When you find yourself in a job that no longer fits your skills and interests it’s time to rethink what you really want to do. Investigating career possibilities in midcareer often feels both urgent and riskier than in the early years when you were getting started. A career move at this stage can seem daunting. Finding your ideal job is a process that can be both exciting and uncomfortable.

What is Your Ideal Job?

To find your ideal job, you must first be able to define its characteristics. You must determine what you would love to do next.  That often starts with deciding what subject matter interests you most now. Next, think about how much you want to get paid, the type of people you want to work with, and your favorite type of boss, among other things.

By the time someone reaches their 50s, family well-being and financial security are major concerns. Kids are often in high school, and not likely to support a geographic move. Friends and other social relationships are a source of comfort and difficult to leave behind. The fear of “starting over” can create inertia that keeps many dissatisfied people in jobs that seem practical but that are dull or lack sufficient meaning. So many people ignore their career discontent and stay put even in unsatisfactory situations.

I had an unhappy partner at a law firm tell me “she just didn’t have the emotional energy to consider a career transition”. I think what she meant was that she couldn’t face the uncertainty of how  a new job at this stage might undermine her professional standing and her family’s security.

Can You Find a Better Fit?

Even if one screws up the courage to investigate a new career possibility there are substantial questions about what would be a better fit. How does one go about identifying a preferred career path and the likelihood of success? Most people, especially top performers, have had little experience in analyzing their professional preferences or the process of finding a job. Most of the time they have simply followed the path of least resistance by accepting a series of invitations from a senior person in their own or in a related organization. Their career up to this point is often a series of happy accidents rather than a systematic search for preferred employment.

Are You Shamed by Uncertainty?

Another reason that midcareer transitions are difficult is the mistaken belief that someone in their late 40s or 50s should already know what they want to do next. This generates a kind of low-level career shame when the next step looks uncertain and can keep people from seeking out professional career coaching. The assumption is that career advice is something for graduating college seniors and then somehow people are just supposed to be able to unravel the often complex analysis that leads to a successful late mid-career job change on their own.

It’s natural that these transitions create a feeling of considerable insecurity. Midlife is a time of reflection and looking for meaning in your work is part of the process. Career redirection – finding and embracing your ideal job – is a way to find purpose and satisfaction even if the journey seems uncertain. The good news is that there are reliable field-tested resources available to help – you don’t have to do it alone.


Peter Sherer is a nationally recognized career coach who offers clarity and confidence to mid-career and senior executives in transition. In just two short days, his rigorous assessment tools enable his clients to identify a meaningful assignment that uses all of their skills and experience. Learn more and get in touch with Peter today.