Options For The Professional Mid-Life Crisis

  • Are you thinking of leaving your current job to pursue your true calling?
  • Are you a few years into your career and asking yourself where to go next?
  • Do you feel disengaged at work, with low energy and out of tune with the company’s management, mission or goals?
  • Is the thought of becoming an entrepreneur grabbing your attention lately?

You are not alone. Over 50% of the US workforce report not being engaged. When these disengaged workers leave, 89% of employers think they go for more money. But strikingly, only 12% leave for that reason.

Making Good Decisions is Easier if You Use a Good Decision-Making Mechanism

If you are deciding with your gut, you are placing your future happiness in the hands of… pure luck. Wouldn’t it be a better option to ask yourself the right questions, those that may lead you to the correct answers, before committing to a decision?

Funnily enough, during the past couple of weeks, I have been brought into similar conversations by a couple of accomplished professionals. The bottom line question usually being “Do you think it is the right decision? Should I leave my job?”

My reply? Well, instead of a straight answer I asked them to spend 10 minutes writing down their thoughts around the following awareness questions:

  • What is working well in your current job?
  • Are you still learning?
  • Do you feel supported by your boss? How?
  • Do you think there is a career path in front of you? Does your boss agree?
  • What is not working in your job? How much of that is something you can influence? What could you change right now, if you acted on it?
  • Imagine you had the power to force any change, even on stuff you don’t have power upon. What would you change that could improve the situation?
  • What are you intrinsically motivated to do in life, even if this is not work related? What drives you? What gives you positive energy?
  • On the other hand, what drains your energy?
  • How important is maintaining your lifestyle? Would you be ready to earn much less for the same amount (or even more) hours of work?
  • If in 10 years time you looked back, what would you be proud of having achieved? How are those achievements connected with your passion and purpose, or the things you are intrinsically motivated to do?

All this to say: If you are going to leave, leave for the right reasons.

Welcome to The Mid-Life Crisis

Hitting the professional ceiling is, sometimes, a consequence of the way our corporate work life is structured.

Let me explain.

Between your early 20s and your mid-30s you are “in the race”: you start from the bottom of a well-defined ladder you can climb, one step up, every 2–3 years. You can see clear promotions and salary increases ahead of you, a progression that you know you can achieve with dedication and patience.

But after a few years into a stable career, the real struggle starts. That is when disengagement at work can first surface. There is no longer a predefined promotion ladder. The next goal is less obvious. The environment is far more driven by politics. The highway was nice, but now it is about making a new path through the forest.

So you may ask yourself the obvious question: is it time for me to do something else? Maybe. Or maybe not. There are different options you may want to consider.

Crafting Your Job vs Breaking Out

Sometimes we are just bored at work and too busy (or lazy) to look beneath the surface for the real reasons. Sometimes we do like our job and removing our boss from the equation would make all the difference. Sometimes we can find purpose in our job by getting out there and experiencing first hand the effect that the company — and your daily work — have on others.

I am saying all this because leaving for the wrong reasons may not be aligned with your longer-term well-being. Our brains tend to trick us into thinking that the things we want are the things we need longer-term. Breaking out is an option, but it is not the only option.

One of Jordan B. Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life is “treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping”. So based on your answers above, what advice would you give your brother or sister if he or she was in your situation?

Option 1: Crafting Your Job

Maybe you can be proactive and discuss career paths with your manager. Take a different role within a new team, finding a mandate in the firm that better suits your strengths, while complementing your weaknesses.

Are there alternatives within the company that would allow you to reboot your energy? Learning and purpose are critical considerations for engagement at work. Therefore, is there a way to get on a learning path again? Also, how can you see for yourself the impact that your work has on others, internal (partners and internal stakeholders) or external (clients)?

Option 2: Crafting Your Life Around Work

You may solve your engagement issues by boosting your energy around (or outside) work. For some, this is mentoring or coaching young professionals or becoming involved in the HR strategy implementation. For others, it may be teaching what you know at university or as part of your corporate training seminars. Others become angel investors in their free time or get involved in charitable causes. You can reset your passion and your energy by working around the edges of your job.

Option 3: Taking The Leap

Or maybe you are past that. Perhaps you are bound to leave for good. Perhaps that side gig (coaching, teaching, investing, etc.) is that you now want to do full time. If you know, if you have finally found a calling and are sure of your next professional chapter… then by all means, leap.

But mind you, the romantic “breaking out” option is not necessarily the right one, not for everyone at least. You can take the right decision by fully understanding the pros and cons of your current setup (all factors, monetary and others), becoming aware of the things you can change and those you cannot change, and separating the things you need in the long run vs those you want on the short-term.

If you are going to leave, leave. But do so for the right reasons.