Careers

Opinion: What I Learnt By Finding My Perfect Career at 50

With turning 50, I believed that the older I became, there would be less opportunities available to me. However, it wasn’t too late. In fact, it was perfect timing, and I took the first steps in finding out what it was I wanted to do. This is what I did.

On my 50th birthday, in 2012, I thought to myself “What do I want my career to look like over the next 20 years?”

This is a "Coming of Age" story with a difference. As a Baby Boomer, I wanted to share my journey in finding my perfect career, along with my "10 Essential Tips for Success".

When some might be thinking about a retirement plan, I was thinking about a Career Plan for the first time in my life. I had worked for over 30 years in companies, honing my skills, working in roles that I loved and felt passionate about, enjoying the camaraderie of my team members, working for amazing bosses, and not-so-amazing bosses, I learnt about what I was good at and what I enjoyed doing and for the most part, I was able to avoid the roles that deflated me and sucked my energy.

"These were my limiting beliefs consolidated into one big rock and hard place. They were also my drivers for change. They spurred me on into action. They drove me to take control."

With turning 50, my gremlins were having a field day. I believed that the older I became, there would be less opportunities available to me. I saw companies beginning to focus on acquiring early in career talent and offering early retirement and redundancy packages to those who were experienced in their career. Oh, and just to put a cherry on top, I also believed that being a middle-aged female, working in the IT Industry, but not in a technical capacity, wouldn’t help either. Cue gasp. There you go, I said it!

Yes. These were all of my limiting beliefs consolidated into one big rock and hard place. However, they were also my drivers for change. They spurred me on into action. They drove me to take control. They challenged me not be a victim with excuses who blamed others, but to gain ownership of where I was and where I wanted to go instead.

What Limiting Beliefs Might Be Holding You Back?

I realised, a little late some would say, that it was time to think about me and what I wanted. It wasn’t too late. In fact, it was perfect timing, and I took the first steps in finding out what it was I wanted to do. This is what I did.

Step 1: I understood how people perceived me

Feedback from those I worked with was always very positive and they seemed to enjoy working with me, they liked to be on my team. But I didn’t know why, and I felt uncomfortable qualifying their feedback. So, I enrolled on a Personal Branding Program delivered by Ellen Looyen and this is what I learnt about how I was perceived by my stakeholders:

How people experienced me:

  • Warm personality, fun and enjoyable to work with
  • Makes you feel good to know her
  • Open to discuss issues
  • Gets people engaged
  • Empowers others to contribute

What people valued:

  • A change expert who assists leaders in driving change
  • Active thought leader in employee engagement
  • Motions for completion and accountability
  • Outcome focused
  • Gains traction and momentum

I viewed myself as independent, full of ideas and loyal - and the stakeholder feedback helped me to “get over myself” and understand my stakeholder’s experience and the benefits I delivered for them. Which is the main thing. Right?

I you were going to start with step one today, how would your colleagues, stakeholders, best friend and family describe you?

Step 2: I Hired a Coach

OMG!!! What an experience that was. My coach was amazing! She enabled me to define my goals and what I wanted my career to look like over the next 20 years. The goals I identified were:

Balance: While I still had lots of energy, I wanted a career in the future that would provide flexibility in terms of the hours I worked.

Strength: I wanted to leverage where I was strong, what I was good at and what I enjoyed doing.

Fulfilment: I wanted to continue helping others be successful.

Authenticity: I wanted to live and work to my values of loyalty, integrity, warmth and fun.

Freedom: I wanted to run my own business. Having worked for others, I wanted to work for myself.

I had all this experience, knowledge and wisdom that I wanted to put to good use and being 50 was not going to get in the way of that. In fact, it was an asset!

After a few sessions with my coach, I realised I too wanted to become a coach. I had coached informally for quite a while, but I really wanted to learn more.

Step 3: I Invested in Developing My Coaching Skills

I booked myself on a CTI Coaching Program and started offering myself as a coach in the company I worked. I was keen to hone and practice the skills straight away.

What Did the Above Three Steps Bring Me?

After coaching several people across the company and networking with other coaches, I was asked to be a Career Coach as part of a European wide initiative. It was fun and a great development experience for both the coaches and those wanting to be coached.

About two years later I was invited, trained and certified as a Cisco Leadership Strengths Coach for which I won the Cisco Coaching Excellence Award in May 2018. All the coaching I did was in addition to my roles in Change Management, Customer Loyalty and Satisfaction and then with the Excellence in Country Leadership Program Team.

It was a privilege to work for Cisco, who enabled me to invest in my career and at the same time, gain experience in roles where I flourished. The result was a win for those I coached, a win for Cisco and a win for me as I honed my coaching skills and confidence.

Do You Know What I Then Realised? Time is Everything!

In September 2018 my dearest Mother passed away at the age of 94. Strong, warm, loving and gentle, Leila was always an inspiration, friend and confident. A great travel companion too. When I would travel abroad on business, I would take her with me. We had great fun together. Leila would go see the sights or rest and enjoy the big comfy hotel beds while I went into the office. I would highly recommend it if you have a busy life travelling and would like to spend more time with your loved ones. It’s ideal. We created many great memories as we travelled the world!

The above photo is of Mum and I in the foothills of the Rockies near Boulder, Colorado in the early 2000s. I worked for StorageTek then and was out there with our team to attend a Learning Conference in Denver. By the way. I’m the one on the right.

Mum's passing was one of life’s big events and while very sad, it did seem to bring my dreams closer and in October 2019, I left Cisco to set up Change Tempo Limited and I am happy to say that Cisco and I are still in partnership and I am continuing to coach for them.

Funnily enough, a friend of mine said to me recently “Amanda! A woman of your age? Setting up her own business? It’s just amazing! Kudos to you!” I laughed out loud! A bit shocked at first, but then I agreed. Yes! It is amazing!

What Did I Learn?

As I wrote this story and reflected on my own journey over the last 7 years, I asked myself "What did I learn?" Here are my 10 Essential Tips:

10 Essential Tips for Success: Finding your perfect path at 50+

1. Use negative energy and gremlins to spark action and move you forward.

2. Re purpose excuses. Choose to be victorious not a victim.

3. At 50 your career is not over. There is so much opportunity for you to find your passion and do what you want to do. The gig economy is waiting for you!

4. You have more resource, passion, strengths and value than you know at 50. Don’t lie low and keep your head down. Invest in honing your skills and be generous with your value.

5. Find a good coach. Someone who will believe in you, champion and challenge you. Good coaches bring about your natural resources, creativity and energy to pursue passion and fulfilment.

6. There is no need to rush. Take your time, build your confidence and develop your reputation and brand.

7. Be clear about your values. They help you focus effort and become a set of guiding principles for making decisions.

8. Be conscious of your change journey. Make note of how you are feeling and find the reason why. Ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?”

9. Include financial planning as a key part of your career plan.

10.Keep moving! No matter how small the step is. Staying still is OK while we process what what’s going on.

Finally, I want to say that we all have a choice. It is possible, at any age, to grow, give and gather experience and value to become the creator of our own destiny.

by Amanda Page, Change Expert and Career Coach who runs Change Tempo

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