What happens when you grumble about your job at home or to colleagues?
Historically, I got so sick of hearing unprompted career advice that was irrelevant or so annoying that it made me want to punch someone in the face (oh dear, there's that fiery Celtic temperament again!) that I just shut up.
Mid-life career lows are not uncommon. We’ve all had days where we’d prefer to be somewhere else, anywhere else! But a mid-career rut is a whole different thing that invades areas of life outside work including relationships with partners and children.
Here are a few of the most common pieces of advice on offer out there and (for what it's worth) my opinion on their value:
1. “Stick it out, don’t risk losing it all, it’s bound to get better”: I don’t know where to start with this one. We are not just talking about having a bad day at work. We are not just taking about occasional Sunday night blues.
When I use the term career rut, I am referring to persistent, long-lasting, recurring “don’t know how long I can keep going through the motions” feelings that have also started to impact your life outside work.
Family members are noticing you just not being your usual self. You’ve stopped talking about work at home as you consider it too dull. Or alternatively you can’t appear to find anything positive to say about work or the people at work.
You are likely to be spending a great deal of time doing on-line research on new jobs but somehow they don’t look at all different to your current job. Same job, different faces is definitely not your aim.
2. “Better the devil you know”: This security-centred advice is offered by fearful people who are unlikely to have understood your situation fully nor have taken the time to attempt to. They might perceive you as somehow fortunate or lucky and are surprised that you are not happy with your lot.
Perhaps they come from a background where a stable job was a goal in life. Perhaps they are your partner and are worried about your joint/family future. Perhaps they are simply the type of individual who views change as risky and would rather not let that devil into their house.
And perhaps they simply have lower expectations on life fulfilment than you.
3. “Forget about it, come and have a drink”: Otherwise called “Purple Elephant syndrome”. Temporarily forgetting something that is playing on your mind is extremely valuable…in the short-term.
Sooner or later, it comes back to haunt you. A few months or even a year of career rut avoidance offers you the time to mull over options close to home, in your current company and to consider options advertised in the open market.
Perhaps you have even moved companies during that time but after the initial optimism you realise that the old feelings have returned? The dissatisfaction, the lack of challenge, the boredom and the sameness of it all.
Changing company changed neither your career nor your future.
4. “Just resign and take some time to figure it out”: If you have an endless pot of gold, no responsibilities and are optimistic that you can work it out by yourself, proceed at speed to your personal yacht.
If not, don’t consider this piece of advice for more than a dreamy few hours.
Don’t resign without a plan. Resign with a GREAT plan.
Understand in great detail what you have to offer the world. Analyse how you could offer those skills to the world and what it might give you in return.
Investigate avenues to transform your career without rocking the rest of your world (unless that is also your aim, of course!) and plan the perfect time to make it happen... then resign!
I specialise in helping mid-lifers identify and design career transformations. To learn more about beginning your own career rut go to www.midlifeunstuck.com, sign up to my newsletter and contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.