How will friends react to your midlife career change?

Nearly everyone you come in contact with during this transition is going to either have some very well-intentioned advice for you, or a horror-story about something that could go wrong with your new plan. Learn to handle these discussions with a sense of humor and not to take them to heart. Consider telling your very close friends and family members that what you really need right now is encouragement and space to work through this in your own way.

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In 50+ and Considering Semi-Retirement as a Career Transition, I mentioned that learning to deal with friends and family in a new way is an important part of maintaining your mental health during a midlife transition.

Let’s talk about some of the most common reactions you can expect.

The Experts

These people may be concerned that you’re making a big mistake, and may even be worried that you’re going to get yourself in a situation where you will need their help in the form of a loan, a place to live, or a job reference that they really aren’t comfortable giving because of an awkward personal history with you. They would like to help you avoid that.

Because of their motivation to maintain the status quo, they might encourage you to just stay put, especially if keeping your job is an option. If not, they are likely to use a “tough love” approach to interacting with you – reminding you of your responsibilities, and all of the things that could go wrong if you make a bad decision. Remember that somewhere in between all of the not-so-helpful information is a desire for you to just “be okay.”

The Encyclopedias

These people might have no idea what you’re going through, but that won’t stop them from talking about. This transition of yours is an opportunity for them to show off their vast wealth of knowledge of facts and trivia in a whole new setting.

Resist the temptation to roll your eyes at these friends’ reaction to your crisis. Their interest in researching information can actually be quite useful. Once these folks understand the direction you want to go, they are often the very people who will be able to dig up job leads, training opportunities, and contacts that you will need.

These are the people you might want to communicate with by phone or email (not in person) during this transition so you can take a few deep breaths before responding to their well-meaning advice. Don’t worry – they’ll be among the first to celebrate with you once you can assure them that your life is back on track.

The Entertainers

These are the story-tellers in your life. Every step your journey will remind these friends of a story from their own past or a story from the experience of someone else they know that at least vaguely relates to what is happening now.

While the stories might seem at first to be completely irrelevant to what you’re going through, go ahead and listen to these people. At the very least, it will be a much-needed relief from the stress of your day-to-day life during this transition. Often, though, these folks are big-picture thinkers, and will help you put things in perspective by reminding you that everything you’re going through right now will soon be a story from your past. Their stories are often sources of inspiration for ways to handle specific situations and people that you may not have considered.

The Encouragers

These people are along for the ride – wherever you’re going. Keep these people close. They’ll laugh with you, cry with you, and go to bat for you if needed. Because of their loyalty, they might not be the best source for “objective” advice, but they will bring the ice cream and offer a broad shoulder at the end of the day.

 

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