Facing your mid-life career crisis head on

by Sinead Hasson January 30th, 2017

Hopping from one role to another barely raises an eyebrow when you start out in your career. A healthy ascension through the junior ranks to a position of seniority is a challenging and rewarding journey.

But what then? Many find that the higher they climb, the harder it becomes to keep moving up. Then, the arresting questions start to set in. Is this level enough? Am I satisfied? Am I still learning? Have I hit a career plateau? What’s next?

At some point, all of us have found ourselves re-evaluating what we want from our careers as past ambitions no longer fit with our current way of working. The triggers can vary as priorities change dramatically over a decade or two. Economic conditions, personal relationships, children, housing, travel, even hobbies can kick-start some introspection. Others simply find that life higher up the ladder differs to what they expected. Whatever the reason, switching jobs after 20 years or so will have a greater impact than it did before. With this in mind, if you’re mulling over a change, it’s more important than ever to get it right.

It’s a popular misconception among ‘mid-termers’ that employers are only interested in rising young talent. Such candidates would do well to remember that diversity is not only about gender and ethnicity, it’s about age and experience too. Sure, an employer will assess both early and mid-term candidates for ambition, but when level pegging, a skill set battle-hardened by real world experiences counts for a lot. Remember that today’s professionals are being recruited by a much broader spectrum of organisations than in previous years, so an appreciation of your skills and expertise can be used to demonstrate you understand business as a whole and that is attractive to future employers. And it’s not something that can be picked up while learning the ropes.

Performing a brutally honest self-appraisal can be an invaluable and revealing process. Treat yourself like you would a work brief. Define your personal objectives. Think about this from a personal and professional level – be realistic and practical. Be ruthless about your current chances of reaching them. This will help to define precisely what it is you are looking to change. Is it more pay? More responsibility? Greater diversity? Perhaps it’s less of something. Less responsibility. Less time in the office. Less rigidity.

Don’t fall into the trap of using experience as the only string to your bow. Talk to people both in and out of your profession. Be open to what’s next and don’t be trapped by habit. If your skills need refreshing, take the appropriate courses to boost your confidence and employability. A strong personal brand can also make a difference. How visible and how credible are you online? It’s true that age loosely tallies with social media use, but in the digital age you must give LinkedIn the same attention as your CV. You may not have to time to engage in LinkedIn groups, but your profile page should be exemplary. Companies will seek you out on other channels too, so if you are locatable in the Twittersphere, ensure you have something relevant to say. Blogging provides a window into your expertise and opinion, but takes time. Employers don’t like half-measures, so do, or do not.

Offline, engaging in industry conferences and networking events can reinvigorate your contacts book and generate opportunities. Don’t forget, too, that it’s possible to continue in your profession without being in the frontline. Technology will continue to influence all industries so you must keep your skills sharp to keep pace. Mid-termers that keep up put themselves in a commanding position. Experience and a few grey hairs count, even in this brave new world!