The Mid-Career Crisis!


Workers in the UK including those in leadership and management are less happy than in France, Germany, the US, Canada and Australia, said a report by recruitment agency Randstad.

As a result of the study (involving 45,000 employees from 32 countries) it is estimated that 9.9 Million British workers are unsatisfied with their jobs. As a result Randstad said the disillusionment increased staff turnover and absenteeism, and could account for problems of low productivity.

The report also highlighted that people at the start and end of their career are the happiest, and people in the ‘middle’ of their working life (aged 35 to 44) are the least happy. This phenomenon has been dubbed the mid-career crisis. It is people in this age group that are most likely to be in leadership and management positions. Is that the problem?

Here are my thoughts and tips on how to avoid the mid- career crisis and if you are already in ‘one’, how to escape!

My first thought is this; be honest, managing people is one of the most challenging parts of your job, am I right?

When we start out in our careers very few of us will have gone straight into a job that involved managing people. We were the ones being managed. We had the opportunity to get on with our own jobs without the complexity and demands that management brings. At some point we have the burden of ‘people management’ thrust upon us and it is at this point that the ‘job’ changes.

For some it is the start of an exciting new journey that they both wanted and knew they would be good at. For many however it is the start of a nightmare that takes their focus away from the job that they love.

I have met many managers that lament their previous roles that were free from the shackles of management. Teachers that have become deputy heads or heads find themselves embroiled in endless admin and separated from the classroom and children. Sales managers that were exceptional sales people and promoted on that basis, only to find they didn’t have the same passion for their work anymore.

This is often the reason for a mid-career crisis and one of the reasons why management and leadership people lack motivation and aspiration. They would like to turn the clock back and just do their old job but they can’t. They are chained to the ‘money trap’ as they have mortgages and families to support. They struggle to do this on their management wage and can’t simply resign their responsibilities. So in effect, the mid-career crisis and the mid-life crisis are pretty much hand in glove!

To avoid the mid-career crisis:

  • If you genuinely don’t want the responsibility of management then make that clear to your employer. Rather than think less of you, they will think more.
  • If you are in a job and have found you are simply repeating your experience each year then get out. It may be beneficial to take a job outside your usual skillset to gain a more rounded knowledge of business.
  • Have a clear set of career and personal goals including mini goals (stepping stones) along the way. Make sure your goals are what you ‘really want’, don’t put you want to be a manager unless you really do!

If you are already in that mid-career crisis:

  • Explore other career options. Look at other industry sectors that may pay as much for ‘non-management’ staff as you get as a manager. A great example is retail sales management, where salaries are relatively low compared with size of responsibility. Look at high value business to business sales roles where similar salaries are available without management responsibility.
  • If you are in a mid-career crisis but don’t have management responsibility then you have probably lost focus and need a fresh challenge. It is a balance to weigh up the value of a ‘steady job’ versus the satisfaction of a new challenge (but with the associated risks).
  • Re-train, go back to college or even university; If you want to do something badly enough then fight off your apathy and fear and the money side of things will usually take care of itself

If you are not happy at work then you won’t perform to the best of your ability. You owe it to yourself and to your employer to do what is right for you and ultimately right for them too!

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

MTD Training   | Image courtesy by Stuart Miles of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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Updated on: 14 October, 2013

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