6 Tips for Making A Mid-Life Career Shift

Tim Holt, PhD

There are no shortage of people who dream about having a different career or job, but few people act on their desire to do something different for a variety of reasons that often boil down to one word: fear.

Fear of going back to school, fear of making a wrong move, fear of uncertainty, fear of starting over. The list goes on and on. But sometimes circumstances conspire to make the decision for you as happened to Tim Holt, a 2014 Ph.D. graduate in Educational Leadership.

Holt spent 22 years in the Navy before retiring at age 42. Far too young to stop working, he started thinking about his roles as a flight instructor and master training specialist in the service and realized teaching was a natural second career for him. Through the VA’s Troops to Teachers program, he secured his license and began teaching junior high in 2009. Today he is on the tenure track at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

While Holt’s past career and life circumstance led him to a natural second career, experts advise looking at what gets you fired up, where your strengths lie and the transferable skills you offer when deciding on a new path.

Transitioning can be challenging as Holt found, and he offers 6 tips for others looking to mid-life career shift:

  1. Approach with a beginners mind: You have to have the mindset that you’re going to have to relearn things. Where people get into trouble is when they expect they’ll have the same level of expertise and command the same respect they once did. You have to build it back up.
  2. Observe: Sit back and see how things are done.
  3. Accept: You have to be willing to accept that it’s not going to be easy.
  4. Learn: Be ready to learn. Understand that in this area you don’t know it all.
  5. Be Open: At this stage, most people have families and it’s important to communicate with them. There are times you are going to be frustrated with school. Tell them. Let them help. Remember you aren’t in this alone.
  6. Get Buy in: A career shift now affects people besides just you. Make sure your family is onboard and understands the challenges, and payoffs, to the move.