Second Act: Making A Mid-Career Transition into Life Coaching
Feeling the tug to make a career change into coaching, but concerned about the risks? In this guide, explore what it takes to make a successful midlife shift.
How to Become A Coach, At Any Stage of Life
The world of work has changed dramatically over the past few years. As the media continues to report on “The Great Resignation” that’s sweeping the globe, you may be feeling inspired to join this growing movement of successful career changers.
Maybe you're longing for professional reinvention, or just want a greater sense of balance in your life and work. In any case, what you know for sure is that it’s time to step away from business as usual.
You're just not sure how.
Unlike earlier in your career, there’s potentially more at risk now.
- You may have achieved a level of expertise or income that feels difficult to walk away from.
- You likely have more responsibilities to consider: a mortgage to pay, kids in college, planning for retirement, or other weighty obligations.
- Perhaps you’re flying solo, without a partner to financially assist with your dreams.
- Maybe you’ve always worked for an employer, and the idea of starting your own business is daunting.
At midlife, it can feel like the very idea of trying something new is foolish, or a fantasy. If so, you’re not the only one who has felt this way.
Here’s the truth: every day, people are making this leap successfully.
According to the Harvard Business Review, mid-career professionals are leaving their jobs at a rapidly increasing rate. The reasons are simple: changing work/life priorities, the ease of working remotely, and a longing for more meaningful and satisfying work.
“I transitioned from a 14-year career as a Deputy District Attorney to working full-time as a women's intimacy coach. It has been the most difficult (but rewarding!) life change I've ever made. Being an entrepreneur isn't for the faint of heart. But if you're committed, brave enough to ask for help, and willing to push outside of your comfort zone, true career fulfillment exists on the other side.” - Rena Martine, 2021 Lumia graduate
At Lumia Coaching, we work with aspiring coaches who’ve been exactly where you are. Longing for change, but caught in a web of self doubt or uncertainty. In this article, we’ll address the most common questions and concerns that arise during a mid-career transition, and how to navigate them.
- Is a career change at my age realistic?
- Am I actually qualified to coach?
- What does it take to become a life coach?
- Is now the right time?
- What about the risks?
Is A Midlife Career Change Realistic?
“Midlife and beyond is when the authentic self emerges through layers of family and cultural conditioning to find answers to questions of ultimate concern: who am I, why am I here, and what should I do with the rest of my life?” - Nancy Anderson, author of Work With Passion In Midlife and Beyond
At midlife, you’ve built yourself a track record. You’ve tasted both failure and success, and know that one feels better than the other. You’ve also come to know yourself more clearly. With a portion of life already in the rearview mirror, you may be feeling less inclined to waste your time. You want to focus on your truth, and pursue the things that make you feel most alive.
These facts can lead to competing (and confusing!) impulses within the mind.
As human beings, we're wired to fear the unknown.
An ancient section of your brain, known as the limbic system, is charged with keeping you safe. That’s the part of us that calculates risk and seeks to avoid pain. This is your fight or flight mechanism, and it’s likely working on overdrive. It tells you to play it safe, and dreads the idea of “failure”.
Many of us are ruled by this voice. It breaks down our dreams, and narrows our options. But it’s not the only truth.
Another part of your mind, the prefrontal cortex, holds a more expansive perspective. It has the capacity to feed our big ideas and bold ambitions - if we let it. Just as one part of the brain avoids risk, another has the capacity to make connections, and generate creative solutions.
If you’re thinking you may be too old to make a change, or that it’s “too late” to step into a new career, odds are that's your limbic system talking. It’s doing its job - and it’s most likely lying to you.
The reality is that people successfully transition into a second act all the time.
In fact, there are many advantages to entering coaching at midlife, or as a supplemental activity in retirement. Here’s just a few of the ingredients you can bring to the table as a coach:
- Lived experience
- Emotional Intelligence
It’s critical to not underestimate the value of these “soft skills” - they are essential to achieving coaching mastery. Odds are the perspective and insights that you’ve cultivated thus far in life will give you a leg up as a coach.
“I'm a licensed therapist turned life coach and have worn both hats for nearly a decade. I broke out of the cage I guess you can say. I hopped the fence.
I got my clinical hours. I took the exam. I had a full therapy practice. But then I started burning out. And I realized this wasn't how I wanted to help people. I felt like I was limiting myself and my creativity. I don't want to be stuck in an office or behind a computer on Zoom with clients all day. I want to live. I want to experiment. I want to play. And that's how I want to help people.
My heart and intention has never changed. But my definition of how to help people has. With how fast the world is changing, it will be limitless how you choose to impact and help others. You can either embrace it and evolve as a truly powerful catalyst with endless potential or reject it and feel left behind.” - Lumia co-founder John Kim, The Angry Therapist
Am I Qualified to Coach?
This is a common concern for career changes at every stage of the game. So common, in fact, that there’s a name for it: Imposter Syndrome.
Ever found yourself thinking:
- “Who am I to think I can coach other people?”
- “I’m not qualified enough, I have no business being a life coach.”
- “I’m not sure I’ll be able to deliver the results clients are looking for.”
- “I’ll never be nearly as good as (insert another coach’s name here).”
If so, you’re in good company. Across all industries, 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives (International Journal of Behavioral Science).
How and why these doubts creep into our thoughts can be difficult to pinpoint. It’s a little different for everyone, but the likely culprits are often related to: family expectations, anxiety, depression, or our relationship with educational institutions. It may even trace back to skewed ideas of what people in given roles are "supposed to look like" based on cultural expectations, the media, or social comparison.
What happens when we experience imposter syndrome?
- Feelings of inadequacy and insecurity
- Wondering if you are a fraud
- Self-sabotaging behaviour that can manifest fears into reality
- Stunts creativity and originality - as you look to others for feedback or modeling, you lose trust in your own ideas
- Slows productivity with second guessing and fear
The effects of imposter syndrome can be devastating. Left unchecked, it can even result in a failure to launch. Prospective coaches never start, or worse, they leave a field where they are genuinely talented and could have made a real impact.
We see this inside the coaching industry all too often, especially amongst aspiring coaches. It’s important to recognize the difference between situations where you may legitimately need to build up some new skills, and times when your mind is simply echoing limiting beliefs and voices of diminishment.
For more information on how to navigate imposter syndrome, listen in as Lumia Coaching co-founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux discuss it in their podcast: How to Handle Imposter Syndrome As A Life Coach.
There are several antidotes to imposter syndrome. The first is professional training. Let's talk about what that looks like next.
What Does It Take To Be A Coach?
“Everything I’ve done up to this moment has prepared me to be a Confidence Coach for Women, but first I had to leave my 16-year career as a public school teacher. The thing is, I am too big for the box! Terrified and exhilarated, I took a leave of absence. I am embracing the risk and stepping through the fear.” - Dawn Davis, 2021 Lumia graduate
The fact is that you don’t need any special training or licensure to become a life coach. But if that’s the case, why does anyone invest in a life coach certification program?
It comes down to impact and confidence.
The best life coaches out there deliver consistent, meaningful results for their clients. To do so requires a strong grasp of how people learn, create, grow and change.
While we've all experienced growth and evolution in our own lives, translating that into a workable process for other people is both an art and a science. Change theory is not something most of us just "know", but it can certainly be taught!
In Lumia's coach training program, we draw upon the field of positive psychology to help our life coaching students better understand the workings of the human mind. And because each client is unique, we provide a wide range of evidence-based frameworks to use in your coaching practice.
As a professional coach, it’s also important to have a clear understanding of your scope of practice. It’s crucial to know both what coaching is… as well as what it ISN’T! Untrained life coaches are far more likely to blur the lines between advising, mentoring, and actually coaching others.
A reputable life coach certification program will provide you with guidance on what effective coaching is, and how to do it well. You’ll learn a variety of frameworks, interventions, methodologies and coaching techniques to help get you started. You'll also receive ample peer coaching opportunities to solidify your learning by putting it into practice.
With that said, not every training program is equal. Some are accredited by the International Coaching Federation, and offer a pathway to ICF credentialing. Others don’t. Both have their place, and one isn’t necessarily better than the other. The important thing is to know which route YOU want to take, and why.
For more resources to help determine what level of training is right for you, consider:
Is Now The Right Time?
"When someone elects to make a mid-career change it's usually in pursuit of their purpose. At 18, we are too young to know what we want to do with the rest of our lives and often make the decisions our parents want us to. This should NOT be our life sentence!
When we are awake enough to recognize what our passion guides us to do and bold enough to follow our dreams, that is when we are truly alive and that is what drives a mid-career change." - Remi Gibbs, Career and Small Business Coach
According to the International Coaching Federation, there are currently more than 71,000 coach practitioners worldwide. That's a whopping 36% increase in coach practitioners over the past five years alone!
With this many new coaches entering the field, you might be wondering: “Is there room for one more?”
Coaching is currently a $2.85 billion dollar industry, and consumer demand for services is on a decidedly upward trajectory.
Over the past few years, it’s become painfully evident that our current way of life is not supporting wellness and human happiness. People are seeking alternatives to a 24/7 work culture that results in stress, anxiety, dissatisfaction, and poor health outcomes.
The life coaching profession is uniquely positioned to support this changing landscape of wellness.
Given the complexities of these times, working with a life coach as a trusted partner to move forward into uncharted territory is a sound and comforting investment for businesses and individuals alike.
Most adults never take the time to sit and strategize, yet “making a plan for one’s plan” is the safest and most cost effective way to move forward.
Life coaches are trained to facilitate the process of imagining a desired future state, and crafting a well thought out plan for achieving it. We're also skilled at holding the plan while the client proceeds with designing actions and experimenting with new ways of being until their goal comes to fruition.
The role of life coaches in delivering this kind of strategic partnership is beginning to surge within the public’s awareness. From conscious dating to workplace equity, consumers are waking up to the fact that they need help to do things differently and truly make lasting change.
What About the Risk?
Let’s get straight to it. Whenever you try anything new, there’s a possibility that you might fail. This simple fact keeps many of us from taking the bold actions necessary to create a more satisfying life.
The reality is that all of life is change, and navigating risk. Our minds just try to pretend otherwise, reaching for certainty in an uncertain world.
Remember the limbic system we mentioned above? If you're caught in a loop of “what if” scenarios that's leading you in circles, it bears investigation. Fear can hide in plain sight. It often sounds like the truth, or a “practical assessment of risk”.
When it comes to a mid-career transition, there are very real barriers, considerations, and financial realities to navigate. There are also pragmatic and responsible ways to address and plan for them.
If your mind is telling you changing careers at this point is “impractical” or “impossible”, chances are you’re in the Fear Zone. This is not a helpful place to be, and it’s not where you’ll make your most aligned and authentic decisions.
If fear is preventing you from moving forward, consider hiring a coach to help you clarify your intentions, evaluate risk, and develop an actionable plan to achieve your goals.
It’s also helpful to have real world data to counterbalance those voices of fear. If you’d like more information about realities of the coaching industry, here’s a toolkit of resources that can help:
- Careers in Life Coaching: Exploring Options & Opportunities
- The Ultimate Guide to Life Coach Salaries
- 20 Hottest Life Coaching Niches
- 8 Books on Life Coaching That Will Inspire You To Take the Next Step
What Our Career Changers Are Saying
“At the tiptop of my former career, my world was rocked by the pandemic lockdown. After spending several days curled up in a ball feeling lost and deflated, I realized that I was more than my job! I had a story to share and a purpose to fulfill so, at the age of 55, I took a leap of faith, left my 20-plus year corporate career behind and answered a long ignored calling to become a certified life coach.
Today, I help women over 45 learn how to have healthier relationships in all areas of their lives by rediscovering their inner selves and every conversation I am blessed to have lights me up inside and teaches me something new!” - Bonnie Phillips Blackstone, Blackbird Whole Life
“Moving from being an oncologist who loves her patients to a coach who loves her clients. The medical model is disjointed, face-paced, time-limited, and assumes the doctor is the expert. Coaching is evocative, client-led, slowed-down, deeply compassionate. Deep listening takes time, which most oncologists don't have. Love my new life.” - Dr. Jennifer Griggs, Transforming the Narrative
“To choose the uncomfortable of the unknown so you can bring more joy and fulfillment to yourself and others is such a beautiful, but scary thing. After living in corporate for 17 years and many years of juggling both worlds, I’m currently navigating such a transition from IT learning & development into Self-Improvement Coach/Confidence Catalyst.
The beauty of such a change is that even though you leave one world, you bring all the knowledge, experiences, and skills learned during that time with you, wherever you choose to land. I am blessed to be able to combine those with my innate strengths to create my new path, guiding my soul clients, spirited but struggling moms, out of the daily struggle and into a life on their terms, filled with more confidence, flow, and happiness, even in the mess. - Laura Russell, The Joyful Uprising
Ready to Step Into Your Future?
A lot of talented people like you dream of having a coaching business, but aren’t quite sure how to get there. If you’d like to talk with a member of the Lumia team to explore whether coaching is right for you, we’d love to talk. Why wait? Schedule a call to get your questions answered today!