Are you suffering from a mid life career crisis?

15 February, 2013

As one of a team of specialist Career Advisors, I often support people in the middle or later periods of their working life to make important career decisions.

Typically, they may feel that their career has stalled, they are suffering from burnout, or they’re just not getting any satisfaction from their work.  They also typically come in worried about how difficult it will be for them to make changes because of their age. 

When it comes to a successful career transition, age is nowhere near as important as other issues. For example:

  • Do you convey high levels of energy and enthusiasm to a prospective employer? 
  • Have you kept up to date with modern workplace thinking and behaviour? 
  • Are you prepared to put time and effort into achieving your dream job?

So, if we don’t focus on age-related issues, what do we focus on?

We start by mapping the Ideal World.  Our clients complete simple, but telling exercises covering critical elements that affect job satisfaction.  This work integrates information about personality, skills and interests, preferred work environment and career values.  In this way, our clients construct their Ideal Job Fit.

The next step is for our clients to assess what is happening in their personal life – this might be as simple as the need to spend more time with an ageing parent or the desire to provide children with an expensive education. Issues such as this clearly affect an individual’s next career move.

Once the client has a clearer idea of both their Ideal World and the current realities of their personal lives, they are able to look at their options with more clarity.

Do you need to quit your job?

We find that most people think that they have only one choice if they are not longer satisfied by their job – and that is to quit.  This is far from the truth.  At any one time, we have several options and only one is to leave our place of work.

The most obvious career move is to aim for advancement – up.  However, some people actually choose to move downwards.   Employees with good networking skills may take advantage of opportunities in their organisation to move sideways. Others look to enrich their current role.

So, one of the first things for you to think about is whether you actually need to leave your organisation to achieve better career satisfaction. 

For those clients who decide to stay put, we help them develop a plan so that their current employer better matches their needs.

For those clients who decide to make a career move outside of their organisation, it’s time to develop a well thought out Job Search campaign. 

Four ways – that’s it, folks!

Many of our clients are surprised to discover that there are only four ways to get a job.  Most effective of all is Networking –roughly 65% of people find a job this way. The three other methods are: registering with Recruitment Agencies, approaching prospective employers via Cold Calls and responding to Job Advertisements.

Wow Them all the Way

No matter which strategy you use, your job is to “Wow” the prospective employer. 

For example, a successful application letter paints a picture of how well you match the key attributes of the role.  And, it should convince the reader that you are passionately interested in the role. (see Well Rounded is Better than Thin for a Winning Application Letter)

An attractive résumé with convincing examples of achievements starts to shift the balance of power to you.  The aim is to make the employer think – “Wow, can’t wait to meet this one!”

When it comes to the interview, all too often, it is the slickest performer rather than the best applicant who wins the role.  Practice, practice, practice is the key.  You need to find someone to rehearse with, to check that your delivery style is appealing and that your content is convincing. (see Swinging the Balance of Power to You in Job Interviews)

The final piece is to master salary negotiation.  Unbeknownst to many people, you can have considerable power to achieve the combination of salary and benefits you need.  Successful candidates know what the market rates are, know what they are worth and have the confidence and skill to negotiate.  This is very much a case of: fortune favours the brave.

A clever employer assesses all applicants with the following thoughts in mind:

  • CAN they do the job? 
  • WILL they do the job and, most importantly,
  • Will they FIT in? 

The successful candidate gives the employer a feeling of comfort that they have all these bases covered so that the employer starts to worry:  “Wow, can’t wait for them to start! Are they going to accept our offer?”

Staying on Track

Whether you decide to stay put or move on, it’s a good idea to make ongoing Career Planning a standard part of your working life.  The easiest way to ensure that this happens is to do one or all of the following things:

  • Incorporate a 3 monthly review of your Goals and Action Plans
  • Meet with a group of like minded people
  • Find a mentor and incorporate Career Planning into the meetings

Getting Help

When I decided to stop being a French teacher many years ago, I had the support of a very astute friend.  Her help enabled me to persuade prospective employers in the Hospitality Industry that I could move seamlessly across to work for them. 

After working with so many people over the years, I have come to an unauthorised opinion that we can stay in a job where we are unhappy for a year, at the most.  After that, I believe that we risk being damaged by the situation.

These days, valuable career information is available free of charge on the Net.  Take advantage of it, find an astute friend and get started on re-shaping your career, no matter what your age.

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Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert.  She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's Careers section, as well as in online publications such as, and

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Suite 220, 147 Pirie Street
Adelaide  SA  5000
T: 08 8223 6011
F: 08 8223 6411


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