A new career will change who you are

I hear from many people who feel trapped in a career after fifteen or twenty happy, productive years. It's been a good ride, they say, but now it's time to jump off the train. They want to fulfill a creative dream, recover from burnout or just try something new. The old challenge is now a "been there, done that."

If you can relate to that description, you probably recognize that midlife career change is both easier and harder than starting out in the world of work. Change is easier because you have resources to grease the rails. You have savings, equity in your house, and a retirement fund. More important, you have acquired skills, contacts and networks. You may be able to use the resources of your current employer to develop new skills.

On the other hand, change is hard because you have invested in your career identity. In my relocation book, Making the Big Move (New Harbinger 1999), I emphasize that moving is stressful because identity is interrupted. The change is equally stressful when you relocate your career.

Often people focus on the skills and activities they want to incorporate into their new careers, but ignore the impact on identity. Yet I have seen people falter and give up on new careers because they were uncomfortable with the new way they had to define themselves. Just saying, "I am