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Midlife Is the Time to Discover What’s Really Important

By Jan Moore June 21, 2023 Lifestyle

I wonder if you’re noticing the same trends I’m seeing about how people now view work. I’m seeing a changing definition of success. When I started working in the 70s, success seemed to be defined as how quickly you could climb up the corporate ladder and get a corner office.

I now see more emphasis placed on having a balance between work and personal time, with success defined as using your talents for self-development as well as helping family, community, and your workplace. Workers increasingly want to have a voice in decisions that affect them.

I see less emphasis on rampant economic growth and more value on conserving and protecting the environment along with a desire for self-expression and meaningful work.

Are you seeing this where you are?

A few years after trading big city living for the laid-back West Coast lifestyle, I discovered that lifestyle is the primary reason so many others have chosen to live here.

What’s Your Career Anchor?

As a former career counsellor, I view the word “career” from a different perspective than as strictly a job path. I see it as more of an internal drive that ties in with our values, motives, competencies, and interests.

It’s a path we want to take to learn and grow and to express who we are. Often, we don’t get the opportunity to do this until midlife.

In the past I’ve given clients a quiz to discover what Edgar H. Schein identified as the career anchors people are drawn to express in their work or hobbies. I’ll briefly summarize each of the eight anchors Schein identified. It’s best to fill out his self-assessment quiz to identify your own career anchor.

As so many of us make decisions based on the lifestyle we want, especially as we age, let’s look at this first.


If lifestyle is the career anchor that drives you, you’d like to balance your personal life with your professional life. A growing number of people want their work to fit their lifestyle. This desire has grown as job security has eroded. Flexible work hours have become popular.

If this is your primary drive, it’s important to look at your second choice as well.

Technical/Functional Competence

If your career anchor is functional competence, your focus is on being rewarded for your expertise. You are a specialist in your field and want to test your skills and abilities and be recognized for them. Working reduced hours in your profession might be a good fit for you.

General Managerial Competence

If your career is driven by general management competence, you’d like to be responsible for major policy decisions. You don’t seek specialization as much as you’d like to advance up to higher levels of responsibility.

You are comfortable absorbing the emotional strains of uncertainty, interpersonal conflict, and responsibility. This desire can be satisfied leading a volunteer work project.


If you look for autonomy in a career, you’d like to set your own rules and do things in your own way. You’re self-reliant and comfortable being responsible for your own decisions.

You work well without supervision and enjoy contract or project work with clearly-defined goals and the freedom to complete the job in your own way. Freelance work might be a good fit.


If stability is your career anchor, you want to feel safe and secure with job security and a good retirement and benefit plan. You are willing to follow the rules of others in exchange for stable, predictable work. In midlife, you may want a part-time job.

Entrepreneurial Creativity

If your career anchor is creativity, you want to develop new products or services. You get bored with routine and require new creative challenges. Although your original efforts may fail, you keep searching for opportunities to try again and again. Self-employment based on a hobby may be a good fit.

Service/Dedication to a Cause

If your anchor is supporting a special cause, you have a desire to improve the world in a way that helps people, animals, or the planet as a primary focus.

You want your work to be in alignment with your values and may be drawn to a helping profession such as medicine, social work, or teaching. A position with the Peace Corps might be rewarding.

Pure Challenge

If challenge is your career anchor, you like to seek out ever-tougher challenges that overcome seemingly impossible obstacles, or unsolvable problems. Like a professional athlete, you look for opportunities to test yourself against yourself or others. This might be a good time to train for a marathon.

Do any of these Career Anchors seem a fit for you?

Identifying your career anchor can help you decide on a second career or hobby.

Creative Economy Is Growing Fast

Interestingly, in 2013, the United Nations identified the Creative Economy as one of the world’s fastest growing sectors for income generation, job creation, and export earnings.

The UN released a report that said, “the Creative Economy creates jobs, and contributes overall well-being of communities, individual self-esteem, and quality of life, thus achieving inclusive and sustainable development.”

After retirement, many of us now have the free time to pursue artistic endeavors.

How Do You Want to Express Yourself in Midlife?

What are your Values, Desires and your natural Skills?

It often takes us until middle age to acquire the self-knowledge we need to gain insight into the answers. We tend to be better at things we value and are motivated to learn. We may find hidden talents we had no time to use or develop earlier.

As we age, we get a sense of what’s a natural fit for us and what isn’t. It’s not unusual to discover we’re drawn back to the same skills and interests we had in childhood. It was life events and responsibilities that took us down a different path.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What different path have you found in midlife? Are you looking for a second career? What is your career anchor? Please share with our community!

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I just ‘retired’ from teaching little ones after 20 years (and other careers before that). I can’t say I feel ready to completely retire but I was ready to get out of the classroom, and I want my time to be my own.

Rather than diving into something else that requires commitment I am taking time to explore, both myself and outside activities. I don’t want to commit to anything for long except for things that address my physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual health for at least the next year. After that, I’ll see where I’m at. I don’t anticipate ever going back to anything full time. I can see doing short-term projects: get in, and get out, move on.

Co Jo

Great things to think about, but the quiz at is so poorly written, that it would be impossible to “assess” your “career anchors” to make sense of the article.

Vanya Drumchiyska

Hi Co Jo,
Another resource you might find helpful is a career anchor questionnaire by the University of Edinburgh. You can find it here:
Best wishes,

The Author

Jan Moore is a Midlife Reinvention Coach who helps women enjoy more Travel, Adventure and Creativity. After 20+ years as a Career Counsellor and Workshop Facilitator, Jan transitioned into self-employment when she wrote the book Work On Your Own Terms in Midlife and Beyond. Please visit her site

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