When you're having a bad day at work, it's easy to daydream about doing a completely different job because we think it would bring us more status, money or satisfaction.
But what if the occasional ‘off day’ turns into a nagging feeling of discontent that just won’t go away? How do you know when it's time to move on and or what kind of job is for you?
You're not alone
Career consultant and occupational psychologist Sherridan Hughes says that it’s not unusual to feel the mid-career blues, “Many people get to a point where they seriously question whether they want to continue doing the same thing, day in, day out for the next 20 years or so.
Career change is much more common now and it’s never too late to make a swap. One client of mine in her late forties went from being a frustrated PA to working as head gardener at an agricultural college, with several awards from Chelsea Flower show under her belt, all within the space of a year!”
While a mid-career crisis may seem like the preserve of forty-somethings, research by Vodafone found that in fact the 31-35 age group is the most unhappy at work. When asked about their negative feelings about work, 59% of them felt undervalued, 49% were unfulfilled and 43% were de-motivated.
Don't do anything drastic
Professional Life Coach Joan Bolton-Frost advises exploring other avenues before telling your boss you’re off to the beach: “Before you resign from your job, consider whether the things you’re missing could be found outside work. For example, if you are interested in charity jobs, volunteer some of your spare time while doing your current job, so that you can get a feel of how much you enjoy it and whether you really do want to do it full time.”
You might think you want to move from an engineering job to a marketing job or from retail to media, but it is always worth considering whether your desires in this area could be met outside work. Bolton-Frost: “If it’s creativity you’re seeking, you could try an art class or, if you are finding your work too solitary, you could join a social or sports club.
Also, make sure you have explored all the avenues for change within your current organisation and check whether they have schemes to allow people to move between divisions. Some firms offer sponsored VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) places, which can give you a new direction in life without the upheaval of a big career change.”
Work out what you want
If you have thought through all these options and still feel that changing career direction is the answer, how do you go about finding a job that is right for you? Sherridan Hughes advises, “To find the right career for you at any life stage you must consider your motivation, your interests, values, ethics and level of ambition versus your desired quality of life. Your ability and qualifications are also important considerations.”
Hughes stresses the importance of softer skills when changing career, as these are often the most transferrable. “Your personal qualities such as emotional intelligence, ability to handle stress and your personality type will also affect the sort of career you are well matched to.” This all needs to be considered alongside other lifestyle factors such as your children’s or partner’s needs, work and home location, financial requirements and any other commitments.
Even the most self-aware people are often unable to be truly objective when considering their personal qualities. The classic career self-help best-seller What Colour Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles, contains useful exercises to help with matching yourself to a new career.
But consider speaking to an independent career consultant who is a qualified occupational psychologist to get an objective view, as well as a thorough personal assessment of the careers to which you would be best matched. The government also offers a free careers advisory service which includes online tools to help with career decision-making.
While a career change may seem like an impossible task, many people have proved that it can be done. It may mean several years of part-time study or working for free to get experience., But if you have a positive outlook and are determined to do what it takes, anything is possible. In fact, a mid-career crisis could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you.