One of our long-time clients at Bell Investment Advisors recently called me to ask if my Career/Life Coaching included “working with young people as well as older people.” I was surprised that after all these years, he didn’t know I work with clients from the ages of 25 to 75+; it seems like I say it all the time, but maybe I don’t say it enough. He was surprised and very pleased about the age range, since he was calling about his 27-year-old granddaughter, a bright young college grad who is trying to figure out what to do next. He urged me to put a note in our newsletter or write a blog about the age range of people I work with — in case there are other people who are operating under erroneous assumptions. So that’s what I’m doing here. (Thank you, Larry; you know who you are.)
serenely sailing over the surf 400ft below the cliff…
From High School to College or
into The Big, Wide World of Work
I have learned over the years that most people in their twenties, contrary to the cultural belief that the twenties are carefree and easy, experience tremendous disappointment, disillusionment, and confusion. Throughout grammar school, junior high, high school and college most of us operate under the assumption that after we are out of school, we will know what we are doing and everything will fall into place. Sadly, life keeps making freshman out of us as we transition through the ages and stages of life. When you’re a senior in high school, those ninth graders seem so young and foolish, and there is a sense of pride in finally reaching the mountaintop, better known as graduation. But hold it right there, because once graduated from high school, you either step into the “real world” as an employee for the first or second time, or you’re actually a freshman again, only this time in college. Then comes the shock of not being a teenager anymore but being 25, and then what? The late twenties tend to bring on the “Yikes Years” as in “Yikes, I’m almost 30! I should be grown up by now; I still don’t know who I am or what I’m doing! Help!!”
Transitioning into New Phases of Life
Successfully transitioning from one decade to another or into any new phase of life is always going to be difficult, and the sooner we learn that the better. Even when a transition seems very exciting and positive, such as getting married or having a baby or getting your first professional job, the transition from one side of the swinging trapeze to the other, when your feet finally hit solid ground on the other side, is anxiety-provoking at best. Transitions tend to trigger the deeper questions waiting beneath the façade, e.g., Who am I? What do I want? What do I care about? Where am I headed? How am I going to get there?
These questions are difficult for people of all ages, even for those who have plenty of experience, but face it, the younger you are, the less perspective you have. One of the best things you can do during a transition is to get some kind of professional help, depending on the situation, sometimes coaching, sometimes therapy, sometimes help from another type of trusted advisor.
The Art of Transition
I have tremendous compassion for young people, especially in light of the constant focus on competition, being a winner, getting into the best schools, getting the best jobs, etc. Constantly having to answer the classic question, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” can lead to all sorts of false conclusions. Kids find out very early in life that they better have a good answer to this question or parents, relatives, and friends will become very worried. If your honest answer to the “What are you going to be?” question is, “I have absolutely no idea,” you will not fare well for long. But If you’re answer is something like, “I’m going to be a lawyer,” or “I’m going to be a doctor,” you will no doubt receive praise and encouragement. This can be a good thing — or not— depending on how authentic that particular goal is for the person in question.
What About Finding Peace, Joy, and Meaning?
A few years ago, I worked with a brilliant young woman athlete from Stanford, age 28, who longed to kick back and relax and/or do something “average” for a change. She was exhausted from “having” to come out on top all the time, but the pressure to outperform was hard to ignore in her world. She longed to find balance in her life instead of the constant pressure to succeed, which had started very early in her life. Through our work together, she eventually found a sweet spot in working with kids in a role in which her compassion, empathy, and counseling skills were worth more than any other gift she had. By using these gifts, she discovered a modicum of peace, joy, and meaning that transcended her athletic skills. She stopped being afraid of turning 30 and transitioned into this next stage of life (Young Adulthood) with more enjoyment than she had ever experienced before.
Mid-Life is About Building
Mid-life is about building — building a career, a family, a home, an identity, friendships, and learning how to manage the ups and downs of life. In the 1980’s and 1990’s there was a lot of talk about men and women having “mid-life crises.” This was supposed to happen around the age of 40 — an age to be dreaded, because it would be “over the hill” and downward from that point on. This was a time of life when men were expected to buy little red sports cars and start dating their young secretaries or the girl next door. This was the Mad Men era. Luckily, times have changed. It’s not that these types of things never happen, but so many more men and women take the choices and changes in their lives more seriously and continue to grow throughout the ages and stages of life.
The Wisdom Years
This time of life tends to refer more to career/life changes having to do with personal and spiritual growth and transformation. If you are interested in what thousands of people in this age range are doing with their careers and lives, check out Encore.org. Its purpose is to encourage people to continue to use their gifts, talents, skills, and experience in new ways that will continue to benefit themselves and society.
There is Plenty of Time
This week I received a surprising call from a man I have known for several years as a landscape contractor. He has owned and operated his own business with a small staff for approximately 30 years. During our exploratory call, he expressed excitement about my coaching offer and announced that he is 67 years old and really wants to make a career change. He has lots of skills other than the ones he has been using all these years, and he wants to use them. He also wants to have more freedom from work and more time to spend with his wife than he has had all this time, but he still wants to earn some income and do something worthwhile. He has lots of ideas. He also seems to understand that life is long, and there is plenty of time to do things you haven’t been able to do yet. This sounds like a scenario that falls right into the general concept of Encore.org. I love it that he’s so positive even before we meet or embark on some coaching sessions together. It’s a very favorable sign that his transition will be successful.
Why go it alone when you can get help with making your dreams come true — at whatever age you are!