Lately I’ve been thinking about people who’ve shifted gears away from their former careers. They may have been forced out, laid off, or decided to retire. Now they find themselves in the uncomfortable position of not knowing what to do next. They’re not even sure how to start the process of starting over! Does this sound like you? If so you’re in good company!
I made a huge choice 2010 when I left the parish priesthood after 32 years. I knew I would not receive a pension (I’d have to stick it out till the age of 75!). I floundered, looking for jobs. I discovered that with four degrees and lots of skills I was out of touch. And the Great Recession was taking no prisoners.
Even without the Covid-19 economic downturn, a lot of people had reached a point, like me, that it was best to change careers. I particularly think of those who served as military, police, firefighters, EMT’s, nurses, and others who had been on the front-line saving lives. You probably gave the “best” years of your life serving until you were unable to continue. Some of you are suffering from chronic injury. Many of you just wanted a break.
I know you had been faithful to your calling. You often sacrificed your health and life-expectancy for us. You’ve seen colleagues inflicted with PTSD and depression, too often resulting in suicide. You were obedient to your chains of command and gave up personal choices for the greater good. We cannot thank you enough.
You now realize your pensions or 401K’s in are not enough to get you through the next third or more of your life. You may have been thrilled to move to the next phase of life, but now you feel stuck. What are you going to do with your education and skills? What do you even want to do?
I’m not here to give you career counseling. Instead I want to go deeper, deep into your soul, the core of who you are. This takes vulnerability and I’m not surprised if you’re a bit afraid of looking within.
Eight Starting Points for Starting Over
1. Start with asking yourself: Who is the most important person in my life? If you said God, your partner, your parents, or your kids, you’d be dead wrong. I’m not sorry to say that the most important person in your life is you. It is now past time to put yourself first, without judgment, shame, or guilt. It may not feel comfortable since you’ve always put others first. Now you are the top priority.
2. You may be grieving without knowing it. You’ve just experienced a great loss! The world you lived in for years, decades, is no longer your world. This is time to express your emotions. I still have dreams ten years later about the ministry. Institutions tend to live in our heads, and so might your former career. Grieve freely and thoroughly.
3. Ask yourself: Do I often feel angry? Starting over is a pain in the butt! No one can blame you for your anger; it’s neither right nor wrong. Find someone with whom you can express your anger in a healthy way. Don’t let it turn into resentment for mistakes you think you or others made in the past. Did you know that men often use anger to cover over their depression? (see point 4). Find a professional to help you.
4. Give yourself a break if you do feel depressed now and again. This is normal, given the tremendous change you’re experiencing. Others may try to help, but it’s up to you to address your depression. Be aware of using substances to cover the pain or to escape (see point 5). Find a qualified therapist. There are many effective medications to help you get over the hump.
5. Learn the difference between depression and despair. When depression turns into despair, it goes underground. You still function, but without hope. It’s in a time of despair that some people start thinking of ending their lives. It is vital to see a professional to address your despair. Call a suicide hotline if your thoughts are drifting in that direction.
6. Discover those who will be your emotional support community while you’re transitioning. People in your former career who have been where you are can be particularly helpful, as can clergy, life coaches, family, and friends.
7. Look for a group that offers free practical support and advice about choosing your next career. You may not yet know what choices and desires you have. That’s normal! Check out Transition Masters and Real Estate Lives (for anyone transitioning, not just RE professionals). These are great groups of generous men and women who will assist you by sharing their networks with you. Maybe I’ll meet you there; I’m a support member. And they are online!
8. Finally, believe in yourself and celebrate the successful life you’ve already been leading. If you are an honorable human being who has tried their best through most circumstances, then you are successful and need to feel successful. Success is rarely in what you’ve accomplished, no matter how noble. Success is knowing that you have ultimate value as a unique and unrepeatable individual sent to change many lives through your example.
Do you want to talk? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 813-444-9641. Get started by reading my book: Life Interrupted: Taking Charge After Everything Has Changed