Sunday, April 17, 2016

Does Everyone Over 40 Long For a New Career?

One of the first things I noticed upon meeting my new physical therapist was how unhappy he was in his job.  He began his career as a self-employed physical therapist specializing in workman’s comp injuries. His primary client had been a large factory in the Milwaukee area.  His days had been long since he had to cover all three shifts, but the pay was excellent.  Then in the early 2000's the factory was sold. The new owners had stringent business insurance requirements he was unable to meet. His contract was terminated and he was replaced by a large company.  He was offered a job with this company, but declined.  He questioned the educational background of their therapists and the salary he was offered was insulting.

He spent the next year working with his two small remaining accounts and trying to secure new business, but Milwaukee had lost numerous manufacturing facilities since 1986 and the ones who remained were not looking for a physical therapist.  Eventually he closed his business and accepted a position as a staff therapist with a company affiliated with one of the local medical providers. That was where he was working when I met him.

A lot has changed since my therapist graduated in 1986:

Around the end of the 1990's, a bachelor's degree in physical therapy was slowly replaced by master's and doctorate physical therapy degrees. My therapist who holds only an undergraduate degree was grandfathered in. He tells me his company recently hired a new graduate with a master’s degree.  He points to her and tells me she doesn’t know any more than he does.  She earns an annual salary of $55,000 while he currently makes $75,000. He also has a 401(k), is eligible for state unemployment if he finds himself downsized and has medical insurance. He had had none of these while self-employed.

What he doesn’t like about his job:

He always has to be on.  He has to meet and talk to patients all day while his ex-wife who works as a financial analyst can just sit and stare at her computer when she doesn’t feel like working.

He is now billable and has to track his time hourly. He works with 24 different patients at all times.  He has to have vacation time approved in advance. He can’t just take an afternoon off on a nice day or not go in the day after a holiday if he doesn’t feel like it.

He can’t drink a soda while working with a patient. His new company told him this is rude.  To do so he would have to offer them a beverage as well and they are not in the beverage serving business.

His job is boring.

Every day is the same.  Of his 24 patients three of them usually have elbow tendinitis – my affliction. The treatment for tennis elbow is always the same. 

I suggested working with people in their homes; thinking he might enjoy that more.

He said that would be much worse and more boring than his current job.  You then work with the elderly and your job consists of, “See you again on Wednesday Betty be sure to squeeze the bag of beans when I’m gone.” At least in his current job his patients usually get better.

I asked if he had to maintain continuing education. 

He does and he likes doing that, he enjoys learning something new and his employer pays him for his time while he is out of the office.   He then got up and left.  When he returned he said he had just signed up for a day of CPE.

If he could have a do-over what would he do?

He’d be a TV reporter, but at 45 he thinks he is too old for TV.

At our last appointment he said he thinks everyone longs for a career change after age 40. It is hard to know at age 18 what you will make you happy when you are 40. 

As for me, I kind of think I would have preferred a career as a physical therapist rather than as an accounting manager, but I choose accounting, so I am making the best of it. As to everyone, I am sure many people do long for a new career.  I heard my company's President make two comments in the last week about not being happy with his career choice - running the family business.  He is 47 and at one point wanted to be a lawyer or a politician. 

Do you think everyone over 40 longs for a new career?


  1. i think a lot of us do. You're right about how difficult it is at 18 to know what one wants to do. I went to college to get an MRS., and never thought i would have a career, but sometime during junior year the world tilted on its axis and suddenly women needed to be able to DO something. I got a Masters in Educ Counseling and did that for four year, then two as a sales rep, four as a customer trainer, eight as a self-employeed artist, and then 28 years in various positions in HR, finance and administration. None of them ever felt like "home". Now that i'm retired i think i would really have liked to have been a landscape designer, but that career didn't even exist when i was in school. The world is changing so fast and training/education requirements are so much more specific these days. Unfortunately, it means that many people who are currently in mid-career really are stuck, since they would have to start completely over to make any change. Not a good situation. Hope you can continue to find satisfaction where you are, since you are now closer to the end than to the beginning, too.

  2. I do think it's hard to pick a career at 18 and then stick with it for the rest of your life. But, I suppose, like most things, it works for some but not for others :)

  3. Ugh, that's a depressing thought to look forward to. I think we all just have grass is greener on the other side syndrome.