When Charlie Bazzard (solicitor) was 43, he was informed by his employer they were going to close down the law practice in
A year later, we returned to
The decision to change career can be sudden or may be brooded over for years. It’s major in the scale of life events and research suggests that many dream, but it takes huge optimism and courage to act on it and the decision to do so will frequently depend on financial backup and spousal support.
On her website, specialist career and work psychologist Dr Ellen Ostrow observes, “Career transitions at midlife are very different from those taken in our twenties and thirties. The importance of status, success, money and meeting the expectations of others is diminished by the recognition of one’s mortality. At midlife” she says, “we tend to reflect on the gap between the reality of our lives and the dreams we once had. We want the second half of our lives to be meaningful because we won’t get another chance.”
Two of my friends have described their reasons and experiences of career change in midlife: Susie is now 59 years old and working as a registered nurse at the Hawke’s
Susie had spent 27 years working as a school dental nurse, finally resigning at the age of 46 in 2001. For ten years she had wanted out, feeling isolated and unhappy. After a year of travel she began a nursing degree at Eastern Institute of Technology. “Looking back, I realise that it took courage to leave, more than starting the nursing degree, because I 'd been so comfortably locked into that life - but once it was done I never regretted it. I guess I was frightened of the unknown.”
Lynda is now 44, she graduated in 2011 with a Batchelor of Fine Arts. In contrast to Susie, Lynda’s decision to change direction was made suddenly. She describes waking up one morning with a vision of herself as a student studying art. Four weeks later she had resigned her job, packed up her life in
Lynda’s career was in Orthotics and Prosthetics at the Artificial Limb Centre in
“I started off being a bit cautious with the Diploma course in Visual Art which was only two years. I wanted to do ceramics, but within a couple of weeks of getting there I hurt my back quite badly and realised I had to do something more physically sustainable. I chose the Diploma in Printmaking and then, at the end of the two years I was hungry for more information, my back had recovered well, so I jumped over to ceramics for the third year to complete my degree.”
Susie also chose to ease herself into study by taking the Foundation course in Nursing, starting in July 2001. Importantly for her confidence, she passed everything including the two of the first year nursing papers in that semester. “But even then I wasn't 100 per cent sure that I was on the right track, but... where else could I go? So I went ahead.” Sue admits that she needed time to find her new pathway.
Lynda found the cold of the
Susie was fortunate in finding a nursing job at the Hawke’s Bay DHB although many of her student cohort struggled to find work and left for
“I love the camaraderie and working in a team with the physio’s, occupational therapists and doctors. I especially love seeing someone with, say, a severe stroke - they can't talk or feed themselves - and then after six months, to see them walk out, that is a wonderful thing.”
As mature students the challenges for both of them were significant, but they were met and overcome. Lynda knows she is unlikely to make a good living solely from her art but is encouraged by being selected into the 2012 Wallace Awards and into the travelling show which is the highest category. She also got three pieces into the 2012 Portage Ceramic Awards held at the Cloud at Queen’s wharf. Lynda has a four day per week job which allows time to continue making her ceramic and print pieces, so with the awards and two galleries selling her work she feels very optimistic about her future.
Lynda and Susie are women with no family commitments and owned their own homes when they became students. They survived on mature student allowances, student loans and a little of their own capital, and are deeply appreciative of the encouragement and support from close friends and family.
Both are proud of their achievements and feel the experiences involved in establishing their new careers widened their horizons, brought confidence and self respect and has been incredibly fulfilling.