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Jumpers vs. Clingers at Midlife

Over the years, I have identified two kinds of midlife career changers: Jumpers and Clingers.

Jumpers thrive on energy, enthusiasm and improbable luck. The last three times they leaped, a net appeared. They see no reason why the next jump should be any different.

Clingers thrive on careers that offer security, money and identity. When they outgrow their careers, or find themselves forced out, they feel lost. They can't remember the last time they found themselves in this position.

Coaching jumpers and clingers for career change

Jumpers call a coach when they are ready to find a new mountain. Suggest a destination and they ask, "Where is it?" Often they've made another leap before the coach realizes what is going on.

Clingers call a coach when they find themselves lost in the jungle. They ask, "How do I know if I've made the right decision?" and, "How can I find security?" They hold out a one-way ticket, asking, "How do I change to a round trip?"

Jumpers have learned to accept that sinking-feeling-in-the-gut as they leap off the mountain. Climbers are not used to feeling edgy. They don't want a roadmap; they want a hotel reservation, preferably chosen from a listing in the auto club book.

Career change lessons for jumpers and clingers

Both Jumpers and Clingers face a new reality. Even the bravest Jumper can run out of luck. Choose the wrong mountain and the net never appears. And in the twenty-first century, Clingers must create their own security.

Jumpers must stop at the edge of the mountain, before the point of no return. "Does this feel right?" they have to ask. "Should I look first this time, to see if the net really exists? Or maybe instead of leaping it's time to climb down more carefully, one ledge at a time."

Clingers also have to ask, "Does this feel right?" Like Jumpers, they must look for safety nets. They learn to read maps and differentiate between dangerous potholes and afternoon shadows. And when they can't get a guaranteed hotel reservation, they learn to make a contingency plan to avoid sleeping in the park.

Jumpers learn to walk where they used to run. Clingers learn to walk where they used to ride.
Most people will combine the qualities of jumpers and clingers, but you can save a lot of grief by knowing your prevailing style. Jumpers need guides who say, "Stop! Think!" Clingers need guides who motivate them to go. Over-motivated jumpers become daredevils; over-planned clingers lose momentum.

Disasters and Victories

Both jumpers and clingers face disaster. Jumpers leap into icy water or treacherous rocks. Clingers find their once-secure shelter has been blown over by a hurricane.

Jumpers bring energy and daring to a new venture; clingers bring planning skills and a track record of past accomplishment. Ultimately, both achieve success by recognizing their own operational styles and using their own strengths to survive and thrive in new terrain.

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast move to career freedom. Visit her site http://www.movinglady.com or call 505-534-4294.


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Career and life transition