How To Change Careers At Any Age

July 9, 2020

I’m Kim.
I’m an M.D.-turned-entrepreneur and I’m dedicated to helping you build your dream career + lifestyle. Welcome to my blog, where I write (and podcast) about wellness, business + success!
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Are you wondering what it takes to make a big career change … especially if you’re in your 40s or 50s or beyond?

Maybe you were recently laid off. Or maybe all the challenges we’re going through in the world right now have made you take a hard look at your priorities and you’ve realized you’re kind of done with working for someone else — because, let’s face it, that’s not quite as safe and secure as it once used to be. Maybe you really want to be in control of your own schedule, decide when you’re going to work, where you’re going to work from.

Or maybe you just have a big dream. A career or business you want to build, something you’re totally passionate about, something completely different than what you’re doing right now … but the idea of making that massive of a change, at this stage of the game, feels really daunting.

In this post I give you 4 keys shifts to help you see your way forward if you’re ready to completely reinvent yourself, because there has never been a better time to pursue your passion and change careers.

And I am here to tell you that it does not matter how old you are.

By the way, if you’d rather listen than read, here’s where you can tune in to this episode:

Now, before we get started…I want to invite you to my free online training called: The 4-Part Formula For Replacing Your 9-5 Income With A Coaching Business You Love, and that’s exactly what I teach you, inside the class. There has never been a better time to pursue your dreams of a business that gives you freedom, flexibility, and fulfillment — plus the ability to work from the comfort and safety of your own home — and I teach you my exact system for doing that inside this free training.

My topic for today was inspired by a recent conversation I had with someone (let’s call her Christine).

So I was on the phone with Christine, this was a discovery call, and she was telling me that she was 43 years old, and she wanted to make a career change from her corporate job to running her own business as a health coach. She had obtained her certification, but beyond that she didn’t really know what to do. In fact, she was starting to think it had been way too impulsive to take that training program, because she didn’t know anything about starting her own business. She said there were so many things to learn and figure out, and she was worried that it was just too late to make a career change this big.

And I was so happy to be on a call with Christine because there were so many things I could help her gain clarity on, and see her way forward.

And the main thing I helped her to see was that: OF COURSE it wasn’t too late to make a career change this big! And of course it was a do-able thing. And, more than that I had tons of case studies and success stories to share with her, to prove what I was saying, and that really helped her see her way forward.

And later, after I got off the phone I put my thoughts together, and realized that there are 4 key things that it’s important to know, for people who are in a similar place to Christine.

KEY #1: It is NEVER too late to reinvent yourself.

I was just on the cusp of turning 40 when I discovered coaching. I had worked my entire professional life in medicine. But I have to tell you something that I haven’t actually talked about on this podcast yet, at all — becoming a coach was not the first time I reinvented myself. 

I also had a brief side career as a novelist. In my 30s I rediscovered my love of writing, and this was something that went back to my very artsy childhood, that I’ve talked about on this podcast before, and I followed my nose down a massive rabbit hole of learning the craft of writing fiction — stories, and novels, and absolutely loving it. 

In fact I had some success — I wrote several novels, and had 4 of them traditionally published by New York publishing houses. I had a New York literary agent, and everything. It was very fun, and, yes, kind of glamorous to dip my toe in that world … It was definitely a labor of love, but it was interesting because after l had my 4th book published, I realized that I really did not enjoy the publishing industry.

I was not enjoying being part of that world, the total lack of control, and many, many other downsides that we don’t need to get into here…but I realized that I really just wanted to write for my own enjoyment, and I didn’t need to continue to pursue actual publication of my stories, which was actually an incredibly frustrating venture, and after talking to many other authors who had been in the publishing world for many more years than me — I could see that it would never become any other way, no matter how long I was doing it.

I’d had 4 books published, and I woke up one day and realized that I was done with that chapter. I was satisfied with how far I had gone, and I really didn’t want to go any further. So I kind of broke up with publishing, and now I just write for my own pleasure and that is so fine with me.

But the point is, I tried it. I put everything into it — and I never would have realized that it wasn’t actually right for me, unless I had gone for it, and experienced it for myself. I know for SURE that if I hadn’t gone for it, I would still have this sense of regret today, that feeling of “oh I always wanted to get a book published” and it might have haunted me right to my death bed. But now i know that I don’t have to live with that regret anymore. Which is so liberating, I can’t even tell you.

Now, in contrast, when I discovered coaching — on the cusp of my 40s — and this was just as I was realizing that I wasn’t really enjoying the publishing industry (and of course being well aware that medicine was no longer for me–I had realized that LONG before then) … so when I discovered coaching, and especially the world of building an online coaching business, it was a totally different story. 

Anyway, the point is, I know what it’s like to go from having a stable, solid career, to completely changing everything around, and finding a new passion and pursuing a new venture in life, because honestly, I’ve done this a few times.

I happen to believe that coaching is the most incredible career to pursue — especially as your second act for your career. It’s incredibly flexible, it’s liberating, it’s satisfying and meaningful, and it has the potential to provide a really amazing income. And you are totally in control. Honestly, there are so many positives, I could go on and on. 

But in order to pursue it, to really pursue this new career and this new venture, you have to first believe that it is for you. And you most definitely need to know that it is never too late to pursue this profession and build your own business as a coach, if that’s what you want to do.

There’s no doubt, in order to pursue your dreams, you definitely need to drop the “it’s too late and I’m too old” story.

Because especially if you’re talking about evolving into coaching or consulting…you are likely not starting from scratch. Most women, after putting in a few years in a given career, will have accumulated a lot of experience and wisdom and strength from your previous career –more than you even realize — and all those skills will help you thrive in your new pursuit.

And that’s not to mention the amazing stories of some of our most celebrated women — they weren’t all young phenoms who started at the age of 12 and that’s why they’re successful. Julia Child didn’t even learn to cook until she was 36. She couldn’t even cook until then! And of course she went on to become one of America’s most iconic celebrity chefs EVER.

And Vera Wang? She didn’t even start designing wedding dresses until she was 40. I remember being surprised when I learned that, because her brand always felt so fresh and modern and young…the total antidote to the fussy bridal culture that came before…but she didn’t START it until she was 40. Amazing, right?

And I also have to say that a huge majority of my own clients, as a business coach, are career-changers, women who have had a previous career and are now excited to be building a career in coaching. I have worked with women who have had decades in a high-power corporate career, or teaching, or a profession like medicine or law… and then in their 40s and 50s they are SO ready to get out of their particular rat-race and pursue something they absolutely love, build something of their OWN, and help people in a way that really means something to them…plus be in control of their own limitless income as a coach…and that’s exactly what I help them create.

Anyway, point is, it’s never too late to start a new business or a new career. 

KEY #2: Open yourself wide to possibilities about what you could do.

Now, some people know exactly what they want to do, when it comes to reinventing themselves, and then other people know they are ripe for a change, but aren’t’ sure what that change could be. 

And I believe that when it comes to reinventing yourself, in midlife, you need to be open to all kinds of possibilities. 

When you hit certain life stages, you may have bought into a certain identity of whatever it is you’ve been doing up to now. 

For example, I saw this a LOT with my colleagues in medicine. They have been so ingrained into that role, that they have a hard time seeing their way out of that box.

I was having a glass of wine with one of my very good friends, a fellow physician, several months ago at our favorite wine bar, and she was expressing frustration at her career — the kind of frustration I am oh-so-familiar with — and I was telling her that she does not need to be boxed into medicine. There are so many other ways for her to use her skills and experience, people skills, and all the things she’s acquired over the years in terms of understanding how people think, how the body works, so, so many things…and use those skills and abilities in a number of different, creative ways….but I could tell she was having a hard time envisioning it.

So if that’s you, if you have really bought into your current role or identity, then I want you to open up to possibilities.

Take an inventory of your passions, your interests, your hobbies. The things you loved doing when you were a kid. The things you love to do in your free time. The things you’ve always been fascinated with, but never really gave yourself permission to pursue.

For me, it came as something of a surprise just how much I enjoyed business, as I started to go down my entrepreneurial journey. 

Now I remember when I was much younger, in high school, having a fascination with the business world, and kind of fantasizing about being in some kind of really cool business role in marketing or advertising or something, but I was so busy with other things that I didn’t really give it much of a chance. When I went to university, my undergraduate degree was at a school that had a very prominent and prestigious business program, and many of my friends and hallmates at university were in the business program, and I remember thinking how cool it was, maybe kind of glamorous and interesting, but of course I was on a straight track to med school, and there’s no way I was going to get myself sidetracked, that’s for sure.

But then when I got really into the business side of my coaching business, oh my god I loved it. The marketing — it’s actually kind of scienc-y, it turns out, plus there’s so much psychology, how people think, and it’s highly creative, with branding, which I love, and producing creative content, like this podcast, actually. Well, I finally allowed myself to embrace the business side of things, and discovered I had a knack for it, and that’s what led me down the path to becoming a business mentor to other coaches, getting my certification as a business coach…and now helping countless other women, at this point, to build their own thriving businesses, and honestly, I had no idea I was going to go down this path when I set out.

So I really want you to let your mind go free, think about your passions, your interests, your life experiences, your talents, your skills, your desires…and really allow all of that to lead you to your next career journey. Don’t limit yourself to what you think you “can” do, or what you think you’re qualified to do, or what you think you should do. I want you to think bigger than that.

KEY #3: Get educated about business.

So let’s go back to the woman I was talking about at the beginning, Christine, who had got herself some coaching skills, the certification in health coaching, but didn’t know where to go from here, and that had stopped her in her tracks.

And of course she didn’t know what to do next! It’s not her fault. She had never built an online business before, and you know, we’re not BORN knowing how to do these things…so how COULD she know where to go from here? It had nothing to do with her age, or any other limiting beliefs she might have attributed it to. She just simply had a gap in her skills and knowledge that needed to be addressed.

If you want to build a successful health coaching business you can’t just focus on being a great health coach and knowing all kinds of stuff about wellness, right?

You also have to know how to market and sell your services so that your business is sustainable so that it’s profitable and you make this career change successfully. You need to know how to build a brand — something you probably haven’t done before. You need to know how to properly message your ideal clients. You need to know how to conduct a successful sales conversation. 

Nobody knows how to do any of these things without learning them first, so that’s what you have to do too. 

Let me tell you about one of my clients who wanted to move into life coaching from her traditional career as a therapist. She realized she had been working in a very conventional way, seeing patients in-person in an office that she had to pay rent for, trading her time for dollars, charging an hourly rate, and not a great hourly rate, at that. When she discovered the world of coaching, she realized that she had been running her career like it was 1996, whereas the rest of the world had moved on to bigger and better things. And she wanted in. 

But…she was also clever enough to realize that although she was very attracted by this different model, she really didn’t know how to put it together. So she found me, enrolled in my business-building program, and I helped her build her whole business from the ground up, including defining her niche, creating her signature programs, her brand, her marketing strategy…everything. And what happened? She very quickly enrolled her first high-ticket client for $5500, paid in full. And then everything just grew from there. And no way is she looking back.

So that brings me to my final key, when it comes to changing careers in midlife, and that is…

KEY #4: Stop Waiting.

Oh my god, this is huge.

I have had a lot of conversations with people lately that are making me feel kind of sad,  because there are so many of you out there who are waiting. And honestly, I have to ask: what are you waiting for? Do you have some kind of spare back-up life that I don’t know about? Because I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure I just have this ONE go-around on this earth. And I intend to make it count. Every day that you wait to start pursuing your dream is just another delay in reaching your dreams. It’s just another day of living a half-lived life, and to me, there is little that is more tragic than that. 

In fact, this is what I talked about in my last podcast episode, the whole episode was all about how to know when the time was right or when you’re ready to build your coaching business, and spoiler: you’re never ready, and you need to start right now.

I posted on Instagram recently one of my favourite sayings, it’s an ancient Chinese proverb: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

I love this so much. Sure, you can wish that you had started this new career path sooner, and that it feels like it’s too late now. But of course you can’t go back and have a do-over of those earlier years, so the only thing you need to focus on is what you do next. What decisions you make now.

Look, starting a whole new career or business or reinventing yourself, of course it’s going to feel daunting. It’s going to be scary and feel overwhelming … and those feelings are not going to be lessened by you sitting around waiting and thinking and dreaming. 

The only way to get past the overwhelm and the fear is to get yourself into action, and take those first steps. Or maybe take the next steps. If you find yourself stuck, or plateaued or spinning into overwhelm, you’ve got to take action –even a tiny step–to keep you moving forward. It’s like when you’re stuck in a traffic jam. Sitting completely stationary in your car, is torture. It feels like you’re never going to be moving again. Even the slightest bit of forward motion, even that slow inching forward, even that is better than total standstill. Right? You know what I mean? I’m sure you’ve experienced this. 

So do whatever it takes to take that one baby action forward, even if it only moves you an inch. Because then you can move another inch, and then another.

So no more waiting, okay? No more stalling and sitting around hoping that the right time is going to come along. Because it isn’t. The only thing that’s going to happen is that your own life is going to pass you by, and that’s heartbreaking my friend. Don’t let that be you.  

Now I would love to hear from you … come on over and find me on Instagram or Facebook, and tell me: have you ever made a big career change? And if so what was the most important lesson that you learned in the process? Let me know!

Guess what? I am now enrolling for my next cohort of my group coaching program, Business Academy for Coaches!

If you would love to be coached and mentored by me, personally, inside a small group of likeminded women who are also building their coaching businesses, then I would love to have you inside the group. If you are craving a really high-vibe, supportive community, if you would love a framework and expert guidance and mentorship … if you’re done with trying to go it alone, and reinvent the wheel when it comes to growing a successful online coaching business, I invite you to check out the Academy. 

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