Identifying and Capitalizing on a Mid-Career Crisis

Set new goals and explore past dreams

A person carrying a briefcase walking on a desert highway, symbolizing a mid-career crisis.
Jacobs Stock Photography/ Photosdisc/Getty Images

At some point in their working lives, many people experience a mid-career crisis, staying in jobs that they no longer find satisfying or rewarding. This typically occurs between 10 and 25 years in the same sector. Although it can be a stressful time, some methods of handling a career crisis can act as a catalyst to get you making moves toward a career you love, resulting in overall happiness and personal growth.

Determine What Is Wrong or Missing

You do not need to switch business sectors entirely if you can figure out what is wrong. Maybe the only thing you need is to switch positions. Certain career-crisis triggers are common. Ask yourself some hard questions so that you can identify the issues as either a temporary slump or the sign of a deeper problem:

  • Are you finding yourself dreading going to work every day? This is a common problem, but if it lasts longer than a few weeks, it can be a sign you need a change. It can also be a sign of job-related fatigue or depression and should be discussed with your general practitioner.
  • Do you think you would be happier almost anywhere other than your current position? Consider the realities of a change, not just the dream, before deciding.
  • In your position, are you given the creative freedom that allows you to feel pride in your work? Personal satisfaction is extremely important to the happiness you experience at work. Sometimes a little autonomy can help you find a better place within the same industry.
  • Do you think you can take a different approach toward your work that might make you see it differently? Perhaps all you need is a change of perspective.
  • Might you simply not be working in a job suited to your skillset? A dead giveaway is when others tell you that you seem unhappy. It could be the company, but more likely, it is the work itself.

Find a New Direction With Thinking Exercises 

Personal thought time and daydreaming help you explore your options, but guided thinking exercises direct your thoughts in more concrete, helpful directions. It won't help to just read through all of the exercises. The thinking time and recording your thoughts help you achieve your result in making your dreams a reality.

Write down your 10 favorite activities. These can be hobbies, past professions, or anything you enjoy doing. No fulfilling career is suitable unless you get to do some of your favorite activities at least weekly. Some people find they want to help others. Others want to play with toy cars. No matter what you write, there is a working position directly related to it.

Write down the top five goals you want to accomplish in your career. Think about money, impact, contribution, and more. Your selected career must enable you to achieve these goals. If it doesn't, you're in the wrong career and could use a change.

List everything you’d like to do in your lifetime. These lists can run several hundred items.

Your chosen career should be one that you can attain with realistic effort, allowing you as much creativity and fulfillment as possible. Changing large parts of your life during a career crisis can be tough, but sometimes you need a little push to get you moving in the right direction.