From The Straits Times    |

Got a personal dilemma that’s stressing you out? In Dear Therapist, trauma expert Natalia Rachel untangles your knottiest issues and answers your burning questions about life, love, and everything in between. If you have a question, you can email us at or slide into our DMs at @herworldsingapore on Instagram.

Dear Therapist,

Is it too late for me to make a career switch at the age of 40? I have been torn with this decision for at least two years, even before the pandemic took its toll.

I have been in my current organisation for 18 years – I have a stable income and have attained personal growth and achievements. The push factors are high but economic uncertainty is the main/biggest concern I have. I would love to take the leap of faith, but I am afraid of failure.

From, Career Curious

Dear Career Curious,

As we approach mid-life it is natural to start dreaming and desiring new experiences. When it comes to considering a career change, we can often go against our desires because of a few key reasons:

  1. We are safe and comfortable where we are
  2. We are afraid of the challenges that come with beginning again, as well as potential failure
  3. We are worried that we won’t be able to maintain financial stability
  4. We know we want a change but we don’t know what change we want (yet).

Let’s break each of these down:

Safe space can become cages

While it’s wonderful to feel safe and secure in our career, if we are not being challenged, developed, or simply no longer feel a spark for what we are doing, the safety and security can end up feeling oppressive and stagnant. As humans, we are primed for evolution, learning and growth. Desiring this from our career is a healthy valid experience. Ask yourself ‘Am I ready to learn, grow and be challenged?’ If the answer is yes, a career change may be just the thing you are looking for.

Failure freaks us out

We live in a world where we have been primed for success, and status, and the desire to win. This can make us fearful of failure and not being good enough, and it freezes us in our tracks. The greatest reframe we can offer ourselves is to learn that there is no such thing as failure. There are simply opportunities to learn, grow and continue to evolve. Sure, some of our endeavours may not work out, or they may fall apart of cause temporary distress.

But when we come out the other end, we will move towards new opportunities, wiser and more resilient than before. Life is a series of pivots and if we embrace our natural impulse to pivot, rather than resist our nature and walk a stoic straight line, we will learn to dance with life, rather than freak out about potential failure. Ask yourself ‘What is the absolute worst thing that can happen? And if that thing happened, how would I navigate it?’ If you’re confident you can get through the ‘failure’, then you’re ready to pivot and prance towards what’s next.

Get clear about your finances

We all need to support ourselves. So worrying about financial instability amidst a career change is a very real and valid experience. The best way to get through this is to spend time financial forecasting for best and worst case scenarios. Consider if there will be a pause or reduction in income, and whether you’ll be able to meet your expenses.

If you have a partner or family that will be able to support you through this period, have a chat with them to learn what kind of support is available and the conditions and boundaries that come with it. If the numbers are not making sense right now, consider what you’d need to do to plan for a financially stable career change in the not-too-distant future. This could include saving, changes in lifestyle or starting a side hustle to boost your funds.

Recent years have taught us that the world can change in a split second and jobs can come and go. Becoming financially stable and empowered is an important type of self-care, regardless of planning for a career change. If numbers and money confuse or scare you, consider skilling up with a money-mind-set coach or online education. There are some great programmes around that will help you feel confident with your planning.

Find a full body yes

Changing careers is a big commitment and before we take the leap we want to feel a ‘Full body yes’. A full body yes is a strong instinct that says ‘yes! This is the thing for me. It makes my spirit tingle with possibility.’

If you’re not yet feeling compelled to anything specific, it’s time to get curious and begin dipping your toes into various areas. This may look like taking short courses, doing some volunteering, shadowing someone that inspires you, or attending open seminars and arranging coffee meets with people who work in fields that interest you.

As you open your mind and expand your horizon, you’ll start to feel more in tune with what interests you and what doesn’t. Keep listening to your inner voice that says ‘No, this isn’t for me’ or ‘Yes, this feels exciting’. You may also want to watch out for a potential part of yourself that tries to talk you out of what feels exciting and refer to point 2 above! Take away the pressure, embrace the playfulness of the journey and watch out for the ‘full body yes’ that arises when you’ve found the path that is calling you.

Sending you a wave of support as you get creative and write your next chapter.

Natalia Rachel

Natalia Rachel is the founder of Illuma Health, author of Why Am I Like This, and a trauma expert

Disclaimer: The Dear Therapist column is for informational purposes only. The advice given does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.