Midlife career slump: feel like you’re under the pump?

“All that time in my 30s and 40s, I felt like time was running out, life was passing. That if I didn’t do all the things I needed to do at work – instantly – I’d be a failure. And then I’d die.” – Jenna Price, On my 60th birthday, this is what I wish I knew 30 years ago 

If you’re in a midlife career slump, you’re not alone. You may be feeling burnout, bored, obligated – but not quite brave enough to call it quits? Just yet. With more people likely to be working into their mid-70s, and even 80s, before they retire, many of us are taking steps to change careers in midlife. We are re-evaluating, retraining, and recharging!

Think it’s too late to get a wriggle on? Think again. These high achievers started over  later in life, offering inspiration to all of us who are questioning whether we’re on the right path.

Now what? Here’s what I know

Are we really supposed love our job? It sounds extreme, doesn’t it? Love and job. Like many of you, I pursued a career I thought I ‘should’ be doing – and I was good at it. I would be hard-pressed to say I loved it, all the time. I did, for a period.

What I didn’t recognise soon enough was that I stopped loving it – we all change, people around us change, and sometimes we pursue a vision set in the past, without checking whether it’s still relevant to our future, or what we still want.

Now, hand on heart, I can honestly tell you I love what I do as an executive coach. While you will hear stories of people who do amazing things by “following their passion”; for most of us, a successful career transition  will involve a plan – a practical strategy, and good support:

1. Align your work with your values

Feeling out of kilter? It doesn’t always mean we’re unaligned with our values (sometimes it does). Instead, we’re prioritising one, or a few of our values, at the expense of others – to a point that many of us end up frustratingly unfulfilled and without purpose.

It is not uncommon, for example, to focus on financial security and building wealth (when you’re young and establishing yourself or after a significant life event). It is also understandable that these will values shift, over time. Check-in with yourself regularly.

2. Where’s the spark?

Does happiness at work sound like an indulgence? Or worse, a charade? Most of us work because we must, right? If money was no object, many of us would be doing completely different things. Why not work in a field related to what makes you happy? What gives you energy and motivates you? I suggest making subtle changes, if it’s not possible to overhaul your career. Even small changes can reinvigorate your outlook.

3. What is really bugging you?

Research has found the biggest organisational cause of disengagement is incompetent leadership . It spells out the obvious – we’ll like work a lot more if we get on with the people around us. The implications of this on changing careers in midlife is this: self-awareness. How much of your career slump can be attributed to the people around you? Alternatively, if you are a leader, do you know how you’re perceived by your team?

4. Consider career coaching

If you’re suffering midlife career procrastination – you’re not happy, but not sure how to climb out of a less-than-ideal situation – an accredited executive coach can give you the tools to gain clarity about where you are now, and guidance on taking the next steps.

I would love to hear your stories of midlife career changes, challenges, and triumphs!

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