When you were in your late teens you hadn’t quite figured out what you wanted to ‘be’, but you had your whole life in front of you. Besides, there was a lot going on back then; the new job, the relationship thing was blossoming. Friends were in abundance and there was so much energy in your life!
Back then, things seemed bright and you felt you had purpose. You were learning new skills on the job, more senior employees you worked with showed you how to do what it was you needed to know. Of course you were pretty sure some of them should have moved on and definitely saw your chance coming to take their place in the near future and move up in the pay grid. The company would be taking leaps and bounds with the infusion of your generating ideas; surely they’d be grateful for taking them as you transformed things from the way they’d always been done to your new world order.
As you arrived into the 30’s, your perspective changed. A little older and wiser, the folly of your youthful exuberance was understood and you came to realize those older employees who you thought would soon be out to pasture when you were in your 20’s were themselves only in their mid 40’s. They were actually in their prime, and while some have moved on, many have moved up while others have become your go-to co-workers; best buds in the workplace. While some of your ideas are considered, you’ve matured and had this growing realization that other people’s ideas have merit too. In fact, some of your ‘best’ ideas you came to realize wouldn’t have been successful had someone had the wish to implement them after all.
Now it’s you in mid-work-life Career and you’re conflicted. You’re hungry for more, looking for something that’s fulfilling, challenging and above all stimulating. You’re wanting more income to do all the things you want in the lifestyle you’re after. However, what’s plaguing you is this nagging itch you can’t seem to find to scratch; figuring out what it is you’d really like to be doing. The thing is that while you’re trying to figure out this big mystery, time is passing. Welcome to Career Floating.
Career floating as I call it, is when you stagnate. You’ve got the skills and ability to do your job and do it well by the way. You’re not the expert yet you’ll one day be, (although you won’t come to fully appreciate this for another 10 years). You’re feeling pulled to do something more, something different. What’s complicating things is…well…a number of things.
There’s the responsibilities you’ve got with respect to the mortgage, your role as partner and parent. It’s taken you until now to become exposed to other possible careers and yet every career move seems to need an education you haven’t got at the moment and a return to school to get what you lack to get what you want means an interruption in your income. How can you suddenly go back to school, incur more debt and give up your salaried income for 2 or 3 years? How long is it going to take to recover all those lost wages and incurred debt?
The more you think on things and try to reason things out, the more you beat yourself up for inaction and over-thinking things instead of making a decision. So when did you come to be so hesitant and indecisive? Oh my goodness! Suddenly you realize you’re becoming Lou – or is it Louise? That person at work that seems to be stuck going nowhere that you snickered about inside when he was talking in the lunchroom about being so unsure of what to do himself. Lou, Louise; their 15 years your senior; there’s no way you intend on being in that same situation in 15 years!
There’s not going to be some amazing advice at the end of this piece. If you’re reading this saying to yourself, “Yes! Yes! Yes! This is exactly me! It’s like he’s talking to me specifically! What oh what am I to do?!” Sorry. There’s way too many of you – of us – realizing that re-inventing ourselves is not just fanciful but downright necessary if we’re to really be happy and re-engaged in our work lives. Things have become too automatic haven’t they? Sure you have to work at things still; the job doesn’t do itself. However, you’re looking down the road at the rest of your work life and saying more and more often, “Is this it?”
Well as you may have guessed by now, you’re not alone and nor are you a failure. Who you are as a worker is only one piece of what makes up your identity. There’s your social and home life, hobbies, your role as a parent, sibling, family member. There’s your free time and spare time, your quiet time and vacation time. Look at life – oops the big, “L” Life any number of ways. Yes you spend a large amount of time at work and therefore define yourself and are defined by others often by what it is you do – who you are. However, it is but one way to define yourself.
You’re no closer to having the curtain pulled back and an answer. This one, you figure out for yourself. Hint: listen to yourself and above all else,
Written By Kelly Mitchell
Mid-Life And Career Floating? was originally published @ Employment Counselling with Kelly Mitchell and has been syndicated with permission.Photo by Sean MacEntee