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Get Out of Your Career Rut!

Posted by Zwe on March 13, 2010

Wed, 02/24/2010 – 12:09 — Becky Lo

Do you feel like your career is in a rut and that your work is making you unhappy? You may be suffering from a mid-career crisis. What brings about this predicament and how do you walk out of it before the resentment bleeds into the rest of your life?

By Becky Lo

Feeling the blues

You’ve heard of a mid-life crisis, but how about a mid-career crisis? Unlike a mid-life crisis, a mid-career crisis is not age-related, but is about the dissatisfaction you feel about your career.

Many working adults in their late 20s to mid 30s are facing mid-career crises, or what is also known as “mid-career blues”. It usually happens after a few years working in the same field as you feel that your job is heading towards a dead-end: Your work routine is becoming boring, you see your peers edging ahead of you but realise that you are not at all interested in catching up.

You are reluctant to switch careers because stepping into a new and unknown territory is scary. The thought of starting from the bottom again or having to face a drop in income is enough to stop you in your tracks. You often feel lost and uncertain of your future.

Don’t worry, you are not alone. Mid-career crisis is more common than you think, and here are some typical reasons why.

Common causes of a mid-career crisis

Lack of meaning in work
Meaning in a job is something many people underestimate when they hunt for their first job. However, without meaning, there is often a lack of fulfilment in work and will gradually lead to a mid-career crisis as the discontentment and restlessness builds up.

Meaning can be as grand as saving the world or as practical as earning your first million by the age of 30, but meaning has to be there for work to be fulfilling. If not, you’ll feel yourself having trouble dragging yourself out of bed to work every day.

New priorities and commitments
You’re entering a new phase of your life with different focuses from when you first stepped into the working world. For example, when you were single and commitment-free, your passion and drive was enough to make up for the lack of a work-life balance and to sustain you through working till the wee hours of the night. Frequent travelling was also considered a perk.

Then your priorities shifted. You may have gotten an epiphany or gotten married, but the end result is the same: you feel the need to spend more time with your family and friends instead of all your time working. Thus, you need a job with a better work-life balance, or an industry that is slower-paced.

Need for a change
Not all jobs are stressful, in fact, on the other end of the spectrum, some jobs are too routine and not challenging enough to keep your mind engaged.

For example, you have been wandering in the administrative line for years and despite working for different companies, you are stuck in the same routine as the administrative matters do not vary that much across the different employers. Hence, you have a mounting desire to pick up new skills and experiences, like working on your interest for music and looking for a job in the media industry instead.

If you fall under any of the above categories, you are likely to be suffering from a mid-career crisis.

Dealing with a mid-career crisis

There are two ways to go about dealing with a mid-career crisis. You can either just cruise and hope you will stop feeling this way soon, or you can do something to get yourself out of the rut you are in.

But before making any hasty decisions, know this: when you make a career change, you are not only changing a job but are also switching industry. It is basically changing the whole direction of your career. As such, it takes a lot more courage and resources. Here are some of the bigger challenges you will face.

Inertia
Settling for status quo is often far easier than dealing with uncertainties. Inertia can be a big hindrance to career-switching. Before you know it, days quickly turn into years and you are still stuck in the same unrewarding career.

Keep in mind that you can’t change your life overnight: You need stamina, determination and patience. Start off with small steps and make ample preparations to reduce uncertainties. For example, observe industry developments for potential job opportunities; read up on the desired industry and improve your resume accordingly.

Financial restrictions
Money is often the biggest constraint most people faced when thinking of switching careers. Hence, before making any career changes, review your current financial situation before deciding if it is time for something new.

Taking in account your current and projected liabilities, save at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses to cushion the impact of a potential drop in income. You’ll need that money for a rainy day especially if you decide to enter a more mercurial industry.

Starting from zero
The notion of having to start from scratch in a new industry can be disheartening. Bruised ego and lower pay aside, it’s daunting to have to grapple with an alien environment and a new job scope.

Overcome this by keeping an open mind and acquiring new skills through further studies. Before diving headlong into a new field, familiarise yourself with it through freelancing or working part-time. This can save you from making the wrong decisions and also help you build up your resume if you do decide to pursue a career in that field.

Getting help
You are not in this alone. Your family and friends are likely to be able to aid in many ways from providing you moral support to introducing you to people who may be able to help you in your career switch.

There are also external help available when you need them. Online job portals like JobsCentral offer comprehensive job listings and articles on different industries and career skills like resume-writing and interviewing. There are also job forums where you can meet people in similar situations and exchange tips, advice and encouragement to each other.

This is also a good way to network and possibly making contacts with people in your targeted industry. They can help you learn more about it or even help you with career advancement in your new field in the future.

Switching careers can be a tedious and frightening journey but with some courage, initiative and determination, you may find a new career that enriches your life and make you a happier person. So good luck for the search!

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