Renewing Your Career at Mid-Life
By Gerald Walsh ©
At mid-career, you may begin to wonder if you are in the right job, and contemplate “Is this all there is?”
As you think back over your career, you may recall the plans you had about making a difference in people’s lives—doing work that had real purpose.
But that was before “life” happened: kids, mortgages, marriages, obligations.
Making money may have been very important to you at one time but you now find it is less of a motivator. You shake your head in disbelief when you think about the crummy jobs you took (or stayed in) because of the money.
You may begin to question why you spent so much time on career advancement—building those marketable skills needed to get better jobs and promotions. For what? Where did it get you?
Now, you spend most of your time dreaming about doing something else—a job that would be fun. Staying in the same job for another fifteen or twenty years feels like a prison sentence.
What you’re really feeling is: boredom, exhaustion and restlessness.
What should you do?
- The first thing to remember is that you are not alone. Many people feel a level of discontentment at mid-career. Midlife is often the time when thoughts of our own mortality begin to creep in. Significant career growth from this point on is unlikely and we begin to realize that time is finite.
- Try to isolate the real source of your discontentment. Is it your organization or your job? Is it your boss or co-workers? Is it your long hours? Do you need more purpose in your work? Or do you simply feel like you need a change?
- Take personality and aptitude tests to understand yourself better. These tests will help you identify skills, strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and interests and could suggest career possibilities you might not have thought were possible before. Strengths Finder by Gallup is a good tool to use.
- Consider making small changes in your current job. Before looking for a new job, consider how you might change your own circumstances. A different work arrangement, a more flexible schedule, or added help, might be all you need to feel rejuvenated.
- Develop a list of the most important things you need in a job to be fulfilled. This is always a fun exercise. Consider these items and rank them from most important to least important.
Status and title
Opportunity to learn new things
Type of work
Scope of responsibility
Opportunity for advancement
- List the transferable skills you could apply in another job. Yes, the thought of making an actual job change is intimidating. But you have a lot of skills to offer others. Many people make successful transitions into very different jobs by identifying and marketing their transferable skills: salespeople become fundraisers; corporate managers become not-for-profit executive directors; and lawyers become teachers. A career coach can help here.
- Create a list of jobs you would love to do—assuming money was not an obstacle. For sure, this activity might seem impractical at first. The thought of giving up steady income, nice benefits and job security is frightening. But it will help you to isolate characteristics of a job that excite you.
- Finally, seek advice from experts in a field you are considering. Contrary to what you might think, you will find that people are willing to share their thoughts and opinions on your career options. Their advice could be invaluable.
Final thought. If you are mid-career and feeling bored, exhausted and restless, my recommendation to you is to explore your options and determine if you can make a move. You only have one career—and it is short—so make the most of it.
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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.