Let me set the scene. I am 46, had a successful career -- so far -- for more than 20 years. Held a senior operations position in Canada for 10 years prior to moving to Dubai and held a Managing Director position for two MNCs and managed to earn an MBA from an international business school. Recession hit in 2009 and my professional down-hill journey started.
Now I am back home to Toronto with my two sons. One is in university and the second a senior high school student.
I started applying for careers, hoping that my experience would serve well in landing a position that would allow me to get back on track. So far after a year of job search, rewriting my CV, networking, reaching to contacts and having my CV on every job board... Nothing!
So I am starting to apply to junior positions; positions that I am over-qualified for; but I need an income. Then it hit me, am I giving up on having a lucrative career? Am I surrendering? Should I give up and get real? How would a step back in my career affect me? Should I think about it as a temporary thing or accept it? Definitely accept it as long term and starting over step. Here's why.
You see, I always liked motivational quotes, leadership speeches and positive clichés. However, I just found that in my current situation, they did me more harm than good.
Feeling vulnerable, self-doubting and less -- much less- self-confident, reverting to positive quotes, success clichés and success stories of people over 40 was, in my case at least, the biggest mirage there is!
To me it is clear: We do not control our destiny nor do we create our paths. Clear and simple. If it is clear and evident that we cannot control the simplest of tasks or wishes on daily basis when it comes to choice of food: We crave pizza, then some event occurs and we end up eating hamburger! I am not oversimplifying a belief or idea, I am just suggesting that maybe it IS simple. If we cannot with certainty control what we eat and do during one day, then how can we affect the future, let alone as most believe "create" it?
Also it is evident, that if all those quotes work, wouldn't we be all successful and fulfilled!!? (For my view on quotes you can refer to a previous post "Suggestive Leadership: A Civic View").
We make decisions based on data on hand, after deliberate analysis or just going by instinct, then we deal with results in retrospect. Whenever the results are favorable, we attribute these results to our hard work and our determination, and we develop the self-proclaimed stature of a social mentor where we begin to lecture people about leadership and success.
In my case, when I made peace with the idea that I will not have the corporate career that I deserve, I will no longer make that six-digits salary, I will no longer enjoy the perks and benefits of such a career and I will have to start from the same point I was at 20 years ago, amazingly enough, I felt strong and ready. I guess it depends how I chose to face reality....head on. I accepted my situation and did not surrender to self-pity and wondering why me. I just said to myself: This is the new reality... deal with it.
When I dug deeper into my newfound serenity and wondered why I have no feelings of resentment or anger towards the way my professional and personal life have changed, I discovered that by assessing realistically my options and acknowledging that at a certain point in life, a man must decide what dreams, ambitions and aspirations to abandon and contemplate what he can do with what he presently possess. This is what I did and I am happy.
I believe we should face reality more than once in our life time. Do a sort of personal inventory of what we wanted to achieve, what we achieved and for what we did not achieve, is it still achievable.
I am not advocating that ambition should stop being a driving force nor should one stop aspiring for best, I am advocating tipping the balance towards reality and reconsider options. I believe we will be able to handle blows when we lower our expectations realistically and rationally.
Whether we realize it or not, being bombarded daily by success stories that are supposed to inspire us or by posts on social platforms, puts us under the impression that all is achievable and we should and could be successful in life. Failure to do that, generates a feeling of failure and self-loath especially when failure was not do due to the person's actions. It just didn't work. This unnecessary stress element and sometimes destructive feeling is what I have a problem with.
From my personal experience, how I managed to balance and accept my new reality was by making several decisions and choices:
Decided to keep my CV as-is and mention in my cover letter my added value to the company I am applying for.
I chose to stop wondering why no one is calling back and chose to focus on types of jobs I can still perform efficiently.
I chose, instead of making my family miserable and being stressed, angry and depressed all the time, to accept that my new position will allow me to spend more time with them and compensate for the lost time.
It is perfectly OK to tone down our dreams and to believe that there is such a time where some of them are not achievable anymore. Being realistic about ambition and aspirations is not giving up and it does not mean that we are weak or we don't have what it takes.
Everyone's life is different in its challenges and opportunities, some have good fortune and some have less of a good fortune than others. This is life.