A funny thing happened on the way to your job — you found yourself mired in a mid-career crisis. But the good news is you’re not alone. Like its reliable first cousin, the midlife crisis, a major career dilemma is common and practically expected. Indeed, it’s probably something you can count on.
Instead of trying to avoid a mid-career crisis, consider the benefits of being prepared for one. Many experts agree that a mid-career crisis can even be helpful. Follow these proven tips for getting through yours:
- Ignore your age. Some people experience a crisis in their early thirties while others don’t encounter this career quandary until their fifties. Rather than become mired in how old you are when it strikes, focus instead on the experience that you’ve gained along the way.
- Write it down. You might have heard this advice a hundred times before, but until you try this exercise you can’t know its benefits. Here is one constructive exercise: Write down what you’ve enjoyed about your career in one column and what you could’ve done without in another column. This will allow you to see very clearly what’s made you happy and what’s been less than satisfying. Seeing your words in print also gives them more credence and validity. Write down your short- and long-term goals. Moreover, it can be extremely advantageous to create a description of your ideal job. You may not land the perfect one, but you could come pretty close.
- Go back to school. If you’re like a lot of people, finishing up school might have been the highlight of your life. Yet stepping back into the classroom could be the perfect antidote to the mid-career crisis. Continuing your education doesn’t necessarily involve cramming for finals and writing research papers into the night. Going back to school — whether it’s a one-time computer workshop or a semester-long course in accounting — will expand your knowledge, tap into your interests, and foster new relationships. No one is ever finished with learning, and by opening yourself up to new concepts you’re more likely to have the information you need to get through your career dilemma.
- Research. Online career sites provide extensive information on career education, planning, and testing. Books and audiotapes abound as well. The challenge, of course, is to make time to conduct the research. Commit yourself to a few hours a week. Schedule the time on your calendar as you would for any appointment; that way, you’ll be less likely to put it off. Be open minded, too. You may stumble upon some information that at first glance doesn’t seem right for you. With a little more digging, however, you might find that you’ve discovered your next career or, at the very least, found an interim solution.
- Know when it’s time to go. Deciding that it’s time to leave your employer is never easy. Those first inklings and those that flash periodically — “Am I in the right place? Do I need to leave?” — are tough to contend with. Still, these questions are important starting points and shouldn’t be ignored. Follow this inquisitive streak and ask yourself some difficult questions: “Am I feeling unhappy about my job? Am I daydreaming more than ever about something else I’d rather be doing? Do I hate Mondays more than usual? How would I feel if I just hurled this computer out the window?” Answering these questions honestly might very well lead you to the conclusion that you are, indeed, in the midst of a mid-career crisis and must therefore do something about it.
- Make necessary adjustments. You may determine that it’s not a new job you need but rather a few adjustments to the one you already have. Reinvigorating your work life may seem more daunting than just starting from scratch, but if you make some concrete changes it could mean the difference between enjoying your job and dreading it. Do you feel stuck? If so, consider the available options in other parts of your organization. Broach the subject with your supervisor, but temper your dissatisfaction. Your boss will be more receptive to your requests and needs if you focus on your desire to stretch and grow and downplay any complaints. Ask about other opportunities, find out if you can swap assignments with a colleague, think of ways you might expand the roles and responsibilities of your current job, and remain open to suggestions that your boss might raise.