One of my relations is taking early retirement after 35 years working for the same organisation. He has simply lost all enthusiasm for his job and missed the opportunities presented to him 10, 20, 30 years ago which could have changed the course of his career. You might think he had a boring dead-end job, but, in fact, he is a well-educated, professionally qualified man in an interesting career. Or at least one that seems that way from the outside. Unfortunately it wasn’t the lifelong career for him but he stuck with it because that was what he had qualified for (he is a chartered surveyor).
I know other people who, having lost their passion for their career, had the courage to re-train or just get out of the rat race. A physicist friend who re-trained as a vet when she realised she loved animals more than anything else and a lawyer who became an architect. I’ve heard numerous other stories of professionals who have given up a seemingly rewarding career to start over again doing something completely different.
I remember when, at the age of 28, I myself was told by a recruitment consultant that I was too old to change careers! Thankfully I didn’t listen to him.
But not everyone changes to something drastically different; sometimes opportunities present themselves that seem like a natural progression and project management is one of those roles that people tend to move into after some years in a business-oriented or technical role.
Of course, there are now degree courses in project management (especially prevalent in the States) but a large part of what makes a project manager successful at their career is the experience they bring with them from previous roles so I am not convinced that a PM degree fully equips a young graduate to take on a challenging project manager role (or even one that isn’t very challenging).
If you are a mid-career professional wondering where you go next remember that increasing numbers of people are now changing direction part way through their career; it may not be easy but it is perfectly possible. If the career you are in is not right for you it is better to take the leap now than wait until you are a few years off retirement; although even then it is not too late.
So if you feel stuck in the wrong job – if you are no longer enjoying it or finding it fulfilling and struggle to motivate yourself to get up in the morning to go to work, take a look at what project management opportunities there are in your current organisation. Project managers are needed in every organisation as business environments are increasingly project-based and your current skills could well equip you with the experience you need to get started in a PM role. You may already find that you know some project management fundamentals such as organising, planning, estimating and prioritising tasks.
Start by taking an introductory course and you could be well on your way to a fulfilling, new career – a project management qualification could help you get a better job. Project management is now a recognised profession and the Association for Project Management (APM) could soon have a Royal Charter* like more traditional professions such as Law and Accountancy.
*A Royal Charter for APM was recommended in early 2013 and unanimously agreed in July 2013 but that decision was subsequently challenged by the Project Management Institute (PMI) who sought a Judicial Review, which was held on 8 and 9 July 2014 at the High Court in London. The Judge dismissed the claim on all grounds and refused PMI’s request to appeal. However, PMI has now sought leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal and a decision on whether PMI has permission to proceed with its challenge is expected later this year.