Mid-life Career Blues!
Met a former colleague last evening; it was raining in Cochin and temperatures had dropped. Our thoughts gravitated towards something to warm us up … and there was a convenient watering-hole nearby. After we settled down with a bracing drink in hand the conversation veered towards work.
“Boss, I have been thinking about a change for a while now; when I suggested this meeting the idea was to discuss a few things with you.”
“What’s the rush? You have been in this job for just 2 years and I would guess that things are going pretty much okay” I said.
“There is nothing wrong as of now. Things are going smooth – but that is my problem. It’s just too smooth. There is no excitement in what I am doing now. To make things worse there was a change in leadership and the new Head hardly interacts with me. He just tells me to do the usual. The previous man used to call me in for discussions regularly and if there was a lull in my main activity he would ask me to tag along with one of his Junior Managers for some on-the-job training. That was nothing great but there was variety, a break from the drab routine. Now I hardly have to think; am just whiling away my time.”
Career Stall … This happens to many professionals.
- They fall into a rut
- Work stop being energising and challenging
- They find no meaning in what they are doing
- They are convinced that there is no further upside in their present pursuit
- They feel ignored and sidelined
- They fall sick or feel demotivated – reasons to avoid going to work!
This usually happens to professionals who have not been able to reach the levels they had set for themselves earlier. At the same time they see former peers now working at levels above them. And their present job has become monotonous. It’s a self-damning cycle fuelled by one’s own imagination.
How does one come out of this rut, this downward spiraling cycle?
There are two ways to tackle this – either by recalibrating and pushing for more from your present line of activity (low risk) or by find a totally new line (high risk).
- Assess your priorities
- Set goals – maybe after studying options available in the market
- Do a SWOT analysis for yourself
- Find out what’s needed to plug gaps in your portfolio – get re-equipped
- Maybe you need a Coach or Mentor to guide you during this phase
- Be bold and decisive about making the change
- Network and speak with people about your requirement – be assertive!
- Keep yourself in the limelight and get noticed when there are promotions planned
- Be on the lookout for opportunities in other organisations
This is the riskier option – like they say in TV Series Startrek “Going places where no man has ever gone before!” It’s definitely a place where you have never gone before.
This is like trying your Option-B first. It should be an area that has interested you greatly – you are in Sales and wish to become a full-time Musician. Maybe you have been pursuing this line as a hobby (you sang at parties, did couple of gigs with other friends at a local club) and some close friend of yours is in that line of activity and doing well.
I wouldn’t recommend this unless you have proven strengths in the new line of activity or have someone who will actively promote you.
Remember that others have their own lives and careers to pursue and they may not have time for you. There are friends or business associates who promise “in blood” that their support will always be there with you and would disappear when it’s time to pitch in. So do not jump in blindly! Do it if you have the personal financial back-up or an assurance of support from your immediate family – it will be amazing if you have a spouse who is working and can temporarily help in tiding over the period of reduced income. After all the bills will not stop coming just because you decided to make a career change. Companies don’t work that way, unfortunately.
I recommend the following strategy:
- Be absolutely sure what line you want to pursue next.
- Practice the new activity while you are still in your job.
- Get assignments that you can do on weekends or by taking time-off from work
- If you can get paid assignments it would be a great confidence booster
- Create a portfolio or a body of work that can be showcased
- Get recommended by the leading voices in that field
- Get trained or coached to become a competent practitioner of that skill
- Decide to quit your job only when you have a regular set of clients
- Minimise your risk by reducing your financial commitments
- Having a nest-egg will be a definite plus – reduces stress.
Mid-career blues happens to most professionals – it impacts the hot-shots as much as it impacts the average ones. It could be due to unhappiness with the current job, a loss of self-worth or a feeling of being stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Stop yourself from plunging headlong into desperation and doomsday scenarios by constantly upgrading yourself, getting involving in interesting assignments, making your a valuable resource. Think and behave like a high-flyer.
During this phase it is important to surround yourself with people who help you focus on the positives and for you to have implicit belief in your capabilities!
Keep the engines of your professional life revved all the time – never permit it to shut down and get you into Career Stall!
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