Career crossroads hurdles can be a scary experience, but it can be a great opportunity for real personal growth.
This year I turned 51 and have been taking an extended year and a half off, while I consider my options and work on some new skills and bolster some old ones. One common theme from a lot of the blogs that I now follow are "side hustles". Side hustles are big in the current economic climate and can be important for early retirees. Maximizing your side hustles is a big part of the modern "crossroads" dilemma.
Back in college, I settled on an IT Major, because I realized it offered upside for wage growth. I also liked the idea of the portability of the skills.
I was happily surprised during the dot com boom of the early 2000's, when my salary continued to rapidly rise.
Many people were getting into the profession for the crazy money they were throwing at people. A graphic designer, with minimal experience could easily make $75K.
When the dot com bubble burst, so did my salary increases along with the number of opportunities available.
When I finished my MBA in 2000 I figured that would be all the formal education I would need. I was wrong. Dead wrong. I noticed a lot of people were shifting toward the real estate market for their career with the increasing commissions. While there has been a rebound in real estate, we all know how that bubble ended for many. I stood firm in my love for IT, and adjusted my expectations somewhat.
Know your personal priorities
I enjoyed some flexibility with the positions I accepted, because my wife worked in a travel related job, and it afforded us an opportunity to pick up and go to some exotic destinations on very short notice.
After about 10 years of trading marginal job satisfaction, for flexibility, I started the process of shifting the focus of my skills, and now, once again, I'm at a crossroads.
While we're above average savers, I still don't feel like we're comfortable enough to get through the next 30 or 40 years. Her full time job allows us the flexibility to decide what will work for us.
The funny thing about reaching mid-life is that you get to reflect on remembering your elders, as they were passing through the same age point that you're traversing now.
(see my advice to my niece about long term investing)
I remember when we threw a 50 year birthday party for my Mother in law, who was a single Mom, working retail jobs to support her family. Asking her after she retired, why she stopped going for those jobs, she said. "I just couldn't do it any more." as it related to her physical stamina. I see a similar, "burn out", in some people in their mid 60's. They simply don't want to sacrifice the time or effort to commute, or give up weekends, etc. That's not me...yet, and a big part of the reason for figuring out something that works.
Be ready to commit and have a plan
As I approach that fork in the road again, I'm faced with the choice of re-tooling my IT skills, or focusing on developing my own business. (or possibly both)
Both options are going to involve a serious amount of work, which is fine. However, I want to make a reasonable calculated effort for success.
I've created a ton of content for other sites, product and restaurant review sites. How might I best leverage those efforts? I've found several valuable online resources that will improve skills and offer more opportunities for freelance work.
With the commodity shift in IT skills, I've found that it's more practical to join the "Software as a Service" revolution. I've found a great resource that fits for me. The Trailhead site, offered by Salesforce is a rapidly growing platform that fits with my aptitude and abilities. These resources and others, offer more value than a traditional degree.
While there are no guarantees for success, with proper planning and focused effort, career crossroads don't need to be as scary as they seem. How much time and effort we invest, coupled with having realistic expectations, will improve chances for success. What resources have you found worth your time and effort?