Transforming: what do I want to be when I grow up?

Now that I was decided to change, I needed to figure out that elusive question: “what do I want to be” (when I grow up!). And for any recent college grads out there, believe me, it’s no easier at 40 or 50 than it is at 20. There are some differences though.

Assessing skills and work values

After more than 30 years in the workforce, I had plenty of experience with doing work I loved and work I hated. And I had cultivated a lot of skills. So, I started by writing down my skills, and prioritizing them into the ones I most wanted to use, and those which gave me higher value in the market. In parallel, I began to note the things I felt most strongly about which would impact my choice of a next career. That’s a combination of work values and environmental requirements. It looked something like this. (It was a lot more words and scribbles before I distilled it down!)


Stress management


Market management
People management
Project management

Additional value skills

Low stress
Remote or local

From there, I began to explore different roles which use these skills. I used key words and career sites to explore careers, potential revenue and education requirements. My go to site ended up being

Hmmm, interesting, but still not conclusive. While my marketing and people management skills were high value, many work environments requiring those skills wouldn’t meet my requirement for low stress. In addition, and hugely important to the process, I had financial requirements.

Financial requirements

Understanding your financial requirements is a critical step in your journey to decide on a new career. I sat down and worked out the minimum budget I needed for the basics. Then I thought about my long- term financial goals and what I ideally wanted to earn. This enabled me to set a “minimum” and a “potential” revenue expectation. We’ll talk more about the minimum in Blog 3. But the potential revenue expectation is key to picking the right career.

Education/training requirements

There were two careers which stood out as the best match at this stage. The first was teaching marketing. The second was to become a specialist in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. But now came some hard realization. I had never finished my degree. Even though I had a “Post Graduate Diploma” from Manchester University through an IBM education program, it was not a formal degree.

I quickly found that there was nothing for it, I would have to formally finish my Bachelor before I could pursue a higher education goal. And both careers required at least a Masters, if not a PhD. In fact, I could not even pursue a more operational job in a university environment without a formal degree. So, I could go back to school or I would have to do something else. I started to explore how I could make that happen. But realistically, I did not have the financial buffer to enable me to completely step out of the workforce for a few years.

I kept looking for what was possible. Training and teaching are pretty much the same thing, but training in a business environment instead of an academic one was quite a different industry and market. Maybe there was potential there.

Different perspectives

In parallel, I was talking to as many people as I could about my potential career move. People who had made similar changes, people who were in jobs I found interesting and desirable. One of the people I talked to was the psychologist who initially introduced me to CBT techniques. When I mentioned that I needed to go back to school, he gently asked me whether I needed to go back or whether I simply thought the credentials were necessary.

He suggested that my 10-year experience in applying CBT techniques in my own life might be credentials enough to get started. Indeed, I realized I had already started the journey to teach stress management techniques to loved ones around me. In fact, I had even started to formalize that for a dear friend.

Ultimately, I settled on coaching and training as my goal. To recap, I got there by:

  • Assessing my skills

  • Establishing my work values

  • Exploring careers

  • Talking to dozens of people

  • Setting my financial boundaries

Now that I knew what I wanted to be…how was I going to make the transition from being a marketing executive to this? And that’s the topic of Blog number 3 in this series, so stay tuned!