It’s a myth that you have to choose one career path and follow it, from education to retirement. The world has changed. Opportunities are everywhere, different topics will interest you at different times and there is nothing wrong with changing course as often as you want. Job hopping in your twenties, traveling the world in your thirties, and regular sabbaticals in your forties, it’s not a big deal. Your fifties are no different. Absolutely anything is possible.
Andrea McLean is a Sunday Times bestselling author, life coach and mindset mentor. She is CEO and co-founder of This Girl Is On Fire, a mindset membership that aims to help women “be brave, gain confidence, and get started.” McLean began her television career in 1997, spending 11 years as a weather presenter on British morning television and then a further 13 years as co-presenter of ITV’s Loose Women, where she won several awards for best daytime programme, including from the National Television Awards and Royal Television Company.
McLean knows about turning into his fifties. She was 51 when she quit her job in the midst of a global pandemic to go all-in on a business idea she’d nurtured in addition.
Here are her five steps to making you a success.
1. Make Sure It’s What You Want
Is a career pivot really what you want, or do you just like it? Make sure you know for sure before taking the plunge. Clarity comes from knowing yourself. McLean encourages you to ask yourself questions, including “do you want to spin?” away of something or nasty something?” as well as, “How can you bring something of what you want into the situation you already have?” and “What would need to change to make you feel more enthusiastic about your work?”
McLean advises thinking deeply about where you are now, why you might have lost your mojo, and all the possible ways to get it back. “Pivoting takes time, attention to detail and dedication. It happens slowly and then suddenly,” she said. Changing course is not for the faint of heart, so make sure it’s really what you want before you take the plunge.
2. hold yourself accountable
McLean quit her job, “announcing live on national television that I was going to file my resignation because I needed to see if my company could work.” Not only did she let the world know she was going, she held herself accountable to every viewer. “Announcing something we’ve been thinking for ages is the most terrifying part of any pivot because if it goes wrong, everyone will know.”
Being accountable to others can help you stay on track. They’ll ask how you’re doing, they’ll find ways to support you, and they’ll cheer for your success. Fear of abandoning them takes over and you pull out all the stops to make sure that doesn’t happen. You dig deeper, discover more rocks and do more not to let them down. Hold yourself accountable to yourself and other people for ultimate perseverance.
3. Don’t let age hold you back
Age isn’t a reason not to run, but it can be your excuse. “If you think you’re too old, you’re just looking for another reason not to do something,” McLean said. If you are looking for an escape clause, you can find it anytime. You may have been on the planet longer, but you are still you. Same eyes, same mouth and a ton more life experience to channel into your new venture.
Age did not stop Vera Wang from designing her first dress at the age of 40. Henry Royce started Rolls Royce at the age of 41. Ray Kroc of McDonalds was 51. Anne Boden of Starling Bank was 54. Charles Flint of IBM was 61 and Colonel Sanders of KFC was 65 when he sold his first restaurant to focus on his fried chicken recipe. McLean said, “If you want this pivot as much as you think, don’t even think age is a barrier.”
4. Create a Blueprint for Failure
Let’s face it, there will be fear. Turning at any point in a career can be daunting and we are determined to stay safe and avoid change. McLean’s situation was no different. “I had 25 years of experience in my field, financial success, national recognition, a mortgage to pay and a family to support.” My pivot took, “either madness or balls!” McLean believed she had a combination of both, enabling the leap into entrepreneurship.
“Creating a vision board, manifesting your dreams, setting your goals, and giving yourself a timeline to reach your goal is the easy part,” said McLean. Instead, make a plan of action in case something goes wrong. “You have to look your ugliest fears straight in the eye,” she added. Write down everything you fear so much and imagine it all coming true. McLean said you should ask, “Can I live with that?” on each scenario, and if the answer is yes, then continue. If you could squeeze your way out and find another way, it probably wouldn’t be that bad. Anxiety can be a positive thing, a signal that you’re going in the right direction rather than fester comfortably.
5. Let go of old identities
After leaving the casual women roll live on air and preparing to make her new venture a success, McLean’s list of failures began to come true. “Every PR job I had counted on in my projections dumped me because I would no longer be in the public eye.” Before she even started, her financial tap was shut down, putting more pressure on the company. “It had to be done quickly now,” said McLean, who knew, “as my resources dry up, my ingenuity had to increase.”
Spinning also brings an identity crisis. “It’s great to have a great job with perks, retirement plans, and dinner bragging rights,” McLean said, “but when you leave, you don’t have those anymore.” McLean’s situation was similar. As she faced the challenges, people on the street still recognized her as an earlier version of her. They asked, “Were you that woman from television back in the day?” and they weren’t wrong. “I’m still her, I’m just doing something else now. And that’s okay.”
You’re still very much you, just a newer, bolder version, only a little less certain. The future may be unknown, but it is inevitable. As McLean knows firsthand, your allies for the journey may surprise you. “You’ll discover who your real friends are when you spin, just like you do in any challenging time. If you’d rather not know who they are, stay where you are.”
McLean likens the success of a career as a pivot in dancing, both of which come down to two things. “Focus your eyes on a fixed point and practice until it seems effortless.” While a pivot sounds scary and dramatic, you can “take baby steps leading to little quirks before graduating to the big pivot, either in a job, a business, or just in life.”