Choose the Right Career at Any Age Or Suffer the Consequences

How do you get a job that does more than just pay the bills? According to Wendy Nolin, business and career coach at Change Agent Careers, the secret is not listening to your friends and family.

“We are encouraged to choose careers by people who observe our surface strengths but don’t take into account our values and what is truly important to us,” said Nolin. “This makes us choose a career and try to wrap ourselves around it until we discover it does not match who we really are.”

Christy Robb, a career and lifestyle coach, sees many older people who have suffered the consequences of not doing what they wanted to and are then laid off in their 50s after 20-30 years at the same company.

“They are seeing that the sacrifices they made in the name of ‘staying with a good company’ are lost in today’s workplace,” said Robb.

Employee loyalty does not guarantee employer loyalty, and Robb said that older people are now “seizing back their lives, taking more risks, starting their own companies, living a fuller life and not waiting for an eventual payoff from somewhere else.”

Nolin often works with clients in their 40s who “have come into a greater level of self-awareness of who they are at their core.” In the age of self-help gurus such as Tony Robbins and Oprah, “we are now being given permission as a society to do what makes us happy.”

Younger people are absorbing this message, said Robb.

“I am seeing young people intelligently observing what happened to their parents and placing more emphasis on a well-rounded life, rather than chasing some ‘ultimate out-there-somewhere career height’ that may not really exist,” said Robb.

Survey data agrees. Simply Hired’s recent job seeker survey reported that 74 percent of Americans believe that the right job is out there for everyone. Young adults are more likely to share this belief: respondents aged 18-24 were 21 percent more likely than those aged 55+ to agree with that statement.

However, the younger group was also 50 percent more likely than the older group to say, “I only work at my current job for the money.” If so, many young adults are not fulfilled by their work. Will they end up falling into their parents’ footsteps by waking up at age 50 and realizing they made the wrong choice?

Nolin recommends working with trained career counselors early on in one’s career.

“Friends and family may be unintentionally passing on potentially damaging suggestions,” she said.

The current marketplace demands letting go of the idea of the perfect career.

“Today’s workers have shifted their attitudes in response to the changes in the marketplace like layoffs, lack of employer loyalty, and the growth in contract jobs,” said Robb.

No matter what your age, the perfect job is the one in which you can find synergy between what you are good at and what you enjoy.

“It’s never too late,” said Nolin, “but it takes time and a willingness to explore and take risks.”