Lately I’ve been feeling restless, which is usually a sign that something deeper is going on if I take the time to look under the surface.  What’s started to emerge upon deeper reflection is that I’m entering a new cycle of change as it relates to my career. 

I find this interesting because the way we tend to view career is linear.  “I need to figure out what my calling is and then I’ll be happy.”  We frame the dilemma as an if, then statement and then are surprised when the old formula no longer works.  Things start to feel stale, but we’re not sure why.  We’re filled with an emptiness, a longing we can’t quite understand.  We distract ourselves with more work, social activities, relationships, we find other ways to numb.  But the feeling is still there. 

The answer to this dilemma lies in the fact that we change and grow and evolve.  And because we do, we can’t stay in one static place.  Any successful career skillfully navigates several turning points.  These are sometimes referred to as an existential crisis, or a career crisis, or as we say in the South, a come to Jesus moment.  But the bottom line is that transition is normal and we need to learn to lean into it rather than push it away. 

If you’re wondering what these turning points are once you’ve entered the working world, I can summarize them.  Ignore one at your peril, it will find a way of re-emerging louder and more painfully than ever before. 

The main turning points of working life:

Age 30 Assessment (age 28-33)

No matter what direction we’ve launched ourselves in post college, we tend to do some reflection and assessment around age 30. 

What has been working about the course I chose?  What hasn’t?  What do I want to achieve in the next 10 years?  How will I do this?  What values do I need to pay attention to?  What interests?  What are my family goals?  How am I balancing work and family?  What would be most meaningful to me as this point in my career?  What could I add to my life to make it more interesting and meaningful?

Midlife Transition (age 38-45)

This transition can be one of the most important in a person’s life.  And if we ignore it and bury the feelings that often accompany this transition point, it can be a disaster.  The proverbial mid-life crisis will often ensue.  Divorces are common at this stage.  Many people, confronted with the feelings of stress, anxiety and depression that often accompany this stage, choose avoidance.  But these feelings don’t really go away, they just go underground.  The True self, our soul essence, our spirit – whatever term you chose to use, still needs expression.

How do I feel about my family?  How do I feel about work?  What changes would I like to make to achieve a better balance?  How connected do I feel to others?  What excites me about work?  What has become old and stale?  What else besides work would I find exciting?  What new direction in my life would feel interesting and fascinating to me?  What values do I need to pay attention to?  What goals do I have for the next 20 years of my career? 

Age 50 Assessment (age 50-55)

At this stage, we’re starting to see the gleam of retirement on the horizon.  And if we’ve ignored what was coming up at the midlife turning point, it comes back at this stage with a vengeance.  The bottom line is that tuning into our nature as a spiritual being – the quest to find meaning and purpose in our lives and we work we do, is a need that can no longer be ignored.

What has been working about the course I chose?  What hasn’t been working?  What do I want to achieve in the next 10 years?  What do I want my life to be like 10 years from now?  What values do I need to pay attention to?  What interests?  How am I balancing work and family?  Is what I am doing meaningful?  If not, why not?  How can I make my career more meaningful?  What experience and skills of the first 30 years of my career do I want to be sure to take with me into the next phase?  What can I give back to the world?  What kind of legacy do I want to leave?  Who would benefit from my knowledge and experience? 

Coaching Questions for Thought:

  • Which turning point might I be at currently? Take my career crisis questionaire here, to determine if you’re currently at a turning point.
  • Am I leaning into the transition or am I trying to push it away?  If I understood this is a natural fact of life, how would I show up differently in relation to this time of change?
  • What questions from the above description do I most need to think about and answer?

Shelley Pernot is a career and leadership coach who is passionate about helping her clients develop clarity, confidence, and compassion for self.  She is particularly adept at working with high performing women who are hard on themselves.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!