Executive Coach Ines Kretschmer helps a reader who feels paralysed by indecision about her next career move. Is a midlife career crisis a real thing? And if so, how can you forge a path through?
I’m a 36 year old Engineering Consultant at one of the major consultancy firms. After stints at some of the largest engineering and energy companies I took a fixed term contract at my current employer to give me time to assess my next move. My contract is due to expire in two months and I feel at a total loss as to what to do next. My employer has offered me a few more months working on a project which I feel like I’ve already tackled one hundred times over.
I know I should be working flat out to impress at this company, or proactively talking to recruitment agents about my next move but I feel completely paralysed by indecision about next steps. My motivation has completely dipped. Ive heard about mid-life career crises and wonder if that’s my problem! Please help.
Thank you very much for your email. You mention mid-life career crisis, a phrase we connect to the feelings of panic about where our career goes, or should go – or quite simply to the wish to change our career path at a certain point of time in our life. Crisis might be associated with panic – but should not be linked with the wish to change. While change sometimes may seem daunting, it is always a chance to improve, and an opportunity.
Sometimes you might have to take a step back to make two steps forward, but that is ok too – as long as you are going into the right direction.
Reading your letter, I would like to look at the positive aspect first: you have realised you would like a change from your current career and you have acted to achieve this by taking a fixed term contract to make time to assess your next move. This is great, because you will not be doing what you have always done and be unhappy with it; instead you have taken action to change and become happier and more fulfilled in your professional life. But then you say you should be working flat out to impress or be talking to recruitment agents. Why the rush? The reason you made the decision for the contract was you wanted time to plan and think.
Let’s go back to that point where you decided to go for that fixed term contract and have time to consider what it really is you want to do and achieve. Because at that time you were neither paralysed (else you would not have made that decision) nor were you not motivated (because you had a goal – assessing your next move and improve).
Once you have a clearer picture, it is likely your motivation comes back and the feeling of being paralysed will reduce if not disappear, as this is probably quite simply caused by uncertainty.
You are only 36 and your contract is not due to expire before another two months. Use this time for what you had in mind. In coaching I do not give advice, because coaching is all about developing goals and actions together with the client. I cannot ask you any questions here or work with you through tools, but you can ask yourself some questions that you might find helpful developing the answers for:
What is your goal? You know you want change, but what exactly does this change look like? What do you want this change for? Would you like a better work-life balance? Would you like to change industry? What are you missing in your current role and where could you find it? Are you looking for more responsibility, a higher salary? If you could make your dream come true, what would it look like? Imagine yourself in 2 or 5 years’ time: where would you like to be in your career but also personally? Is it only your career you would like to change or are there other aspects in your life that you would like to improve? How do these aspects interact with your career decisions? These are only examples, but they may help you to clarify which direction you really want to go and what you really want to achieve.
Once you have a clearer picture, it is likely your motivation comes back and the feeling of being paralysed will reduce if not disappear, as this is probably quite simply caused by uncertainty. But now you know where you want to go and why. Ask yourself what the obstacles are and what are the opportunities connected to your goal. Be realistic and take small but constant steps to remove the obstacles and realise the opportunities. This can be hard, but you can always talk to friends, or work with a coach to help structure this. Define your way forward and be sure to set yourself achievable tasks to come closer to your “real goal”. Make sure you know what the “is” situation is and what the “to be” situation is and don’t let the bigger picture get out of sight.
Sometimes you might have to take a step back to take two steps forward, but that is ok too – as long as you are going in the right direction.
Also, important: Revisit your goal from time to time – has it changed, do you need to make adjustments? That is fine too. Priorities may change or perhaps something has happened that made you see things differently. Take it into account, adjust your goal and then also adjust your way to achieve it.
About Ines Kretschmer:
Ines Kretschmer is a Personal, Leadership and Executive Coach, based in Dublin.
Tel: 087 4149489
Do you have a career dilemma you would like answered? Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will ask our experts to help.