The simple act of flipping through the calendar can provide motivation to take stock of your life. For some it is flipping the calendar at the beginning of the year, for others it is when you flip the calendar for a significant birthday or a work anniversary.

My first client in 2020 came with two pending calendar flips in mind – ‘I’m turning 50 this year and I’ve been too long in the same job. I need to make a major career change to enjoy the next 15 years at work’.

It can feel daunting, but you won’t be alone in actively seeking a career change. In the Productivity Commission series of reports on technology and future of work they state that about ½ a million people change jobs every year in New Zealand (20% of the workforce), and of these, more than half change industry.

There are a number of concerns and needs to work through. A key one is understanding the transferability of experience, skills and achievements to different roles and workplaces. This takes a combination of activities to reflect on an individual’s strengths and to explore what is possible, and ultimately take the leap to test the job market by applying for the positions that generate some excitement or ‘pull’ factor.

Another key concern is age and life circumstance. Recent research by Professor David Blanchflower, with an interview on RNZ,  uses a U-shaped happiness curve to describe the possible reasons we hit a happiness low at age 47. Circumstances differ greatly for each person – the labour market they are in, the employment history they have, whether they are partnered or single, their care-giving responsibilities (of all ages), and what financial assets they have. And most importantly, what is meaningful to them and gives them fulfilment in life. If you’re concerned about job seeking as an ‘older worker’ you might find the Stats NZ report on Workers Aged 55+ helpful.


If flipping of the calendar triggers a sense of disquiet, think about what support you need to reflect and reset your goals. Here’s an activity that might help.

Life Visioning Activity

Allow yourself 20 minutes of quiet time to ponder and write your answers to these questions below. Really let your imagination flow – don’t analyse as you go, just put pen to paper and see what happens. Your answers should provide clues for what you need to change to realise this life vision.

Imagine you are happy and healthy and 80 years old. You’re sitting in your favourite chair in your favourite place and looking back over your ideal life.

  • Who are you as a person? What is it about you that people value?
  • What have you achieved? What are you proud of?
  • What has added meaning to your life and gives you a sense of fulfilment?
  • How have areas of your life unfolded?
    • Relationships (significant other, family, friends, community)
    • Career (paid and unpaid work and learning)
    • Health (physical, emotional, spiritual)
    • Fun and leisure
  • Finally, from this chair at age 80 what can you see and hear around you right now that makes you truly happy?

It’s never too late to make changes in areas of your life. You can find a lot of information and tools online, talk to people you know and trust, and seek out the specialists who can help. If you want to know more about support for making a career change contact The Career Development Company.

Julie Thomas is an Executive Director of The Career Development Company.

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