The search for your calling in adulthood is a popular topic in recent years. We hear and read inspirational stories about those who, at the age of 30–40, abandoned, for example, boring bookkeeping or law, became a designer, photographer, someone else and finally happy. And we also want to take a chance. But few people talk about unsuccessful attempts. About what is hiding behind the desire to change a profession. We talked about this with a practicing psychologist, specialist in personal and professional development, Ekaterina Polyak Zalota.
What pushes to change professions in 30+ and 40+
– Our parents have been working calmly all their lives, not just in one profession, but often – even in the same place until retirement. Where did modern generations come from such a craving for a change in occupation at 30, 40, and later? Not when life forces, but when it is burnout and the desire for something new that drives it. Have we become different or has the world changed?
– There are more opportunities for such changes in the world, and a person always acts on the basis of the capabilities of the environment. Here the same principle works as in other areas of life. Divorces, for example, used to be much less. Because they were considered unacceptable, condemned by society, there were few examples, and it was difficult for a woman to live alone with her children – they preferred to endure. The same thing – with a change of work.
– Due to what has the attitude to changing a profession in adulthood changed?
– Thanks to the so-called innovators. In each community, according to various estimates, from 2.5 to 20% of innovators who are able to go against the rules, stereotypes, public opinion, against the environment. They develop the environment, opening up new opportunities for others. Gradually, there are more examples of those who have made up their minds, and followers of the conservatives are pulling up after the innovators.
– What is behind the sudden desire to change the scope of activity?
– A crisis. It used to be called a midlife crisis. But now there are more crises in human life, because life itself has lengthened.Crisis is normal. A person must have crises, this is how the psyche works. It accumulates a certain amount of voltage, and this voltage should pour into something. Emotions in this period in a person go through the roof.
A man does not like to change in principle. We want to adapt and live a stable life. And to change, you need a large amount of energy. Emotions give energy. When they accumulate more than usual, a person in this state of affect begins to act. He urgently needs to run somewhere and change something.
– But the crisis is manifested in different ways. Someone leaves the family, someone decides to emigrate, someone from the capital leaves the village. And someone suddenly decides that he has been doing the wrong thing all his life and wants to do something else. The reasons, it turns out, are the same?
– It’s not always the same. Who accumulates the accumulated voltage. A person generally needs change periodically. But in the family it is difficult and painful to change something; in the profession it is easier. Especially if you got into it not at the call of the heart, but because it happened. And, if a career doesn’t work out very well, you compare yourself with someone and think: “I am a loser.” It happens that a client comes to me and says that he wants to change the profession, but you start digging deeper and you realize that the accumulated tension just found a way out in the profession. But in reality, a person does not understand how he can continue to live at all.For someone, on the contrary, the crisis manifests itself in anything, but not in the profession. This is if interest in her is higher than the accumulated stress: a person from childhood felt a craving for her and chose her himself, and not circumstances or mom and dad imposed. Then he will rather change his family or something else than his profession, because this business ignites him, gives him energy. Can change the direction of the maximum within the profession, but nothing more.
And it happens like this: a person has grown to a certain level in professional activity and he should go to the next level, for example, to become a leader, but he is scared. He does not stand responsibility, for example. And it seems to him that it is easier to change a profession than to move higher in one’s own. Or you stalled, something doesn’t work out – you want to give up your hand and run away to another area.
– It turns out that the desire to change a profession is an attempt to escape from some kind of problem. But what about these frequent explanations: “I want to do something creative!” (Moreover, from people who have spent all their life in the office before) or “I want to do something really useful for people”?
– In a crisis, a person often regresses, he temporarily rolls back in development – a person can remember childhood dreams and rush to realize them with the maximalism of a teenager. This is neither good nor bad. Very often, it is creative dreams that have been left unfulfilled, about which parents could say “you won’t make a living from it”. And thanks to the crisis, a person has a desire and a chance to realize them.
– Or do thoughts come “Why am I living?”, I want to leave a trace behind me, do something significant, maybe convey knowledge, right?
– It depends on the age at which the crisis came. The need to carry something to people, to share something, arises, as a rule, at 40–45 years in people who have accumulated experience.
Really there is a desire to learn, teach. That is, people are changing the direction of their own profession. But if a person does not see value in his profession, because for him it was only a way of making money, then he will not have such an exit and there may be a desire to completely change the sphere.
Engaging reverse gear is not a shame
– If the desire to change a profession can actually be an attempt to escape from some kind of problem, then changing a profession alone will not help, as long as the root cause remains unresolved, right?
– Yes, it may turn out that after the novelty effect passes, the person will be in exactly the same situation and will face the same problem that he was trying to escape from. He will get up again in the mornings with a heavy feeling of “well, back to work.” Because the profession has changed, but the problem remains.And it’s also important to understand: if you are strongly attracted to some kind of activity, this is not a guarantee that your vocation is here. For example, often people go to photographers because they like to take photos in their free time. But the pleasure of the process does not mean that you will turn out to be a really good professional.
You know, there is the principle of ten thousand hours: it is believed that during this period it is possible in any field to become a more or less average specialist. So, a change of profession is often a transition from an average specialist in one area to the same average specialist in another area. Simply, perhaps, some nuances that you did not like in the previous profession will change in the new one. For example, you were tormented by the obligation to stay in the office from 9:00 to 18:00, but this is not the case in the new profession.
– Suppose a loved one is eager to change his profession, and you understand that he is making a mistake – he will waste time and be disappointed, he hardly has any prospects there. Dissuade? Do you ever keep your clients from such a step?
I like to give an example with Lomonosov: what were his chances of becoming a scientist? Yes, would he share his plans for the academy, any normal person in his village would say – do you think it over, you won’t succeed. But he had such a huge energy of interest in science that he thanks to her made an incredible journey.
People often come to a psychologist, not when they want to change something, but when they have already changed, and suddenly it turned out that it didn’t really help. But even if a person came, just thinking about the changes, with his doubts, a professional psychologist will never say – you definitely don’t need to go there! In the same way as it does not say – I know where you need to! A professional will ask the right questions so that a person tries to understand himself, in the true reasons why he is drawn to a new sphere.And thirdly, – and I would like to emphasize this especially – even if a person made a mistake with the choice, this is not a tragedy. Well, he’s coming down, he’ll try, if he doesn’t succeed, he will return. This is an experience. It is important that false shame does not deter return. You can always turn on the rear speed, there is nothing terrible about it. And the business, which was so drawn to, if the career did not work out there, you can continue to do as a hobby for the pleasure of the process. I know such examples.
– You said that the task of a psychologist, if a person asked to change a profession, is to ask him the right questions. Can you ask yourself these questions?
– Of course it is possible. Ask yourself: “What do I want?”. Let’s say you want to leave a boring office to become an artist. This is not an answer yet. Specify: “For what? For what?”. And this question is asked several times until you reach the root cause, that is, the true need that is hidden behind your desire to become an artist. This is what you really lack.
Suppose, when asked about why you need to change your profession, you say that you want to earn a lot of money. Why, why? If money is a symbol of prestige for you, then your basic need is respect and recognition. If you are constantly worried, suddenly you or your relatives will need, for example, expensive treatment, and you do not have such an opportunity, which means that your basic need is security.
– Sometimes, if you get to the basic need that underlies the desire to change a profession, it may turn out that this need can be completely closed in other ways without changing the scope of activity?
– Theoretically, yes. True, this is utopian, because, I repeat, a person in a state of crisis cannot think soberly on emotions. But, if he even doubts and tries to figure out himself, it will already be useful.
Why is it important to take time out
– It happens that a person has already left work in the previous profession, because he has completely burned out, but has not yet figured out what to do next. How long can such a timeout last?
– Six months to a year is normal. And it’s normal if during this period you just want to lie and do nothing. Literally. This is because after burnout, resources must be mined. That’s when a person rested, he wakes up interest in something. For example, he learns about some kind of study, goes to study – and from that moment a new story spun. But if after a year of lying down – it doesn’t matter, at home on the couch or somewhere on the beach – no impulses to get up and start at least doing something did not appear, then the person is stuck, he needs the help of a specialist. The same thing if a person in a state of pause, all sorts of addictions begin to prevail.
– What else, besides the right questions for yourself, would you advise people who are now a step away from saying goodbye to a boring profession and moving into a new one?
– Firstly, before chopping off your shoulder, take a break – go on a long vacation. Do not do anything at this time, just listen carefully to yourself, try to figure out what pushes you to change. And with travel during this period, do not overdo it.
Traveling is a way to clog your sensory organs instead of thinking about yourself and your life.Why is it important to take time out and think. If you have a problem, and you shrug it off and try to escape through a change of profession, then it will overtake you anyway. Still have to look for a real solution.
And, if you do not want to voluntarily take a break for this, your body can artificially “arrange” it for you. You know how it happens — suddenly, you break your leg out of the blue or some other serious health problem suddenly puts you in bed, and then you start to think, delve into yourself. No mysticism is our own energy and our own defenses.
Second tip: do not burn bridges. You will need them if it does not work out with a new profession.
And the third tip: remember, there is no such thing as failure – there is experience. Even if you have to return, it does not mean that you have wasted time. You will return, having understood yourself, having heard yourself – this is already a lot.