I Know About Transitioning To a New Career Late in Life

Author: Judy Joseph McSheen

I know about transitioning to a new career late in life. I know now about the Joy and Power of Silence. I know about the Answers that Lie Within, if we remain still enough to tap into them. I know about the joy of uncovering the patterns in our lives that either propel us or impede us from achieving our life's purpose. I know about the struggle and conflict as my life purpose unfolded for me in slow motion and I had to be still and listen, rather than charge forth. I know about patience.

As a child I loved animals and dream that one day I would be a vet. That balloon was deflated when both my best friend and I applied to various Canadian vet schools and we were not accepted by any.
To me it made absolute sense at the time and no one attempted to dissuade me, I was good at chemistry in high school, so I combed the English universities to find a chemistry course that looked interesting. I applied, got accepted and I was off to become an Industrial Chemist. My best friend coincidentally applied to the same university to pursue a programme in Finance and International Banking and was also accepted.

Fortunately the course I selected was a “sandwich course”, so I had the opportunity to spend 15 months in the industry. It was during that time that I realised that research though my forte, was not my passion. I ended the final year of my first degree with a vow to develop my business skills, so I could enter a world where I could meet “lots of people from international backgrounds.” That led me to pursue a Masters degree in Export Management and International Business.

I graduated and returned home, thinking that I had struck gold, as my first job entailed researching industry sectors and interacting with a wide range of high ranking local and international diplomatic, business and political personnel. However, I was yet to define my career. What did I want to become? It was certainly a case of if you don’t know where you are going; any road will get you there. In hindsight, my being bright was not an asset, because it allowed me to perform to a high standard in whatever area I was placed, but I was yet to define what I wanted to do. I was yet to experience the restlessness of a search for the unrecoverable.

After eight years at managerial level, I left the corporate sector and established my own consultancy firm and simultaneously operated as an Associate Consultant to an international Brussels based organisation. The one constant was that I was still required to do conduct research and I was still collaborating with high level international business persons. Then the road turned again, as a friend recommended me for the position of CEO at a local firm. For the first time I said “no” to an offer to change direction. But then, a reputable businessman, with whom I also did associate consultancy work at the time, advised that I should take up the position. In his words “that is a no brainer for you. You will get the most experience that you will ever get anywhere” and so my “no” changed to yes.

Like a reed in the wind I was off again. Soon my Spanish was polished enough to negotiate with our Venezuelan suppliers. I was thrilled by the challenge of as a female, having to address a group of Spanish speaking businessmen in their own language. I started hesitantly with a translator and after about five minutes. Minutes, during which I had to “correct” the translator, I jumped in on my own. It was on one such trip to Venezuela that the tides turned again, as a supplier offered me distribution rights for his product. With no research, I accepted and flung myself into launching my own import and distribution business. I was fortunate, in that I was rapidly able to penetrate the local market.

What I had not catered for in my naiveté, was (i) unscrupulous individuals who began to bring in my products black market and undersell me and (ii) for a distribution business to be truly successful you need to carry an appropriate basket of products. I saw my profit margins declining and simultaneously the crime situation in my country commenced to worsen.
I had to make a decision for the first time in my life – what did I really want to do? What type of business did I want to be in? The answer was consultancy. And as I began to wonder about the specific type of consultancy service I would offer. I fell back into my cycle, as I received a call from a relative, inviting me to join an Organisation Development Consulting firm.

I literally joined, not clear as to what OD entailed, but knowing that my corporate experience, common sense and intelligence would be an asset. It was when I began to do my OD Certification Programme that I fully understood and appreciated the associated theory and concepts and their application. It was while doing my certification that I was exposed to meditation practice - a practice that was to transform my life. Through meditation, I became highly introspective and much more confident, clear and focussed on what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be.

By this time I had hit the 50 year mark. I was hesitant to leave the consulting firm. I convinced myself that it was primarily because of the family attachment - but meditation has a way of revealing truths. I recognised that my penchant for risks had died. As I reflected, I also realised that I was most alive when I took risks. Through my reflections, I also realised that I had begun to live two lives in parallel – a spiritual life and a professional life. I prayed to God that the two would become fully integrated. The period was to be one of turmoil in my late life.

One day I attended a seminar, in which one of the topics the facilitator covered was the need to Surrender if we want to achieve what you really want and that there is a time between leaving behind and achieving what you want when you are in free fall. You literally have nothing to hold onto. There is risk - an essential part of getting to where you want. My favourite visual of this is the ballerina leaping across the chasm. I tendered my resignation, effective that same month. There was a sense of relief in knowing what I had to leave behind, but a sense of anxiety in not knowing what would unfold. It is over these last three years that I have recreated, re-branded and found my whole self. It was during this period that I came to a full frontal and in your face understanding of Faith, Fear and Surrender.

It was during this period that the concept of Time Out Corporate and Personal Interventions emerged. I discovered very early in its development, that its potential is way more than I can imagine. As I am inspired, I add modules. There were many times during the last three years that I considered taking the easy way out and returning to corporate life. Each time the thought surfaced, it was snuffed out by an affirmation and reconfirmation that I was on my track. Not the track that the outer world keeps trying to define for me, but the track that my inner voice has placed me on. There is a deep sense of fulfilment that I experience, knowing that my spiritual and professional lives have been fully integrated.

My success I measure by the number of lives I positively impact as I continue my journey. My dream - that the Time Out concept will take root locally, regionally and internationally.

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