When it comes to career development, the first thing that springs to mind is the pursuit of promotion and progression. We’re immersed in a culture fueled by the desire to advance, elevate our status, and take on more responsibility. Yet, establishing a successful career is only one chapter in our work story.
Recent research has revealed that most people – including those with the most enviable careers – find themselves unhappy at work in their mid-40s. This mid-career crisis occurs when we start to sense a disconnection and misalignment with our chosen path.
Reflected in dwindling enthusiasm or an unsettling inability to focus with the same vigour as before, one common cause is spending too much of your time putting out fires and avoiding bad outcomes, rather than pursuing projects with positive and invigorating value.
Naturally, when people are disenchanted, they begin to question their choices. A loss of passion and purpose drains their energy, giving way to introspection, apathy, and a growing curiosity about what might be.
Unhappy, they face the dilemma of ‘cope or quit’, but the most pivotal step is recognising these signs. A mid-career crisis may feel like you are beyond the point of return, but it is a chapter you can rewrite. It is possible to rediscover your sense of fulfilment and purpose.
Make Time to Feel Good
A negative workplace can harm your mental health. My advice is to create room for other pleasures in your life, for example, reviving an old hobby or taking up a new one. If you love travelling, take a short break and come back refreshed. If you dream of playing the guitar, while it may not seem as important as your job, it can help you to relax, feel a sense of accomplishment, and discover new ways to be happy.
Don’t Forget to Talk
A problem is better shared so talk to those you trust and seek guidance where you can. Having a mentor who has been through it before can help you navigate your way forward. If you feel comfortable, you can also approach your management or HR to share your concerns or express your enthusiasm to work on new projects or teams. Whoever you choose, use their guidance to help you make a concrete plan of action. Setting yourself new goals will also help, but if you feel like making a career change is your only choice, don’t be scared to leap.
Identify the Root Cause
Understanding what is at the crux of your crisis will guide your steps. With this clarity, you can chart a course to overcome the problems. Consider the following areas and how they make you feel:
Your position: Have you outgrown it? How do you feel about your daily tasks? How much responsibility and authority do you have? Is it time to assess whether you need a more challenging environment?
Your colleagues: Sometimes, it’s not the work. Do strained relationships or personality clashes create any problems? If so, it may be time to consider new companions for the next leg of your journey; ones who resonate with your values and aspirations.
The industry: The seemingly relentless churn of the same industry over many years can lead to disenchantment. If your skills are adaptable, consider exploring a new industry that excites you and holds more profound meaning.
The company: Has the passion for your company faded? When you feel the alignment has gone, it may be time to seek a new North Star; one where your passions and principles are met.
An unspoken reality for many people, a mid-career crisis can be hard to identify. The important thing is to keep a balanced perspective and not forget that missing out in some way is unavoidable in life. If you work through these strategies and they are not enough to reunite you with your career, then it may be time to make a change, as midlife is not too late.
Summer is a time of relaxation, a chance to unwind and recharge our batteries. It also offers a rare opportunity to take a moment among the daily demands of work to reflect on our professional path and evaluate where we stand.
In my line of work, I often encounter people who have already decided to seek a new horizon. But let me be clear, taking stock and examining your career doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to move on. In fact, what I am suggesting is simply about taking responsibility and holding yourself accountable for ensuring your ambitions are aligned with your personal goals.
Granted, finding time for introspection amid a busy and contented life is not easy. However, it is precisely during these periods of contentment that we should evaluate our direction and progress to ensure our careers remain fulfilling. Summer gives us the extra time and space needed to reflect on this and our aspirations.
So, where do we begin? Start by asking yourself some fundamental yet pivotal questions. Are you excelling in your field? Does going to work bring you joy? Are you happy with your work-life balance? Do your values align with your colleagues and does your company’s mission still ignite your passion?
Ask yourself when the last time was that you received a performance appraisal or sought feedback from your boss. Can you outline your key objectives for the next 3, 6 and 12 months, or have they evolved since your last discussion with your manager? Being aware of these changes and maintaining open communication is essential, as your line manager will have a significant impact on your future promotion prospects.
Assuming you aspire to continue growing and developing professionally, consider the new skills you’ve acquired over the past year. Are you actively expanding your knowledge base? Are there any courses or support systems available to help your personal and professional growth?
Moreover, when was the last time you refreshed your CV? Keeping an eye on the job market not only reveals enticing opportunities but also ensures you understand your own value – especially if you have remained with a single employer for a significant period.
Even the most exceptional jobs can lose their appeal over time. Sometimes, you do need a change or a fresh challenge to reignite your passion. However, before diving into a job search, make sure you think carefully about your current role, employer, and prospects. And be honest with yourself but remember that work will never rival the joy of spending time with your loved ones, so be realistic and kind to yourself too.
To find genuine happiness, I firmly believe you need to discover a purpose in your work that aligns with your long-term goals. This requires understanding what truly matters to you in life. When your strengths align with this purpose, determining your next steps becomes more natural, and the power to make it happen lies with you.
So, embrace the summer as more than just a season of leisure. Use it to unlock new and exciting career opportunities that match your aspirations. Take charge of your professional journey, and let the sunshine illuminate your path to fulfilment.
This year, instead of merely dreaming of distant shores, why not use this break to embark on a fulfilling journey of self-discovery?
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