Being in your 40s has its advantages. At this point, I’ve had more than 20 years of work experience with plenty of success and lots of twists and turns. I have a richer perspective, and my girls are old enough that I actually have some time to myself again. Work is still incredibly important to me. But, to be honest, what’s most important for me now is different than when I was in my 20s or 30s.
I’ve recently worked with a number of women (and have more than a few friends) who seem to be experiencing some of the same shifts in their lives. Women who have created admirable careers and racked up countless accomplishments are asking themselves, 15+ years in, if they are on the right track. Many are considering a complete career change, or are questioning if their current paths were ever right in the first place. Some are experiencing more subtle changes, like a reprioritization of their values. While others just feel, well, different.
And I'm seeing some common themes emerging with that I personally have experienced, or am experiencing, which I've started to call "mid-life revelations." If you’re reading this and it rings true, you are not alone. Here are some of the mid-life revelations I've encountered. How about you?
Finding deeper meaning or purpose in work has become much more important. Other benefits of work could be sacrificed in exchange for knowing that your work is making a greater, positive impact. A former colleague with a successful career in IT in the biotech industry decided that while her career afforded her a desirable income, something was missing. She felt she wanted to make a greater positive impact and decided to go back to school to get a master’s degree in social work. Now in a counseling role, she makes a fraction of her previous salary but says she is fulfilled by being able to help others each and every day.
Many women early in their careers are looking for work/life balance to raise a family. During mid-life, balance for women is just as important and includes a heightened focus on discovering, or re-discovering, themselves. Many of my clients are trying new hobbies, joining clubs, training for half marathons, or traveling more. I am volunteering a few hours a month helping women find clothes that allow them to feel confident in their job interviews. A huge bonus is that building or nourishing life outside of work can actually help your career ! A client with impeccable style is a partner in a successful law firm and has a new found interest in photography. She created an Instagram page showcasing her favorite lifestyle pictures. She’s encouraged to continue to explore her love of style and photography with over 600 followers on her page and counting!
Speaking of re-discovering, there is definitely a theme of self-reflection. Throughout the early years of climbing the career ladder and raising children, it’s easy to get lost. Taking time to evaluate where you are and where you want to go often becomes more deliberate during mid-life. After completing the StrengthsFinder, one of my clients realized that while she identified with two of her strengths, achievement and discipline, she wondered if they were innate or if her family expectations caused her to excel in these areas. She is an incredibly successful physician at a prominent hospital. She said growing up in her family, the choice was clear: become a doctor or a lawyer. She is still processing what all of this means and says she does not regret becoming a physician, but is looking for a deeper understanding of herself and who she is outside of her family’s expectations.
More than ever, women at this stage want to know that they are valued at their workplace. Some are less interested in promotion while others are still moving quickly toward the top, but all want to do so in an organization that truly values them and what they have to bring. Companies can demonstrate how much they value women by implementing policies that are important to women. Recently, a dear friend shared with me that she had accepted a role in HR with a new company. She had grown tired of feeling as if her previous company of over a decade did not value professional development and was regularly cutting her budget and resources. She wanted to be a part of an organization that valued her expertise and did not make her continually justify the importance of her work. She left some potential bonuses on the table and her new job is farther from home, adding to her commute, but that’s a trade-off she was willing to make.
These women are tremendous assets to their organizations. They bring many years of experience, an invaluable skill-set, perspective, and a level of maturity that positively contributes to the company culture and bottom line. You can help them find the workplace that will be a good fit at any stage of their lives and careers by rating your company's support for women. It's anonymous and takes 2 minutes.
Catherine Robinson is a certified coach, leadership consultant, and champion of women in the workplace. Ready to find your path? Connect with her at Robinson Leadership Coaching .