Do you sometimes wish you’d had a different career? Perhaps you harbour a secret ambition to write romantic novels or whittle spoons? Or you trained in law but regret not choosing physics? It may be that the career you always wanted turned out to be not so great or that it has simply run its course. Working from our early twenties until whenever we retire is a long haul and it’s hardly surprising that we can get a bit bored and dream of better things.
So why not go for it? Well, there’s probably a long list of reasons: the mortgage needs paying; it’s too late to start again; it would take too long to retrain; the family wouldn’t like it; I might not be good enough to make it worthwhile…. the list is so long, it’s amazing that anyone does it. But they do and, in my experience, they are always glad they did.
The first thing to consider is whether you are going to chuck everything in straight away and take a year or three out to retrain. The answer to this question depends on whether that is practical and financially viable. If the answer is no, then can you start in your free time? If we’re talking about novel-writing, then it’s mainly about carving out an hour of two each day and keeping going. The same probably goes for spoon whittling. If you need a new qualification, however, then you are in for a longer haul and it may be a question of looking into the Open University or evening classes.
What often ends up being the most practical option is when people find themselves learning new skills or developing interests alongside their normal work and home life. This might be from undertaking voluntary work or taking on a work-based role which leads you to new interests. Circumstances might force you into a new direction which then becomes a passion. The change of direction may be involuntary or part of a long-term strategy but if it’s going to stick it needs to be whole-hearted and driven by genuine enthusiasm.
So the second thing to consider is what your reinvention will look like in the longer term. If it means a significant change in lifestyle, there may be other people’s opinion to take into account. If it turns out to be a mistake – and mistakes are fine – do you have a route out again? Are you confident about the reality of your new direction and thought about how you will feel about it in 5, 10 or 20 years’ time?
Reinvention is an amazing thing and I’m all for people going for that long-held ambition with all the enthusiasm they’ve got. There’s no age-limit, it’s never too late. The only thing left to ask is ‘what took you so long?’