The Career Reinvention Question You Need to Ask

If you’re eager to switch fields in midlife, follow the 'What?' with 'Why?'

by Nancy Collamer • Next Avenue
women with question marks illustration image

As a career coach who helps clients switch fields, I’m always asking lots of questions. Things like: What types of people to you like to work with? What are your strongest skills? What did you love to do as a child?

The Problem With Asking 'What?'
The answers to those queries provide insights into the key factors – like skills, interests and values – that are important to consider when choosing a second act. But these types of “what” questions, while useful, are often very limiting.

(MORE: The Key to a Successful Career Shift: Asking for Help)

To really assist people who want to reinvent their careers, I always dig deeper and follow up the “What?” by asking “Why?”

You should ask yourself the “Why” questions too if you’re contemplating going into a new field in midlife. For example:

  • You like to facilitate meetings. Why?
  • You enjoy working with the elderly. Why?
  • You love reading historical fiction. Why?

Why You Should Ask Yourself 'Why?'
Why is asking “Why?” so important?

Simon Sinek, author of the bestselling book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, says every career functions on three levels: What you do, how you do it and why you do it.

Everyone knows what they do and some people know how they do it but very few people understand why they do it.

When you understand why you do what you do – and why you like what you like – it then becomes much easier to target potential careers that align with your personality, motivations and interests.

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Share Your Thoughts!



I have been a More reader for the past 4 or 5 years. Although your articles about a second career and reinventing yourself give great insight on ideas for the second half of an individual's life and career moves, there are still many challenges to face. I am in the middle of one right now. How many of you women are facing the same type of obstacle? Here is my situation in short. I decided to go back to school and graduated with a degree in Biology and graduated in 2004. I immediately found a position and stayed at a lab and had the experience of a lab technician for over 3 1/2 years and found another position at a diagnostic medical company. After nearly two years at this company I left with the hope of finding another position at a hospital. The health/medical field is now regulated and the competition for jobs has decreased due to regulatory and certification requirements. My field now requires a certification by taking a national exam. One problem I am now facing is that the schools I contacted which have a Medical Technologist Program rejected me by telling me my degree is no good and I would have to go to school all over again. My B.A. in Biology is a higher degree than the 2 year certification. Many positions especially Medical Technologist/lab positions which people hold the experience but don't have a certification which was just recently implemented and mandated throughout hospitals, laboratories and doctor's offices throughout the country are losing their jobs. How can one over come this obstacle!!!?? I spent over $25,000 dollars to earn my degree and now schools are telling me to start over is ludicrous. I did not know college degrees have an expiration date attached to them. More Magazine how about doing an article about the new requirements in the medical which will effect everyone whether you are a person in the medical field or a patient waiting for test results. Are there programs for lab technicians to by pass with life experience and take the exam? What about the impact on how this will effect the the speed of results, losing the labor in this workforce where technicians who have been trained but do not hold a certification are losing their jobs. While people like myself who are reinventing themselves are facing a brick wall government regulations are getting in the way. While spending and investing thousands of dollars towards myself and the thousands of hours studying and preparing papers to earn a degree is now null and void. Especially when one earned a degree less than 10 years ago has now had the rug pulled from under me. I would love to read others who are experiencing the same obstacle and how they came over it.

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