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Navigating a Mid-Career Crisis to Professional and Personal Success
Changing your profession mid-career doesn’t have to be a crisis.
There are times where it seems like it is impossible to continue in the same career path that you chose, and which you once felt certain would see you through to retirement. Different types of reasons can lead a person into not feeling like they have the energy or determination to carry on in a path that they once felt certain about but continue to do so because they cannot see another way forward. This inevitably leads to burnout and can have negative consequences for the person beyond just impacting on their career. This article will focus on the causes of a mid-career crisis and list practical advice which has been deemed effective by experts in the field.
What is a Mid-Career Crisis?
When you find yourself questioning whether the career you worked hard for and built up over years is all there is to life and begin to feel like it is draining you of any desire to continue, this is a clear sign that you are having a mid-career crisis. If you find that you are no longer interested in the career path that you chose years ago, and find you really do not have the desire to continue, it is time to think about what options exist to change your career and how to negotiate your way through an effective change.
How to Negotiate a Way Through a Mid-Career Crisis
By taking advice from people who have focused on this subject, it will allow you to form a plan of action without feeling unsure about the steps you are taking. If you decide on your own what you plan to do to overcome a mid-career crisis, you might not feel the confidence in believing in yourself in that new path. By reading and considering advice that has been given to people in your shoes, it will help to back up your belief in your ability to make a change.
Best-selling author, productivity and life hacker, Tim Ferriss has written in the past about the mid-career crisis that he felt after writing his 5th book. He looked to what he thought was fun and what he had been doing to entertain himself and thought about how he could make a career from that. It was through his realisation that he liked to talk that he decided to create a podcast, the Tim Ferriss show, which now boasts over 200 million downloads . At the outset Ferriss decided to start small, committing to 6 podcasts for gaining better communication skills. Creating a podcast was something that he thought of doing for over two years previously. Advice that he took on himself included not overthinking things and figure things out as they went on, without a good predetermined plan. He advises having fun and being yourself as the way forward in any mid-career crisis and using what you like to may a living from so you can be sure to enjoy your career.
Design thinking is when design principles are applied to strategy and innovation, and such a contemporary approach may also be of benefit to people who feel they fall into this category of needing to do something new for a career.
Early psychoanalytic advice on midlife crisis were posited by Jacques and Levinson but in modern times many analysts have tried to prove their ideas through empirical evidence and not had much luck. What has been found is that a mid-life crisis can result from any number of things and career disillusionment is listed as one factor that can have a result in some people of having a mid-life career crisis.
Design thinking is when design principles are applied to strategy and innovation, and such a contemporary approach may also be of benefit to people who feel they fall into this category of needing to do something new for a career. Dave Evans and Bill Burnett wrote a book called ‘Design Your Life’, which gave advice on how to apply design thinking to personal problems including career problems. One popular principle that was described in the book was making yourself a guinea pig and giving yourself cheap mini-experiments. With regard to a career crisis, the authors noted that because you don’t know what to do about it, the idea of conducting mini-experiments to find out is a practical solution. This is considered a good strategy to ‘build your way forward’ and is good for people that are starting with a blank slate. The book contained a few recommended steps to follow which are outlined below.
The first step in creating the mini-experiment is to track your energising, engaging and joyful activities in a journal which ideally covers three to four weeks of time. In that you will write all the activities that you feel fulfillment from and can be anything at all, from spending time with people to writing. Then you should measure the activities you listed against 3 different factors; whether they give you energy when you do it, whether they help you become absorbed and engaged and whether you become happier after doing it
Step 2 is concentrating on jobs that contain these activities. You should brainstorm and make a list of all the careers that involve these activities, or industries that you know these things are found in. You will then have created your own short list of interesting careers which will engage you, and you can start to see which of those careers have an opening in your area.
The third step is to brainstorm and make a list of all the relevant skills that are needed in those careers and create mini-experiments to hone those skills if you are lacking in them. Since you are not just starting out on a career path you will have transferable skills, such as technical knowledge or leadership ability. It is recommended to assess the skills you have and decide which are still required for your new path to develop. These mini-experiments should be possible to do during the time you still hold your current job so that you don’t leave yourself with no career at all before you choose your new path.
This could be through taking on contract roles with clients in your new path, or a part-time role that you can work during your off hours. You might be able to find an apprenticeship or a volunteer role which would help in this regard. This step will enable you to solidify your practical experience and will give you leverage when applying for your new role, as well as give you the insight to determine if you are correct about your interest in that field.
The next step would be to measure which experiment had the best result. You must consider how you felt during each activity and which one made you feel the best about yourself. When you find that you are happy at work it can be an indication that you are doing the best you can with your skills. Being happy to do a job will make you more desirable to any future employer who you might apply to for that role.
The final step is to decide on a career course and to correct the path along the way if necessary. After experimenting with different career paths, you will be able to decide which you feel is best and start on that path. It is worth remembering that you can always adjust your path by either working up through a company, changing the company you work for, or deciding to freelance and contract your services ongoing.
Many people find themselves in the situation of having a mid-career crisis, and there are steps which have proven successful for others who changed careers. While you might not know what career path you would prefer, you do know that you don’t want to stick to the one that you are on. You should consider what does make you happy and try different things while you are still in a comfortable position of being employed and bringing in money. To make a change that isn’t dependent upon making ends meet, timing is everything. By trying out new paths while you still have an income coming in, you create the potential for choosing a career path that is right for you and will make you happy, instead of taking any job just to pay the bills. By following the advice in this article, you will be able to hone in on the path that you will be the happiest on and which has a potential to employ you into the future.
*This article appeared in the June issue of Accountancy Ireland.
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