Career Change Means Identity Change

Why the focus on career change?

Because The Autumnal Man (roughly 37-56 years of age) is defined by his work.

The first question someone asks when we meet for the first time is, “What do you do?” Every single one of us has experienced this.

In the eyes of others, our work is our identity. Ponder that.

It 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.

Before we get to that though….

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.

What is it about men and career change?
Or men and lifestyle changes?
How we deal with disappointment and loss?
Or our reluctance to just wander, to follow our feet…..?

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.
You direct the horses.

I learn by going where I have to go

….said Theodore Roethke

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

Career Change: an Umbrella Term

The Autumnal Man is so tightly defined by his work that “career change” is really a overarching term for all the change going on his life.

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 a career change is more than a change of occupation, it is a change of identity. That change of identity is particularly strong during the Autumn. The leaves change colour, the harvest is 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. And disappointment may become a companion.

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 their 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?


We do this through:

  • Alcohol
  • Sex / Porn
  • Drugs
  • Work

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.

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