Careers advice

How do you deal with a mid-career crisis?

A mid-career crisis can strike when you least expect. Here’s how to counter it.

Little things can spark a mid-career crisis – a conversation with a peer, an online article or just the daily grind of a repetitive role.

For some, these experiences can lead to drastic, spontaneous action – quitting a job and looking for something more satisfying. For others, there might not seem like anything to do except grin and bear it.

In reality, neither of these approaches are healthy. The good news? We’re here to help you identify if you really are suffering from a mid career crisis, and suggest some ways to tackle it.

A lot of people go through mid-career crises, the key is knowing how to tackle yours.

What is a mid-career crisis?

A mid-career crisis can be defined as feeling like your career is static. This could be due to a lack of training and upskilling, a lack of more senior roles to move into, or a sense of dissatisfaction with the actual work you’re doing.

People going through a mid-career crisis are often:

  • Unenthusiastic about going to work.
  • Disinterested in doing more than the bare minimum.
  • Not professionally fulfilled, even if they’re hitting targets and achieving good results.
  • Impatient or irritable at work.
  • Lacking energy.

It’s interesting to note that mid-career crises can impact people in all professions, even those we might think come with high levels of job satisfaction.

While one bad day (or even week) at work doesn’t necessarily mean you’re experiencing a mid-career crisis, if you’re constantly experiencing some of the above, it’s worth exploring why.

Mid-career crises are often tied up with serious professional problems like burnout, so it’s worth not brushing these thoughts under the carpet, and having a look at some of the following strategies.

Facing your mid-career crisis: how to beat the slump

1. Ask yourself some questions

It’s easy to know you’re not content, it’s much harder to know why. Rather than just muttering “I hate my job” everyday when your alarm goes off, take some time to work out why it’s no longer doing it for you.

Potential problems include:

  • A lack of skills development
  • A poor work/life balance
  • Unhealthy working relationships
  • You’ve been at it too long
  • Not feeling valued
  • Feeling overworked or stressed

Once you’ve honed in on what’s causing your crisis, you can start looking at possible solutions. For example, talking to your manager about training opportunities to grow your skills, or exploring flexiwork to improve your work/life balance.

Importantly, this introspection can prevent rash decisions you might regret down the track. Even if you ultimately decide that a change of company or career is the right decision, with this thinking already done, you’ll have a better idea of what to look for.

Before making knee-jerk decisions, ask yourself why you're not satisfied in your role.

2. Take some time off to refresh

It may simply be that you need to have a break to recharge the batteries. This is particularly true if you’ve identified tiredness or your workload as the root of the problem.

Sometimes, a relaxing holiday can go a long way to rekindling your passion for your job. Alternatively, it can give you the headspace to form a long term plan if you’ve decided a more permanent change is what’s required.

3. Set some targets

Having defined objectives to work towards is a great way to beat that lost, purposeless feeling that often contributes to a mid-career crisis.

These could be professional development goals, for example completing a course, or more personal objectives. Examples could include making sure you leave the office by a given time to allow yourself to enjoy your evening.

When setting goals, follow the SMART framework.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

The SMART framework for creating goals ensures that the targets you set are moving you in a coherent direction, are achievable and can be easily tracked.

Remember to add any new skills or qualifications to your Trade Me Jobs Profile as you go. Not only will this speed up any future job hunting, it also means employers can approach you with career opportunities you might not have considered.

4. Take on some additional responsibilities

A great way to try and boost your job satisfaction, while also gaining some new skills, is to volunteer to take the lead on a new project that interests you.

The variety will help break up your daily routines if you’re finding work repetitive, and you’ll also get some brownie points from your manager for showing initiative and a willingness to take on extra tasks.

Talking to peers and colleagues can help you work out what's missing.

5. Talk to people

Going through a mid-career crisis is tough, and it’s important to not feel alone.

This includes letting loved ones know that you’re finding work harder than usual, but can also include reaching out to your professional network. You’ll probably be surprised by just how many of your peers can relate to what you’re going through. What’s more, they might be able to suggest tactics that worked for them when battling their own professional doubts.

6. Know when it’s time to make a change

If you’ve tried some or all of these steps and are still experiencing sustained frustration and apathy towards your current role, it might be time to look for something new.

This might be a small shift to a company that’s more aligned with your aspirations, values and lifestyle or a bigger career change into a field you will find more fulfilling. Again, such decisions shouldn’t be taken lightly but, if you’ve done the groundwork, you should feel confident that you’re making the right call.