By Sawan Kapoor,
Research shows that many working professionals, even those with evidently enviable careers can often grow dissatisfied with their jobs in their mid – forties. They may regret past choices such as the road not taken, or feel they are stuck in a rut thinking, “Is this all there is to the rest of my working career”?
So why do people experience a mid-life career crisis?
The number one reason for working professionals experiencing a mid-life career crisis is because they get disconnected with their work. This happens most to professionals who choose a line of work that is not their true calling. This is called being in a misaligned career. Put another way, ‘I’m in the wrong industry or job, now what?’ And in figuring out what to do next is where this regret begins to seep in causing the mid-life career crisis.
A full three to four decades-long career has six distinct stages. The first stage of one’s career also presents the highest possibility of getting misaligned. This first stage is known as the aspiration stage and this stage typically occurs at the time of you receiving your higher education, your college degree. This stage is one where deep introspection is required to understand what you want to engage with in terms of the industry or role or function that you want to take up. Youngsters who are about to come into the workforce must take the time to work on their personal awareness. If they do not conduct the needed introspection they can often fall prey to making a career choice that is not aligned with who they are. They may have chosen their career out of parental, societal or peer pressure wanting to emulate examples of success that don’t resonate with their individuality. Further stages of one’s career then only compound the problem, deepening their dissatisfaction. Since professionals spend the majority of their waking hours on the job, this is not to be taken lightly. Fundamentally it will impact a huge part of the quality of life that you will experience.
A second reason why a mid-life career crisis occurs is due to unrealised career goals. The expectation one has of progress may not have been met. Comparing one’s self to peers often is a root cause behind this second reason. A professional may well have expectations in terms of designation, salary, scope, learning and the responsibility at which their career allows them to engage with the working world. When these expectations remain unmet, they often tip over into experiencing a mid-life career crisis. By this time, the reality of family responsibilities, the lack of time, and the burden of work can make it near impossible to emerge from this catch twenty-two, i.e. I need the job to drive the economic engine of my life, and I have no interest in the job.
The signs of a mid-life career crisis
A mid-life career crisis manifests itself with clear symptoms that begin to show up in multiple areas of one’s existence. This includes one’s mental health, one’s psychological balances, disturbances to one’s emotional state, one’s physiology, relationships and more. These signs may include a lack of motivation, a hit to one’s self confidence, and being devoid of joy with one’s work. It may also show in other ways such a begrudging behaviour with new hires, customers, suppliers and other third party service providers. It impacts an individual’s attitude, and a bad attitude is like a flat tire… if you don’t change it, you are going nowhere! A mid-life career crisis can also make one feel chronically tired, the endorphins that fire due to the joy of making progress and feeling accomplished have now stopped firing and it leads to feeling these symptoms physically. This further bleeds into mistreating others who have done nothing to deserve such treatment.
How can one deal with a mid-life career crisis?
A working professional must realise that when they are hit with a mid-life career crisis they are in all likelihood experiencing this for the first time. The road ahead is unknown and it is this unknown that can put us in an inappropriate mindset to be able to deal with what we are experiencing. In addition to this being something one may not have dealt with before, the anxiety that it can give rise to further complicates the problem and can make one even less prepared to deal with the onslaught of feelings and emotions that a mid-life career crisis can trigger. And in many cases it leads to odd behaviours and even to “quiet quitting”. Quiet quitting means doing only the bare minimum that your job demands so that you stay employed and that too is done begrudgingly. People who withdraw in this manner take no initiative, shy away from responsibilities and try to stay strictly within the boundaries of one’s job responsibilities so that no one can openly point a finger at them. The problem with quiet quitting is that it doesn’t stay quiet.
And therefore the best way to deal with a mid-life career crisis is to engage a career coach. Firstly, a career coach can help you diagnose this problem by creating an understanding of why this is happening. When we understand where the imbalance is coming from it allows us to develop a meaningful roadmap to be able to emerge from the problem.
Secondly, a career coach will address not just the unsuitable career steps you may have taken for this problem to have developed in the first place, but they will also help you address your personal development to be able to deal with walking the journey to come out of this foggy mindset. In essence they will address your personality, your self – awareness, your alignment with your purpose and why you get out of bed each morning, as well as the customised career strategies you now need to adopt to put this behind you.
In order to do that a career coach will address four critical windows into who you are, namely:
(a) your open self, i.e. aspects of you that are known to you and to others alike, (b) your blind self, i.e. aspects of your personality not known to you but visible to others, (c) your hidden self, i.e. aspects of yourself that you hide from the world so they are known to you but not to others, and lastly, (d) your unknown self, aspects of your personality not known to you and not known to others. They bring the needed remedies to these four windows of who you are to get you back on track, both personally and professionally.
Once they are able to address these factors and create alignment between what you are passionate about that you do really well, that the world needs, and that which you can be paid for, they help you create a practical roadmap to go after it in a way where you do not have to start at the very beginning again. In essence, they help you transition to a career full of meaning where you earn the financial rewards you are capable of through merited contributions, and at the same time enjoy a work-life balance that fits into the grand scheme of things with regard to your life.
(The author is a career coach. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)