As if a mid-life crisis wasn’t enough, now comes the mid-career crisis. And it can be a big deal because the average number of weekly hours worked by full-time workers in the European Union was 37.1 hours a week as of the third quarter of 2021, which is a lot of time to put towards something that isn’t making you happy.
So why does this happen in the first place? There can be a few reasons for why a mid-career crisis can creep up. One notable one is sheer boredom: you’ve been working in the same industry for a long time and you’ve got a sense of, “been there, done that” about it. Another factor for workplace woes is the company may longer align with your personal values.
A big reason for many is that you're just not doing the work you love anymore – a common complaint from those who have risen to the management level. This is especially true of people who’ve spent the majority of their working lives “doing” – for example, coding or development. They’re so good at what they do that they get promoted, and they find that they are then rewarded for their success by not getting to do the work they love. It’s a confusing and often frustrating outcome.
But what to do about it? Should you cope or simply quit? Before you take drastic measures, we’ve got some advice. And if you’re ready to look for a new job right now, the Job Board has lots to choose from.
Assess your path
When you’re in a slump it is very hard to think positively. But this is precisely the time when you should carefully and methodically take stock and pat yourself on the back for (several) jobs well done. Mid-career, you’ll have gained a lot of experience and knowledge. It’s also likely you’ve achieved many more goals and accomplishments than you may remember off-hand. Have you won workplace or industry awards? Taking stock of how well you’ve done so far in your career can help imbue a sense of pride and accomplishment.
What exactly is it that is grinding your gears about your current role? Often things creep up on us: someone on our team leaves, we end up taking on their responsibilities and get stuck on a hamster wheel of reacting, with no time for planning and project work. Work starts to feel like an endless grind.
Perhaps some trusted and long-standing colleagues have left to go elsewhere, and your 9-5 just doesn’t feel the same. Or you have a new boss – and your rapport with them isn’t on the same level as previous managers. Maybe the work itself has changed, as above. For many people, the challenge of this change is good, but for lots of others, a people or project management track just isn’t right for them.
It is only once you have a sense of what the problem is, you can start to work towards fixing it.
Talk to your employer
Depending on the business you’re working in, there may be scope within it to move sideways or focus more on the aspects of your role that you genuinely like and enjoy. If you are looking to change jobs within the company, your superiors may have useful intel about hiring plans coming down the line – and these might align with what you’d like to do. Registering your interest early could stand you in good stead.
Another approach you could propose could involve moving to a part-time position, and taking on project work on a freelance or consultancy basis with other third parties. This would allow you to pay your bills, advance your skills and help you develop new ones too, which could also be of benefit to your employer.
This is another conversation you can begin with your manager or HR. Is there a training and development budget that you can access? If so, what does it cover? Some employers will consider paying for extensive courses if they will be of benefit to the company – and may tie you in contractually for a set period – so consider what you're proposing to study and whether you think it will be accepted.
If your employer doesn't have a training budget and you're willing to pay for your own education costs, can they meet you part of the way? For example, paid time off for study and exams – would help to make your goal achievable.
If you’ve been in the same role at the same company for a while, contemplating change can be a scary prospect. But these days, we’re in what’s called a non-linear, or “episodic” career scenario. It is something that Millennials, in particular, are embracing. 60% of this demographic is open to new job opportunities – 15% higher than the percentage of non-Millennial workers who say the same. So, take it as an opportunity to pivot your career, and try something new – after all, if everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t you?