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.
I’m a big believer in the importance of continuous development and the phrase “anyone who claims they know all the answers doesn’t really know very much at all”…