Change at Mid-Life: Does It Have To Be A Crisis?
Tom, a marketing manager, was not dissatisfied with his career. “I simply wanted to evaluate the direction my career was taking and gain some insight into what would be the best fit for me and what would maximize my performance.” Tom wasn’t drawn into his thoughts about a career change by external factors in the workplace, not by downsizing, layoff, or re-structuring. He was simply coming to grips with the need for internal review and change that everyone goes through as they get older.
Tom was at or near what we call the Mid-Life Transition – probably the best-known Turning Point in popular culture. This point is significant because it occurs as people feel that some very large and important change is absolutely necessary. Often, people find themselves depressed or burned out. At a Turning Point, especially the Mid-Life Transition, the person is emotionally driven to seek change. One way or another, change is going to happen.
When a slight realignment is all that is needed
At the major career Turning Points, many people can suddenly begin to feel that their careers need a complete overhaul; this is often simply not the case. It is our experience that most people can feel significantly different and better about their careers and their lives with something closer to a 10% change than a complete overhaul. The difficult part is in finding the right 10%. The place to start looking is not “out there, somewhere.” Usually, it is inside – within ourselves.
Tom had wondered about his career and why he felt like moving within the company so often. Sorting through his abilities helped him make sense of it all. At the same time, it enabled him to position himself more accurately. Tom saw that he had a number of powerful abilities that allowed him to solve problems quickly and intuitively and understood that he would be more satisfied in a fast-paced environment that involved a lot of quick problem-solving – what a lot of people would call chaotic – that’s when Tom’s real talents would shine.
By taking a proactive look at his career, and most importantly, by carefully sifting through and articulating each of the important factors in a decision about career direction, Tom was able to focus on exactly that part of his career needed change. And it wasn’t a crisis after all. In the end, mid-life wasn’t a crisis but an opportunity to gain new insight to greater satisfaction.