Am I too old to change career?
7 Jul 2022

Am I too old to change career?


Am I too old to change career?

Many of us remain in careers we chose and studied for at a much younger age. We’re invested, but not necessarily happy.

I recently watched a documentary on the Rolling Stones. The drummer, Charlie Watts, entered a drink and drugs phase in his 40s and not when the rest of the band did in their 20s.

When Charlie joined the Rolling Stones, he was 22 years old. His interest had always been in jazz music and, even though the Rolling Stones at that time were more of a blues band, he signed up and enjoyed himself.

He had a love/hate attitude to touring, preferring to be at home with his family, but he understood the necessity of selling the brand. He kept himself very much to himself on tour.

In the mid-80s Charlie’s use of alcohol and drugs became excessive. He was in his mid-forties. He used the term ‘midlife crisis’ to explain his out of character behaviour, though he didn’t understand why this was happening to him.

For me, having worked with clients experiencing midlife crises, the explanation for his change in behaviour is clear. At 40, no one is the same person they were in their 20s. In those years in between early adulthood and midlife, our attitude towards the world, life and work can change as we are shaped by our experiences. During our life cycle our wants, needs and desires can change all the time.

Unable to stop his addictive behaviour through will power, Charlie followed his original authentic interest which was jazz and in the mid-80s created a big band called ‘The Charlie Watts Orchestra’ and toured while also keeping his spot in the Rolling Stones line up. It seemed at last Charlie had found a way to indulge his passion, stay true to his himself whilst keeping up the day job. Quickly his over-indulgent anaesthetising activities stopped.

As I understand it, Charlie was following a career path he chose for himself in his early 20s and the success and money kept him interested, however, in his mid-forties the appeal had started to wear off and his original love of jazz would not be kept down and began to raise its head. This was a personal longing that required attention and he acted upon it, forming his own band, which enabled him to address his love for jazz and continue to a lesser capacity with the Rolling Stones and not cut off this source of income.

The struggle which many midlifers face is how to be authentic but still maintain responsible and keep the money coming in for those parts of your life that still need it, mortgage etc.

So, in answer to the question ‘Am I too old to change career?’ I would say the answer is no unless your joy around your existing career has completely vanished. Options here might include:

  1. Before jacking in your job or telling the boss where they can shove their job, I encourage people to try and tread a middle path whereby you continue to do the job you’re good at but in a reduced capacity
  2. Start up an invigorating side hustle alongside your existing job like Charlie did, which will give you energy and tap into your authenticity which is an essential part of midlife wellbeing – that way the bills still get paid.
  3. Alternatively stay in your job but specialise in one area of your career to try and maintain an interest. I specialised in Burnout training because I was interested in it a few years back before turning my attention to Midlife, because I wanted to stay in psychology but reduce clinical work. A client of mine went part time in his accountancy work to dedicate more time on his house renovations, but still did some books in the evening.

If you can traverse this middle path and continue with your responsibilities and don’t feel too compromised personally, these options could work well for you. Others of you may have to leave and swap careers because staying in a career where all your vitality has been stripped away can feel too compromising for the self – too much to bear and enough is enough.

Either way, stay open to change, take responsibility for the changes you make and see what you can tolerate because things don’t change overnight but, with steady forward movements and adjustments, a greater, happier life can be created with some aspects of your past. Keep the aspects of your career which bring you some joy, you are good at or can tolerate and, run them alongside a new path which can bring you some fresh vigour and vitality without upsetting the whole apple cart of your life.

Follow me @themidlifecrisisdoctor or visit for tips on how to find balance in midlife.

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