Regardless of your age, background or professional accomplishments,
you’ve probably dreamed about a new career at some point.
Midlife is often a time when we reevaluate our goals, aspirations
and what truly matters to us in life.
| Midcareer Crisis ...or...
Have you ever had a midcareer fantasy where you quit your job
and go do something new?
Many executives secretly admit to their coaches that they’re contemplating
midcareer shifts. They may not actively seek change, but they certainly
start imagining it.
Of LinkedIn’s 313 million members, 25%
are active job seekers; 60% are passive job seekers (not proactively
searching for new jobs, but seriously willing to consider viable opportunities).
There’s also been a steady increase in self-employed and temporary
workers over the last two decades. Entrepreneurship may sound lucrative
every time a startup goes public.
Regardless of your age, background or professional accomplishments,
you’ve probably dreamed about a new career at some point. Midlife
is often a time when we reevaluate our goals, aspirations and what
truly matters to us in life.
Signs It’s Time for a New Job” (Harvard Business Review, April
2015), Columbia University Professor Tomas
Chamorro-Premuzic examines what happens to many people at midcareer.
Few of us actually shift to something different. As he explains, complacency
often trumps transformation:
|Humans are naturally prewired to fear and avoid change, even
when we are decidedly unhappy with our current situation. Indeed,
show that people often stay on the job despite having negative
job attitudes, low engagement and failing to identify with the
So at the end of the day, there
is something comforting about the predictability of life: it
makes us feel safe.
Chamorro-Premuzic cites five signs that indicate its time to
seriously consider a career switch:
Yet, who hasn’t experienced these feelings periodically? Do they
mean you’re headed for
- You feel undervalued.
- Youre not learning.
- Youre underperforming.
- Youre just doing it for the money.
- You hate your boss.
a full-fledged midlife or midcareer crisis?
Hearing the phrase “midlife crisis” evokes the cliché of a successful
man, between 40 and 55, who wakes up one day and decides he’s been
chasing all the wrong things: his career, family, wife, car and possessions.
Nothing provides him with the satisfaction he craves. He demands more.
Suddenly, he divorces, changes career or organization, dresses differently,
gets a young girlfriend and buys a red sports car. Years later, he
finds himself with the same unfulfilled yearnings, having metaphorically
changed seats on the Titanic.
Roughly a quarter of Americans report experiencing a midlife crisis,
according to research published in 2000 by Cornell University sociologist
Elaine Wethington. Many who disclaim the notion regard midlife crises
as a lame excuse for behaving immaturely.
The term crisis also contributes to stigmatization, as it suggests
a shock, disruption or loss of control. But the actual data on midlife
experience and the relationship between work and happiness points
to something different: an extended and unpleasant—but manageable—downturn.
The average employee’s job satisfaction deteriorates dramatically
in midlife, according to a British survey conducted by Professor Andrew
Oswald of The University of Warwick.
Midcareer crises are, in fact, a widespread regularity, rather than
a few individuals’ misfortune.
But here’s the good news: In the second half of people’s working lives,
job satisfaction increases again. In many cases, it reaches higher
levels than experienced early in one’s career, essentially forming
a U-shaped curve depicted in the following graph:
|THE HAPPINESS U-CURVE
|An analysis by the Brookings scholars Carol Graham
and Milena Nikolova,
drawing on Gallup polls, shows a clear relationship
between age and well-being
in the United States. Respondents rated their life satisfaction
relative to the
"best possable life" for them, with 0 being
worst and 10 being best.
“Crisis,” The Atlantic, December 2014)
Subsequent research revealed this age-related curve in job satisfaction
is part of a much broader phenomenon. A similar midlife nadir is detectable
in measures of people’s overall life satisfaction and has been found
in more than 50 countries.
The U-curve tells a more accurate tale of what happens midlife and
midcareer. It’s not a story of chaos or disruption, but of a difficult—yet
natural—transition to a new equilibrium.
| In Search of Meaning and Wisdom
Psychologists have not yet determined why people in 50+ industrialized
nations experience midlife crises. It’s certainly a major reason why
executives hire coaches. “What’s next?” is one of life’s most worrisome
questions. A coach can help you reevaluate your cherished convictions,
morals and guiding principles.
Experiencing disappointment doesn’t necessarily mean something is
wrong. It signals that something is missing.
There’s a mental shift at midlife from “time since birth” to “time
left until death.” We begin to feel time is running out and, more
crucially, question whether what drove us in the first half of life
is worthy enough for a fulfilling second half.
Being aware of the pitfalls associated with the midlife experience
can prevent you from committing irreparable errors. If you know you’re
vulnerable to doubts, anxieties and mood swings, you can stop yourself
from storming out of a meeting or acting out of desperation.
Consider retaining a professional coach to guide you through self-examination
and reflection on what truly matters most to you. The process often
entails reconnecting you to what you love about your life and career.
Clinging to the status quo may, on the surface, appear to be a safer,
more mature choice. Nothing could be further from the truth. Redoubling
your efforts to achieve happiness based on what drove you in the first
half of life is foolish.
In the second half of life, facing our failures and losses facilitates
course corrections. We are rewarded with deeper, more fulfilling life
and career experiences. Avoiding life’s natural progressions prevents
you from broadening consciousness and becoming your authentic self.
Midcareer is a time to examine regrets and accept mistakes. A coach
can help you turn failures into meaningful learning opportunities.
You won’t need to bury bad memories. Greater self-acceptance opens
Unfortunately, most of us work so hard to obtain an identity that
it becomes very hard to let it go. What worked earlier in your career
is nearly always inadequate to meet the challenges of your mature
years, as Marshall Goldsmith proved in What Got You Here Won’t Get
You There (Hachette Books, 2007).
Acknowledging midcareer dissatisfaction opens a window to exploring
- What steps must I take to transition to the next stage of my
- Can I give myself permission to explore new paths?
- How does fear keep me in a reactive stance, constrained by outmoded
- Am I content to live partially, or am I ready and willing to
explore new ways of thinking and feeling?
- Can I gather the energy needed to realize my unlived potential?
- How can I take one small step?
Midcareer is a time to examine
regrets and accept mistakes. A coach can help you turn failures
into meaningful learning opportunities. If you know someone who
would like to start 2016 with a coach, please give them my contact
information. I would love to help them find a good coach.
forward this Newsletter to one of your friends.
Invite them to become a Newsletter Subscriber,
by going to my and signing up.