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How to kickstart your midlife career change

This article originally appeared on Psychologies Magazine, Life Labs channel.

You’re in your 40s stuck in a job you hate. You’re done with the crazy deadlines. You can’t stand the politics. If you have to sit through one more pointless meeting, you may just leave on the spot. 

The problem is you have no clue what else to do. And even if you did, you’re not sure it would be possible to change. There are the kids to feed and the mortgage to pay. There’s also the little fact that your job is a big part of your identity. You may have fallen out of love with it, but at least you have an easy answer to the perennial party question, ’So what do you do?’ 

I’m not here to tell you that making the switch to more meaningful work in your 40s is a breeze. Of course it isn’t. There are many people who never even pluck up the courage to try. But there are thousands of others - and maybe you’re one of them - who do find a way to make a successful transition. 

A useful first step is simply to give yourself some time to reflect. Find a bit of space away from your job, your family responsibilities and your screens - just to think. This doesn’t have to take hours. You might mull things over while you’re out walking the dog. You could spend 15 minutes writing in a journal in the morning or last thing at night. It may be something you do on your commute. 

Here are a few questions to inspire fresh thinking:

  • When have you felt most needed?
  • What could you happily talk about every day for the rest of your life?
  • What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
  • What problem are you uniquely suited to solve?

Think of these questions as a small, positive step in the right direction. A way to start taking seriously the idea that there is more meaningful work out there for you.