I work with professionals on managing change: changing how they interact with employees, changes in leadership capabilities like management or public speaking or the way they manage their time. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise me that in so many of my client meetings we discuss a desire to change something bigger than what we originally planned. Yet it happens all the time.
I call it the mid-life crisis career change. White collar workers in their thirties and forties want more than a change in behavior. They want a change in their work meaning. For many, it’s burnout. Others, it’s changing priorities (like children). And for some, they see some writing on the wall.
Regardless of what the motivating factor is behind these desires, failure to address them can have serious consequences.
They bought the line (like most of us did). They invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in education, following their “ought to be” dreams of becoming a corporate lawyer, Wall Street trader or big 4 accountant. They spent their twenties burning midnight oil to get to the treasured partner or managing director title. And they did it! But now they question if it was worth it and if they still want it.
In this article on Johann Hari’s new book, we see that we may have been approaching some forms of depression in the wrong way, and that our work environment may have a bigger impact on our psyche. While more research needs to be done, seeing that 87% of workers are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at their jobs gives significant pause. We spend the majority of our time at work, and to do work that lacks meaning makes us question our value.
So how to move forward? It’s about moving the conversation beyond “I wish” and into a reflection on values, motivations and priorities. It’s about recognizing where you are in your journey and separating the forest from the trees. It’s about changing your conversation from “I am trapped” or “it’s easier to stay” to “here is what I need to do to make a change.” There is a bigger picture than your daily grind.
Just last week I had a conversation with an executive director at a large financial institution. In her words, “I was sitting in a meeting going over a project to take us into 2024. When I saw that year, I said ‘hell no do I want to be here.’ I need to make a move.”
Start your conversation today. Find a person to help. It can be a coach, a trusted colleague or a life partner. When we realize how we want to spend our time and evaluate what’s important, we may find that there are many paths through the woods that are much more enjoyable.
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