It’s Never too Late to Start a Career You’ll Love by Belinda Elworthy
In a culture like ours that celebrates the potential of youth, you can be forgiven for feeling like you’re out of time when it comes to starting a new career after you’ve had kids. If you have toyed with the idea of making a brave career change, or you’re itching to sink your teeth into paid work after taking a break to raise your kids or care for a loved one, I’m here to tell you that it is NEVER too late to switch up your career and find work that really lights your fire.
I farewelled someone close to me this week, and as I came to terms with my grief, I found comfort in the notion that she had made the absolute most of her life. My beautiful friend was a mother of 5, and whilst raising her family was undoubtedly her greatest joy and achievement, her children recalled the huge contribution her work made to her sense of self and her happiness. After devoting much of her life to raising her family, fuelled by her internal drive to care for and help others, when her kids were all in high school she secured a job as a teacher’s aide. As her daughter recalled in her eulogy, this job didn’t just fill her bank account, it filled her soul.
Losing someone you care about brings to light how fragile life is and for me, it reminds me how important making a contribution with our one, finite, beautiful life actually is. Feeling like we’re making a difference to the world is a very fundamental human desire, and whilst our role as a mother is just about as meaningful as roles get, our work outside the home can also bring a huge sense of meaning into our lives.
Yes, there are barriers to women re-entering the workforce after taking a career break. Yes, there’s much we need to change about ageism and sexism in our workplace cultures. But it’s also important to remember, that despite these outdated notions of what brilliant working women look like, women are finding opportunities to secure work that works for them every day, and with some grit and applying the right approach, you can too.
Did you know that Vera Wang didn’t start designing wedding dresses until she was 40? Or that JK Rowling’s script for Harry Potter was rejected 12 times before finally being accepted? On a more intimate level, my mother didn’t work outside of the home until all four children had entered high school, and many years on, her work delivers fulfilment, financial independence and challenge. I watched mum’s confidence skyrocket beyond the shaky, soul-searching early days of returning to paid work after a 20 year career break. Mum’s now been back in the workforce for longer than the time she had away from it… it’s amazing what we can see in hindsight, how each small step lead onto the next opportunity… and the next.
External barriers aside, what I’ve learned after working with women for over 10 years to pursue their career goals, and experiencing my own career relaunch after becoming a mother to three children, is that it’s often the internal barriers that truly prevent us from taking action. With this in mind, here are 3 reasons that you should be more confident in your ability to find and start a career you’ll really love, than ever before.
1. You could be close to your peak problem-solving age.
It is well-known that if it’s pure information processing speed you’re looking for, then you probably peaked at around age 18 or 19. But when it comes to more complex problem solving, and effectively evaluating emotional states of others, research shows that our problem solving fluency can peak in our 40’s and 50’s, with our vocabulary reaching its peak in our 70’s. Given that we’ve got apps for lightning speed processing, it could be quite a professional asset to have your teens well and truly behind you, and instead be in a phase of life where solving real problems is a skill you’ve learned to refine and improve over time.
2. Late bloomers know who they are.
You might have left career success behind to raise your family, or you might feel like you never really got started. One thing late bloomers repeat when they share their stories of success and fulfilment is that one of the reasons they’ve been able to achieve their career goals is because they’re more in touch now with who they really are, than they ever were before.
When you look back on what you knew about the world (and yourself!) when you left school, it’s crazy to believe the big career decisions you made at that time. The years of raising little people, caring for parents and contributing to the community have helped you to really know what it is that floats your boat (and gets your goat). The more you know about who you are and what you stand for, the easier it is to choose what comes next in your career.
3. You no longer sweat the small stuff.
Along with the laugh lines, comes the beauty of a calmer perspective when it comes to business and life. Women who have experienced the inevitable ups and downs of raising children or caring for parents, possess a perspective-taking capacity that just isn’t available for purchase via a university degree. Accompanied with your bigger world view, is an ability to mentor and lead, and usually a fiercely efficient approach to work.
Is embarking on a major career shift mid-life scary? Hell yes. But I’m yet to meet someone who regrets embarking on a project that sets their soul on fire. If there’s a part of your professional identity that’s been acing to be re-discovered, there really is no better time than now to get moving.
Off you go… it’s time to get to work.
Belinda Elworthy is Co-Founder of She Thrives, a platform dedicated to supporting women to coach themselves back to work after a career break. A mother to 3 energetic boys, Belinda has unpacked the art and science of a successful career relaunch.