Everything was done by the book: you finished high school, went to college, got a job, met your soul mate, settled down and then took the obvious final step and had kids. With all the required steps taken care of, you could sit in a comfortable position at your job and safely plan for retirement, correct? Wrong.
Now that you’re in your mid-30s, a few things may have happened that changed your plan. What exactly happened? Well, life happened—that’s what. Maybe there was a divorce or separation that changed your family situation and sent you on a path of rediscovery or the company you worked so hard for to obtain job security decided that your position was irrelevant and downsized. Whatever the reason, most people in the working world find themselves looking for another job in mid-life or going back to school for higher education or training.
According to research done by N-Gen People Performance Inc., a Toronto-based company that specializes in providing solutions for managing generational differences in the workplace, Generation Y — those born between 1981 and 2000 — will experience a career change about every 2.7 years on average, whether it is mobility within their current job or a complete change. We’re not talking about jobs at Starbucks, Timmy’s or Mickey D’s, because face it, most of us have had about 10 of these between the ages of 18 and 25. We’re thinking about long-term careers that we probably enjoyed to some level or at least sought after for reasons beyond having beer money and a tank of gas for the week. Three career changes is a pretty big number; if you take into account the working span of about 40 years, that’s a new career about every 13 years. Once we’re in a life where we have mortgages, car payments, credit card bills and mouths to feed other than our own, it could be fairly inconvenient and frustrating to have to restart a career three times before retiring.
Now there’s a decision to make; you’re either going to let life stomp you down and have its way with you involuntarily (which almost never feels good), or you’re going to learn that resilience is the key to living life on your own terms and getting the most out of it. Going back to school mid-life can be scary and overwhelming, but with a little organization and redefining of priorities, it can be better than it was in your 20s, resulting in more control over your career than government statistics say you’ll have. Know that you don’t have to be a super parent. You’re not able to put on a cape and be in three places at once and not every toy has to be in its place every hour of the day. It’s okay for you to be a little selfish once in a while and want something better for yourself.
Heading to campus with a backpack and lunch can feel weird and foreign when we are in the mind-set that we shouldn’t have to do this again. But if you view it as a chance to rediscover and reinvent yourself, resilience is quick to take hold and turn it into an amazing adventure.