As a career success coach, many of my clients are between the ages of 35 and 45 (primarily Gen-Xers), approaching the middle of their careers.
What they often have in common is a feeling of being ignored in the workplace as companies focus energy and resources on millennials. This, coupled with a natural change of pace that happens at this stage in a career, leads to a disproportionate number of these former strivers now feeling stuck and unfulfilled.
What it amounts to is a mid-career crisis, funk, or slump -- whatever you want to call it.
To get insight into why this happens and what what to do about it, I interviewed top career coach and founder of The HIRED Group, Ryan Kahn. Here are his thoughts on how to break free of the mid-career crisis.
1. Remember that it's easy to feel stuck when there aren't as many milestones to hit.
"For many in the 35 to 45 age range, they're experiencing the first plateau of their careers," Kahn said. "To get to this point in their career, over the years, they've continually moved upwards -- and in some cases quickly, from assistant, to coordinator, to manager, to director. At this point, there's a natural struggle to break into the senior leadership or executive team. The mid-career crisis is often a result of several successive years of high achievement, but then having a general feeling of being stuck when there's no clear sign of what's next. Goals have to become self-motivated."
2. Keep learning. It's never too late to specialize or gain new credentials.
Mid-career professionals must set themselves apart from their peers if they want to progress," said Kahn. "If they decide to return to school for an MBA, for example, they should specialize in an area they personally find captivating. After all, managers with a decade of experience and a general MBA are easy to find. But having years of real world experience paired with a uniquely relevant degree can help someone make that next move forward."
3. Stay curious. Continue to seek out new networks and ideas.
"The biggest mistake people make at this mid-point is to stop networking and to become less curious regarding their chosen profession," Kahn said. "Employees who stay with the same company for many years become too comfortable. Their network reduces to a small circle that's required as part of their job, rather than reaching out to see how others might be addressing similar issues. The minds of mid-point professionals ossify as they repeat similar daily tasks within the same corporate structure, year after year."
4. Be honest about wants, needs, and expectations.
"The grass is always greener at a best friend's place of employment, so it's best not to compare," said Kahn. "It's important to ask the question, "What is it that I actually want and need?" There are many financial, social, and work pressures that come to a head for this age group. Everyone looks to them to be the responsible, do-it-all well people. These broad, unrealistic expectations from others can lead to personal dissatisfaction. This is where it's important to have clarity on not only what you do well, but on what you want to be doing.
And of course, be honest about this. In my experience, people in the 35 to 45 age group are seeking stability. They're looking for a company or position that's a great fit on all levels that they can stick with and grow into."
5. Get serious about happiness.
"The mid-point professional needs to actively take time out to contemplate happiness," Kahn said. "A daily break of 15 to 30 minutes to consider the various aspects of life is essential to creating an ever-increasingly satisfying life. Professionals in the 35 to 45 age group show up for their families, their work, and their friends. However, they find themselves in this mid-career crisis because they show up for everyone but themselves. You'll have more joy and success to share if you take care of your happiness first.