Most of my clients have taken a career break to be able to follow their spouse’s job around the globe and take care of their families. After some years, or the third move or when their kids are older, they’re faced with a dreadful question:
Have I missed the career boat?
This is, in fact, a highly charged question. The need to rekindle professional fulfilment comes often with:
- Financial pressure, changes in the financial stability
- Ending of a life cycle, dealing with loss or emptiness
- Getting older
- A longing for variety, excitement
- Questioning purpose, meaning, their contribution
- Low self-esteem, lack of confidence
- Not knowing what they want or where to start
- Guilt about focusing on your own life after being so used to taking care of others.
So, if you are questioning that (like so many of my clients are), I invite you to reflect on what’s in that question for you, before updating your LinkedIn.
What does “It’s too late” mean to you?
You will probably get in touch with the internal reasons that are stopping you; the things that are making you think it’s “too late” for you. Working on them will dissolve their power, release energy, and clear the way for you to figure out what is the best way to move forward.
It’s not being a certain age that is going to limit you, but the belief that it is too late.
There are plenty of people doing it, in and out of the expat world. You are definitely not the only one, nor the first one who’s wanted to pick up where you left off on your career. Or reinvent it completely. The best format and process now may be slightly different, yes, but not impossible. For inspiration, I’d highly suggest checking out http://www.i-relaunch.com, http://www.flexjobs.com and Tandem Nomads Podcast.
How about tricking your brain and replacing “It’s impossible” to “I’ll figure it out”?
Do a KonMari and eliminate old beliefs that are holding you back now to create space for the next chapter of your life.
For real, your past and current skills are probably highly transferable.
Yes, “life experience” does count in your favor: You have been raising children, building relationships, learning new cultures, organising fundraising events for the PTA, creating a new community for your family in your new country, dealing with international paperwork – you are a pro at long-distance communication. These are all “transferable, marketable skills” to add to your previous professional experience.
Take time to look inside, evaluate your skills, your likes and dislikes, your limitations, your experience. And, you don’t have to do it alone! There are many professionals to help, great books, wise friends.
Success is what you say it is
Take time to question what success would look like to you now, at this point in your life. Make sure you don’t miss opportunities to find success in a different format than you expected. It may be closer to you now than you imagine.
Was the expat life exactly as you envisioned it? The next phase will likely offer new and different challenges as well.
Even Stanford Professors say it isn’t too late.
Seriously, if you need academic proof, Professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, who run the Design Your Life lab at Stanford and have worked with thousands of people over the years, say so on their book, Designing Your Life – How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life. It’s actually a great book. And between us, the audiobook version is available, so you can listen to it while driving the kids around. I know, you are welcome. 😉
Amongst other great tips, they suggest prototyping; experimenting on a small scale to get clear on whether an idea just “looks cool” or you’d actually enjoy doing it every day (before you commit to that 4-year Masters!). Look around for the opportunities to prototype an experience that is within your reach already. You could ask a friend to spend a day observing their work, offer help on a project, volunteer strategically to gain clarity and update your experience.
Finally, no matter what:
Always honor your career break.
Be proud of what you did for your family. You really don’t need to justify it to anybody. Because this is one of the advantages of no longer being that young. 😉