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Career Change: an umbrella term

Career change and lifestyle changes during the Autumn of our Lives demand a more artistic approach than we are used to.

 It is time for a career change when you no longer wish to be defined by your work. Yes, it is that simple.

The Autumnal Man is so tightly defined by his work that "career change" is an overarching term for all the change going on his life: relationships, lifestyle, organisational, and more....

No lifestyle change is possible without career change.
Organisational restructurings may force a decision.
Changes in relationships are often driven by career pressure.

Work defines men in the Western World.

So it is useful to talk about work in general. And when talking about work I like the work of Elizabeth Gilbert, she of "Eat, Pray, Love".

Now, the book and what it represents may not be to the taste of the Autumnal Man. Men aged 37-56 are not known for going travelling to find themselves. But what she has to say about work is definitely worth reading.

Her thesis is that we mix up the concepts of hobby, job, career, and vocation. These four things are all different and should have different meanings to you.

A Hobby

A hobby is something that brings you pleasure and there is no intention to be compensated for it. It is something you do to keep life fun and interesting.

Critically, with a hobby, the stakes are zero. You don’t need it to succeed. It’s simply something you enjoy doing. Hobbies are a reminder that you’re a human, not an automaton. In her definition, a hobby is something you do, and you like it, and you don’t need anything back from it.

A Job

A job is something you have to earn enough that you can pay the bills. A job is an exchange of money for time and effort. We live in a material world and money is a currency to survive it.

You do a thing someone needs doing, and they pay you to do it. A job is a thing you have because we all need to pay the bills. It doesn’t need to fulfil you. You can have a life outside of your job.

A Career

A career is a job that you love, a job you’re passionate about. A career requires cultivation and sacrifices. Things you’re willing to do because you believe in your career’s mission.

Disliking a job might be okay because there’s a straightforward exchange – task for money. But disliking a career is a tragedy. Better off finding a new career, or just getting a job. “You should love a career, or not have one.” A career is a job you genuinely care about.

A Vocation

A vocation is your calling, you may or may not always be compensated for it. Usually used to describe the priesthood, it is something sacred, mystical, spiritual. It’s something you can’t not do. Someone can take your job or a career away – but no one can take away a calling.

No amount of money could stop you from pursuing a calling, nor seduce you to start a new one. It’s on a higher plane than hobby, job or career. Fortunate are those who can make their callings both a career and a job. A vocation is a “sacred calling,” something that is wholly you.

Time for a Career Change?

The only time to consider a career change is when you have fallen out of love with your current career. When you are no longer willing to make the sacrifices for what was a job you believed in.

Change your career, change your identity

The first question we are asked when we meet someone new is, "What do you do?"

Every single one of us has experienced this.
Our work is our identity.
This is both good and bad.
Good in that it defines you by your contribution to the world.
Bad in that it narrows you to that.

In the eyes of the world, changing your career means changing your identity. That's a big step.

So a career change is more than a change of occupation. and that change of identity is particularly strong during the Autumn. Autumn sees the leaves change colour, the harvest brought in, the ground hardens and we prepare for the snow.

Before our mid-thirties, we based our identity on what we had. Our job, our car, our house, and sometimes, yes, even our spouse. Summer was good.

Later we begin to reflect a little more on the impact we have on others. Rather than what they think of us, and our search for identity turns inward.

Many men go through this alone, we're not good talkers when it comes to this sort of stuff, some cope okay, others don't.

This affects our work.

We no longer align with the purpose of the work we are doing. The mechanics of it might be okay but the reason for it may be less compelling.

We are feeling a bit stuck in our situation, in a comfortable groove, or a less comfortable rut. Change beckons. And because we are identified by our work, that means a change of career.

All this as normal. Our priorities change.

Have you lost the passion? Was it ever there? Is disappointment a constant companion?

Don't mistake wanting to change jobs with wanting to change your career. We want to change jobs for: an increase in salary, reducing commute time, a change of company, better working conditions.

Also don't make the mistake of equating a job with blue-collar and a career with while-collar work. There are plenty of men, professional men, who get paid very well to do a job they have no passion for. But they are stuck in it due to financial pressures.

Equally, there are plenty of gifted tradesmen (we might even call them craftsmen) who truly have a career, a job they love.

Which is why making a career change is as much about dealing with loss and disillusionment as anything else.

You are working in a domain you love, that you feel passionate about. Then slowly over the years you become less enamoured with it than you were when you started. This can occur for many reasons, as many reasons as there are people and no-one has any right to comment on your reasons. Because they are not you.

The falling out of love with your career may pitch you into the grieving process. You won't feel it as finely as you might if you lose a spouse or a parent, a sibling or a child but it is there, nevertheless.

Kubler-Ross's "Stages of grief" are a useful model to help understand what is going on. They are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. 

Perfectly normal emotions that we just need to acknowledge but not be driven by. Recognise them but don't let them control your life. Changing a career is not on the same level as having someone close to you die.

But this cry, "I need a career change!" can eat away at you.

If not screamed from the rooftops, at least a thought that creeps into every Autumnal Man's mind. Inveigling its way into your consciousness.....

The harvest season of our lives is rife with symptoms. The desire for personal change does not show itself directly. Rather, it shows itself through its symptoms: career and lifestyle changes.

It often means a change in one's life purpose, as well. "I need a career change" is truly a cry from the heart.

It is hardly surprising then that the overriding mood for the Autumnal Man is one of change. The harvest season is also the time of the mid-life crisis, the time that we look back on the promise of our youth.

Often we see that we may not have achieved all we set out to do.

This can lead to disappointment. Disappointment can, in turn, lead to a desire to escape; addiction.

It is not only in our personal lives that we can experience a sense of dissatisfaction.

Organisational Change plays a huge role

Working in the constantly changing environment of a large organisation often has the same results. Organisational change initiatives we have championed might have also not borne fruit. Changes made may not bring the improvements hoped for. Sometimes, the changes implemented make things worse.

A double-whammy, if you will.

Stress increases, personal relationships suffer. And everything is up in the air, open to renegotiation.

A change in personal circumstances often means a change of career, a change of lifestyle. Sometimes the curse can be a blessing in disguise. I need a career change, is but a symptom of greater things.

Are you contemplating a career change?

Most men in the Autumn of their lives contemplate at least once a career change. The reasons are many and varied and there will be as many as there are men making such decisions. We are all unique in this.

There are many, many sites proposing career change options. Some give specific advice for moving from one career to another. For a teacher looking for a career change to IT specialist, for example.

The essays you will find here are more general than that. They will address the underlying reasons for seeking a career change. Some will look at the difference between a career and a job (everyone needs a job but not everyone needs a career). Others will consider the type of career you might need for financial reasons.

Unable to change

Most, though, will look at what you can do if you are looking for a career change but cannot change your situation. It is one thing to want to change, quite another to be able to change.

And that means you need to deal with disappointment and find some coping skills. Loss of career prospects is as real as any other loss. It may not be as wrenching as the loss of a loved one but the process of grief is as real.

Every essay is open to comments and you may add your thoughts uncensored, as long as you stay on topic.

In fact, as long as you stay on topic I urge you to contribute.

Coping with Disappointment

From our 40s men start to experience loss in an increasing proportion to their experience of gain. Career change results in a loss of identity. Other losses bring about lifestyle changes. Loss is usually accompanied by disappointment.

And the proportion of loss experienced increases with age.

Autumn is the period of harvesting the fruits of the labour from the first half of our lives.

Winter follows. The slowing down, the repairing, the preparation for the next Spring.

Except that in Life, there is no "next Spring".

We start to consider our legacy and how we wish to be remembered. Many of us want to be remembered simply as "A Good Man".

What does it mean to be a "Good Man"? One measure of that is how you experience and handle loss and disappointment.

Do you face them? Or try to escape them?


In its simplest form addiction is escapism.

We do this through:

  • Alcohol
  • Sex / Porn
  • Drugs
  • Work
  • Food

And myriad other means.

It doesn't matter if your loss is in the family, your work, your social life, your health, even your wealth. How you handle it shows what kind of a man you are.

Part of the answer to this question has to do with your conscience. Can you live with the decisions you make each day?

The articles on this site explore this from different perspectives.


In this section you will find articles about various forms of personal change for men in the autumn of their lives. This age group is roughly 37-56 but it can extend well into the 60s.

Of course it is a period of change, often profound.

Join me and others in our journeys through this period of change in which "I need a career change!" is often but a symptom of greater things.

Who is the Autumnal Man?

The Autumnal Man lives in the harvest period of his life

Former efforts are bearing fruit
Some are good, some are rotten
The question facing the Autumnal Man is this,
"Will there be enough for Winter?"

Questions about health, wealth and relationships take on a new and greater significance. The challenges in these domains increase in size and nature.

We have been brought up to see the world in almost linear terms; first this, then that. And never in the opposite sense. Perhaps a more artistic approach, one that draws on imagery rather than logic, would help.

The Autumnal Man is concerned with career change
Lifestyle changes beckon
He may be facing disappointment
Addiction may be part of his life

These are the horses that draw your chariot
You are the charioteer.

I learn by going where I have to go

- Theodore Roethke

And maybe it's time to just let things be, a little.

The Autumnal Man is a harvester / reaper, a charioteer, a craftsman

The Autumnal Man is you.