Is Your Career Change Smothered by Wet Blankets And Critics

By Cathy Goodwin

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Mid-life career change often gets off to a promising start until you encounter well-meaning critics and wet blankets. In fact, many mid-life career changers find they're so smothered with criticism that they  turn to a career coach just to hear someone say, "It's okay - you're not crazy! Lots of people go through the same thing." 

Here are 3 ways your career change can be smothered by negative wet blankets. 

Smothering Device #1:  Your inner critic (and the wet blankets you start attracting).

It goes like this. You realize, "I'm getting a sense that I shouldn't be working in an office. I'm an active person who was always athletic. I hate being stifled. What am I doing here?"

And then you start a process the psychologists call "rumination." Typically rumination - repeating thoughts over and over - is a sign of stress. In this case, you start thinking of all the reasons you can't make a change.  You start to think, "I don't want to go back to school for a new degree. I'll never crack the code. I'll never ..." and so on.

So you dismiss the idea...and the next idea .... and the next.

Now you get really scared. One woman I'll call Marjorie was terrified of starting her business for a very unusual reason. She didn't want to gain weight. "All the female business owners I know gain fifty pounds the first year," she said. 

Time for a reality check.

So you turn to your friends. They're even more negative (so even if you started out positively, you're quickly headed for doom and gloom).

"Why would you leave this job? You're earning so much money and your office has a great view."

"You've invested so many years in this profession! Why waste it?"

Don't be surprised if your wet blanket friends seem to mirror your inner critic. That's because we tend to hear statements that support our existing beliefs, regardless of what really gets said. As a result, your inner critic and your wet blankets work together to form a sinister team, determined to destroy your dreams before they grow too big.

So what can you do?

- Take as much time off as your schedule and life will allow. Give your brain some downtime.

- Get involved in activities totally unrelated to your job. Activities - not television watching or (my own favorite escape) reading murder mysteries. Meet new people.

- Avoid sharing your dreams in the early stages. They're too new and too fragile. It's like forcing an egg to hatch or poking into a cocoon. Share only with people who will respect your dreams, recognizing that some are true inklings of what you might do and others are stepping stones.

- Begin to investigate by getting objective facts. Most books and articles will be outdated; find real people in the field and discuss your ideas as a fellow professional.

- Work with a career consultant or coach. Set up just one or two sessions to start. You may decide you need long-term support, but take the process one step a time.

Most of all, learn to recognize critics in any form. Occasionally they'll have valuable information but more often they have no more value than a scary Halloween mask. Don't give them more power. 

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