Recovery From Midlife Detours

Life seldom if ever proceeds in an uninterrupted straight line to a happy ending. Happy or sad, whatever our dominant emotion today, those of us in middle age can expect to  encounter at least one major detour along life’s pathway to a bountiful and carefree retirement. The two most common and destructive roadblocks to full speed ahead are job loss/career frustration and marital breakup.

Whether employed or not, have you taken adequate time out to map the rest of your career? You wouldn’t depart on an out-of-town trip without taking along On-Star, Google mapping or at least an old fashioned paper road map. So why would you launch a job search without a crystal-clear vision of your targeted ultimate destination.  It also helps if you can identify various career stepping stones along the way.

In my first book, A Mid-Life Challenge WAKE UP!, I guide you through a thirty-day mental vacation, culminating in an imaginary written position decription for your ideal next job. If too far from reality, you may need to modify your imaginary description a little to fit in with your education and background. Don’t bend your ideal too far–you need to keep thinking outside the box. Your ultimate goal is to define a job and career that you would look forward to each day; a job where someone else will pay you to have a good time!

Once you define your ideal position, take time out each day to imagine yourself as an incumbent, performing the tasks and interfacing with the people and situations you would encounter on the job. Repeatedly ask yourself: “Is this genuinely how I wish to spend my next twenty to thirty years? Logically, were I in this position, could I expect to  progress further in my career?”

Your next task is to identify and write down a list of potential employers that may be seeking a person with the skills you have defined. At all times, you should have at least three potential employers in mind; never put all your eggs in one basket. Before making contact, perform extensive research to get to know each employer. If possible, introduce yourself and speak informally with potential bosses or co-workers at industry functions, on Linked-in, at professional workshops or in social gatherings.

The final step in preparartion before an interview is to consciously link your skills and background to the perceived gaps and needs of each potential employer–what you can do for them.  As much as possible, begin to think and behave like an incumbent. All this takes place before you make preliminary contact with hiring decision makers. Once you hone up on your potential employer and visualize yourself as an incumbet, you’ll be miles ahead of your job-seeking competition.

The days are long gone when we can expect to spend our entire career with a single employer. (The average American has 7 to 10 adult jobs in a lifetime)  Ours is the age of free agency, both for rock stars, star athletes and for you. At all times in the back of your mind, you should retain a vision of your ultimate career destination with an option to move on should your path to the future become blocked with the  present employer. Whatever the economy, you are in a seller’s market because the product you have to sell–YOU–is in very short supply!

Those who fare the best in free agency have an inspiring coach or agent. One of our guests on the November 12, 2012 episode of my Internet radio program, Middle Age Can Be Your Best Age on is Ginny Clark, a former partner in one of America’s largest executive search firms.  If you’d like tips on how to get hired for the executive or management position of your dreams, tune in!  With her knowledge of the search and hiring process, it’s like retaining a former IRS agent to advise you on a tax issue.

An equally common midlife detour is dissolution of a marriage, though divorce, separation or the untimely death of a spouse. Here’s a brief summary of the path to recovery;

  • Before you begin the search for a new mate, take a close look inside at yourself. Initially, the focus should be on you, not on the person you’re looking for. How can you identify the right life partner for you if you don’t know yourself?
  • Reset your expectations. Forget all you think you know about romance and courtship. You are not seeking to enter a long-term relationship for the same reasons (passionate love, starting a family) you were at age 25!
  • Recast your past and start with a clean slate. Whatever you do, cast off any regret or bitterness lingering from your prior marriage. Consult the past only for guidance on how to improve your skills of romance the second time around.
  • Take a risk and make it real! You’re never going to meet that attractive new lady or gentleman by standing off in the corner.
  • Be ready to make a few changes in your daily routine which can help to make you active, attractive and accesible. Go to the local  exercise club instead of the movies. Ride your bike to work next spring. Take golf or tennis lessions. Not only will you look and feel better, you just might meet Mr. or Ms. Right on the tennis court or out on the bike trail.

If after many years of marriage you are single again, there is one thing above all else to remember: To enjoy the second half of your life, you don’t have to get married again! You can seek out a new relationship at age 45 but you don’t have to. For many single adults in their late forties or fifties, close frienships are a fulfilling path to follow. You have nothing to prove to anyone; it’s all up to you.

On the second half of my November 12 program, Dr. Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., the nationally acclaimed “Love Doctor” returns with advice on Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship. Tune in to our program at your convenience, at any time!


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