Many of the women I work with are mid-career and are asking big questions about what's next. They're high achievers, but their engagement is waning, and they are looking for a change. Even with this track record of success, they find themselves looking around, asking, "is this it?"
How can a career that previously brought so much pride, challenge and satisfaction feel so unattractive?
Welcome to the mid-career meltdown. Many of us are considering what happiness looks like, questioning what we value, asking if this is what we want to be doing, and what we wish the next season of our life to look like. Women tell me they have a career by default and not by design.
Something seems to happen to us mid-career. Our values change; what we used to want no longer serves us.
Boredom is a symptom of growth not, failure.
I placed a lot of value on job security and career growth opportunities. Now, I want more flexibility, more autonomy, making an impact that aligns with the vision and values I hold dear.
Over time our values gradually shift, influenced by life's experiences such as marriages, children, bereavement, divorce, illness, redundancy and personal achievements and growth. The shift happens gradually, then suddenly.
It goes unnoticed, and over time the gap between our goals and what we now value most in our lives keeps widening until suddenly, somewhere around midlife, we are confronted with a mismatch between the two.
It's confusing, unsettling, and leaves many craving for more meaning and fulfillment from their career.
Too often, I see women settling for the status quo, wishing and hoping that things will change, but they never do. Perhaps it is the fear of change, but more often than not, I believe most stay put because they haven't yet figured out their plan "B."
Coming up with a plan "B" can be seen as confronting and overwhelming…. Or it can be seen as an exciting fresh start. You get to choose! Given that you have about 20 more years of employment ahead of you… let's choose to see this as an exciting time of transition, a second chance, a joyous new beginning.
You may be surprised to learn that when researchers asked people over 65 to pick an age, they would most like to return to, most chose their 40's. So let's make the most of this time and make these years some of our happiest and most rewarding.
Here are some things to think about if you are heading towards a mid-career crisis.
- If you could wave a magic wand and create the next phase of your career just the way you want, what would you include? Think about what motivates and energizes you.
- What do you value most (e.g., time with your family, personal growth, health and wellbeing, being seen as a leader in your field etc.) Consider how your career and life choices reflect your values and how you can address them if there is a mismatch.
- What are the parts of your current role that you enjoy? Are there ways to incorporate more of this into your everyday life?
- What have you dreamed of doing but never dared to try?
- Ask yourself, if not now, when?
- Imagine exploring and creating a lifestyle that meets your needs then thinking about how work fits this.
- What stories are you telling yourself that stand between you and the next phase of your career?
- How would you feel if nothing was to have changed… one year from now?
So if you recognize that perhaps you are heading towards a "mid-career meltdown," then the first place to start is to look upon this time in a positive light. See this time as an opportunity to reassess where you have come from, where you are now and where you could go next.
Maybe it's time to invest in you and take some time out to create the next phase of your career.
If you know something needs to change, let's talk.