How to Face a Personal Career Crisis and Come Out Smiling
It’s hard to know when — or if – a midlife crisis will hit you. These days, research suggests that midlife crises are no longer confined to our forties: they are happening in our thirties and even in our twenties, in the form of a quarterlife crisis.
Typically, if you do face a midlife crisis, it will take the form of a career-identity crisis. You may lose your sense of purpose in life and your sense of identity. Rather than just hating your manager or feeling bored at your job, you may feel that your entire chosen career path is meaningless.
The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to effectively manage your personal career crisis and come out the other side smiling. Here are four tips to help you do just that.
1. Take Some Comfort in the Fact You Are Not Alone
Reports suggest that around half of workers may feel unfulfilled in their current jobs, so chances are that plenty of kindred spirits exist around you in the office. These are people with whom you can share your pain and from whom you can seek advice. You can bounce ideas off of these people and clarify your thoughts. Some of these people may have already gone through the same crisis, and others may be currently going through it, but all across the board they may have some practical suggestions.
2. See Your Crises as a Career Transition Instead
We live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world, a time of boom and bust, a global environment in which companies and political regimes rise and fall seemingly overnight.
This volatility is felt in the work world: the traditional job-for-life has all but evaporated. Today’s worker may have between 15 and 20 jobs over the course of their lifetime, according to certain predictions. Furthermore, a 2006 study from New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies found that today’s professionals are expected to change careers three times in their lifetimes; just 28 percent of present-day professionals expect to have lifelong careers.
Because career changes are so common and normal, it may serve little purpose to view your career shakeup as a crisis. Instead, take the more productive route and view it as a career transition opportunity.
3. Go on a Vision Quest (Metaphorically Speaking)
A vision quest is a rite of passage practiced on Native American cultures. It is a meditative exercise in which the individual spends a few days and nights secluded in nature in order to do some deep thinking and find spiritual guidance and purpose.
Now, this exact activity might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the concept of taking time out of your normal life to open your mind up to new possibilities is a sound one.
Why sit around your office or apartment, moping and wallowing in self-pity, when you can go on a retreat, take a few days’ vacation somewhere, and let the answers find you? You’ll be able to think outside of the box and consider your career in a much more liberated way, freeing your mind and enabling you to come up with some solutions to your crisis.
Don’t rule out any options at this stage, however strange the may seem. The professional vision quest is a brainstorming exercise, so just enjoy the journey. There’ll be plenty of time for realism soon.
4. Come Back Down to Earth and Make a Plan
Once you’ve had time to brainstorm on your “vision quest,” it’s time to make a plan, which involves conducting your own personal SWOT analysis. Look at your strengths and weaknesses, your career opportunities and your career threats. Try to match your strengths and desires to viable alternative career options and opportunities. Understand what you’ll need to do in terms of training — and the sort of title or status sacrifices you may need to make — in order to be a credible candidate on your desired new career path. Also, identify the likely career transition period: how long will it take you? Six months? A year? Two years?
After following these steps, you should have a career transition strategy and a positive direction in which to enthusiastically channel all of your precious, nervous energy. It could and should be the start of a wonderful journey!