How to Deal with a Mid-Career Crisis

We all have bad days at work. These are the days when we sit at our desk and fantasize about quitting and running away to join the circus. We might get caught in a daydream about living on a beach in the Caribbean, working from home in our pajamas or simply changing to another field. Before you know it, you start Googling terms like “I hate my job” or “how to work from home.” Your time at work begins to include as much Internet surfing as it does actual work.

Having one bad day at work is one thing. Having these kinds of fantasies over and over again, day after day and week after week, might indicate more than just a bad day. It might indicate that you’re having a mid-career crisis.

What’s the Difference Between Wanting a New Job and Wanting a New Career?

Before you do anything rash like handing in your two weeks’ notice and preparing to go back to college, think carefully about what the problem really is. Sometimes, the reason that you hate your job might be nothing more complicated than a bad relationship with a boss or coworker. Continued strain in your work relationships might lead you to the conclusion that you need to change career fields, but sometimes your problem might be solved simply by finding a different work environment. If you can solve your job problems this way, you should think about doing it.

Other problems at work that might have simple solutions include feeling that you have no creative outlet or feeling isolated. If creativity is what you crave, before you quit your job and decide to be a full-time artist, try signing up for an art course at the local community college. If you work in a solitary environment and you crave social interaction, get involved with activities outside of work, such as joining a recreational sports team.

On the other hand, you might get a new job with a new boss and new coworkers, sign up for Painting 101 and flag football but still find that you are unhappy and dissatisfied with your work. Your complaint might be less superficial than “I can’t stand my boss.” You might be having a true existential crisis.

What is a Mid-Career Crisis?

A mid-career crisis is realizing, after 10 or 15 years of working in the same field, that you are no longer as interested in the field as you once were. Alternatively, maybe you realize you entered this field for all the wrong reasons, yielding, for example, to family pressure when you were too young to confidently choose your own career path. Now, a decade or two into your field, you have an extremely hard time imagining yet another decade on this path. You realize that it’s time to do some serious soul-searching and, even if it means your income will take a hit or you’ll have to go back to school, you absolutely must find a different field.

To figure out what it is you want in a career, don’t think so much about what skills you already have but what type of personality you have. For example, knowing that you are a social, extraverted person will immediately rule out jobs that have you spending large quantities of time by yourself. Knowing that you can’t stand repetitive work will rule out more jobs. By process of elimination, start to eliminate career choices that you know wouldn’t fit with your personality type. Once you’ve made your decision, think about what steps you’ll need to take to enter your new field.

Going Back to School

It’s an unavoidable fact: If you change career fields completely, there’s a very good chance you’ll need to go back to school.

For many of us, the prospect of going back to school after we’ve been out of high school or college for more than a decade is quite daunting. You may worry that you don’t know how to study anymore or that you haven’t seen an algebra problem in so long that your teenage daughter would be more adept at solving it than you are.

However, keep in mind that there are thousands of non-traditional students who go back to school well into their adulthood and manage just fine. In fact, at large online universities like the University of Phoenix, the bulk of their students are non-traditional ones. You will fit in quite well with these students.

Take It One Step at a Time

Starting a new career might be intimidating, but just think of the alternative: Do you really want to keep resisting going to work everyday, feeling like you wish you were doing something else for the next 20 years of your life? Of course you don’t want that. Therefore, take the first step in alleviating your mid-career crisis by starting to research new careers today.