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Friday, March 15, 2019

How to Manage Your Mid-life Career Transition

On January 26, 2019, CEIBS hosted a career development session called How to Manage Your Mid-Life Career Transition. The event attracted numerous CEIBS Global EMBA and MBA alumni as well as current students, all determined to continue their professional development in a positive manner.

Lucy Lei, Executive Coach/Consultant from Eric Salmon & Partners and one of three guest speakers at the event, stated that while many non-Chinese experience their mid-life crises at around 45 years old, many Chinese experience it as much as 10 years earlier. Lucy has, in fact, experienced it herself.

Lucy lived and worked overseas for a number of years. Throughout her corporate life, she worked extremely hard to get a top management role. However, as time went by, she was no longer as passionate as she had once been as a result of decreased leisure time and an ever growing to-do list.

“I don’t want to be as successful as you, because you have no time for any hobbies,” her daughter once told to her.

"Sometimes, I really wish you would lose your job!” her husband said.

Only after she got ill and had to be taken to the hospital did Lucy finally stop. She picked up hobbies such as hiking and reading and, through reflection and transformation, she began to lead a completely different life.

Mr. Gao Teng, Global EMBA alumni from 2012, also shared his career experience. His experience, in comparison with Lucy, was much more fortunate. Leveraging his technical background as a scientist, he successfully transitioned from a Western company to become the CSO of a Chinese state-owned enterprise.

Nevertheless, the smooth transformation he experienced was initially unexpected and very "passive." He explained, “My team in the previous company was like a big family. Most of the members cooperated with one another focusing on research and development — sometimes it even felt like being at a university.”

Then, one day a big change arrived. Management radically reformed the company by merging with other companies. The business philosophy and operation model were no longer what they used to be and employees had to bear significantly more pressure.

Teng said, “The change made me doubt what security meant for me. I had never thought about before. It forced me out of my comfort zone and to come up with ideas to make changes – this is what mid-life transition has brought to me!"

According to Nancy Zhang, an entrepreneurial senior consultant and an executive coach, the decision-making changes in life often derive from two variables: gain & pain. When the gains (including but not limited to money) or the pains change to a large extent, people will instinctively make changes and seek transformation.

“Looking back on the past, do you regret what you have done or what you didn’t do?” she asked the audience. She then pointed out that, based on research, most people will regret what they didn’t do.

At the same time, people are often prompted to change, not only by their environment externally, but also by internal factors such as personal values and drive. “It is a sandwich model – the upper part is the influence of one’s environment, the foundation lies in self-esteem, so the response to changes is in the middle,” Nancy said. “To this extent, to stop at the right time and keep on reflecting will help you make the best choices in the face of uncertainty."

Lucy also suggested that those who might be confronted with a potential mid-life crisis make changes in a proactive rather than a passive way. Passive changes by accident are more likely to bring about negative emotions, while active transformation can protect one’s psychology and can lead to a strong sense of accomplishment and security.

As per Teng and Nancy’s advice, it is of crucial importance to maintain a certain distance from your current professional life, no matter how busy you are. For example, it helps to invite friends for coffee without any discussion of business or work topics.

“More importantly, if one can find a real hobby prior to the age of 40, one will have more opportunities to start a new life.”

How to Manage Your Mid-Life Career Transition was the first alumni career support event organised by the CEIBS Career Development Center (CDC) in 2019. CEIBS now provides several events throughout the year for alumni of Global EMBA who are looking for ways to further boost their career after graduation.

About CDC
As the first career development center in mainland China, the CEIBS MBA Career Development Center (CDC) has evolved into a platform that provides guidance to students regarding their career planning, job searching and networking skills, and connects students with different channels/resources with the ultimate goal of landing them in careers that are in line with their long term careers and life aspirations. Since August 2018, CDC has also started to provide career support to GEMBA alumni up to five years after graduation. With the most valuable and extensive business network in China, the CDC team has strong connections with the business world and the CEIBS alumni network and is striving to bring more career opportunities, organize career event/workshops and provide career coaching/mentoring support.