Mid-life and mid-career crises seem to go hand in hand. Many people will eventually arrive at the moment when they’ll have to process a considerable amount of decisions they’ve made throughout their lives.
Research suggests that there is a strong interdependency between personal and work lives. When a mid-career crisis occurs, it certainly impacts your personal life and resolving that career crisis will often cure what otherwise ails you.
Identifying a Mid-Career Crisis
Just like a mid-life crisis, a mid-career crisis is defined by a sensation of feeling stuck, specifically in your career. People going through a rougher patch in their professional development will commonly perceive a lack of growth and opportunities in their current work environment.
The gravity of this issue is underlined by a widely accepted idea that a person’s age is generally associated with a continuously growing motivation to extract emotional meaning from life, of which your career is a significant part.
Very often, the most straightforward and minute tasks will feel abnormally exhausting and will result in an unusually sizeable cognitive effort, which will result in burnout.
If all of this sounds “oh, so familiar,” chances are you’re going through a mid-career crisis.
Symptoms of a Mid-Career Crisis
Here are a few of the most common signs that typically signal the onset of mid-career malaise:
- You’re an objectively successful professional, yet you’re not satisfied
- You often downplay your skills, knowledge and competence
- You’re apathetic towards your work and often disinterested in achieving greater results
- You’re not enthusiastic about going to work
- You’re impatient, defensive and disgruntled
It is, however, important to mention that not all mid-career crises are the same. It is your responsibility to assess whether what you're facing at this point is just temporary disappointment with the job you’re doing, a sort of dysphoria that the vast majority of people will eventually go through. Or are you actually in the wrong field?
Addressing the Issue
One of the central reasons why people fall prey to mid-career malaise is a form of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), a widely-known cognitive bias.
“We often focus on things that could have been or could have happened, yet we forget that these ideas are just mere abstractions. Continuously ruminating about decisions you could have made to allegedly improve your career, without solid proof of their outcome, is a losing game. Unfortunately, you simply can’t win,” says Patricia Paz, HR manager at Top Writers Review.
Rather than contemplating the things that could have gone better in your professional life, a less damaging approach would be to focus on the ways your career is actually good. More importantly, one should opt for a more active reinforcement of their qualifications by continuously applying their knowledge in ambitious projects. Here are a few ideas you can explore:
- Research potential projects that could optimize your company’s performance and lobby for one or more of them
- Request additional professional development/training to qualify for higher-level opportunities within your current organization
- Consider a full career change to something for which you have a passion. Go back to school and get the education/training you need to make such a change
- Take time off or go part-time while you explore other options
- Freelance on the side in other career areas to determine your interest and skill level
An aspect that is vital to overcoming a mid-career crisis is acceptance. While all of the suggestions above are designed to improve your professional self-esteem, they aren’t necessarily a definitive solution — they’re there merely to address the symptoms. The key is to accept that there is never a guarantee that all our mistakes can be affirmed or any type of regret is out of place.
We are but human, fighting the continuous battle of figuring the world out.
You are not alone in your crisis. But as an individual, you have to determine which resolution will best serve you. In fact, it may be a combination of options. It’s time to explore and experiment a bit — you may find that you have far more to offer than you thought.