences of a career change. Many areas of his life will be affected by the changes and dealing with this will provide a basic framework, which will help to ensure that no important aspect is neglected in the later stages.
What is the ‘big picture’? How is the career change going the affect the client and their future life. Our aim is that the client will become aware of the complex ramifications of the decisions, goals and plans that lie ahead. For example: as adviser you may raise the issue of retraining or further study, whether it appears relevant or not. At this stage you will want to explain the steps that are involved in the process ahead. This gives the client a feel that he is sharing control of a process he understands. Another matter likely to be explored is the financial implications of a career change. Possible relocation?
Now we come to identifying the client’s experience and probing how it can be used for future choices. The big difference between young career-starters and older career-changers is that the latter have experience which will add greatly to the basis for decision-making.
- Specific work experiences – what kind of work?
- Likes and dislikes of former jobs?
- Specific educational and training experiences?
- What aspects did he enjoy and do well at?
- What kind of leisure experiences can the client recall?
- What kind does he prefer?
- Has the client received any kind of special recognition or awards?
You can analyse these things in various ways: Autobiographical sketch, guided by some structured questions, probably as homework You may use interview questioning and make brief notes. What the client reveals about past experiences can also be used to obtain indications of skills possessed by the client.
Appropriately identifying client interests can lead to a possible occupational list. Most convenient for classifying personalities and occupations is probably John Holland’s SDS and the Career Voyage program. This program, only available to accredited career counsellors, can be used through web access and clients can continue to work further at home even after they have seen a Career Counsellor.
It is surprising how often people are unaware of their own skills. Identifying client skills in various areas such as work, hobbies, social activities, volunteer work, and other activities. Various skills assessment instruments are available.
VALUES AND NEEDS.
Now we come to a very important area, the heart of the process identifying the client’s values and needs. We move towards our values. The knowledge of personal values and needs can provide a powerful focus for goals and assist with a successful occupational choice.
CONSIDER RELEVANT EDUCATIONAL AND OCCUPATIONAL INFORMATION.
Research relevant educational and occupational information through various sources. I would include some instructions here on how to conduct research calling to empower the client in his research.
HELP THE CLIENT TO MAKE DECISIONS AND PLAN ACTION.
Conclude the career counselling program with assisting the client to make decision and preparing a realistic action plan.
- What options have emerged?
- What (if any) retraining or further education may be needed?
- Which option offers the most?