If you’re at a point where the stress of your career is impacting your quality of life, you’re not alone. 39% of adults in the U.S. experience stress in professional situations; 29% in balancing family and work. Maybe it’s the stress of having too many days that start with early morning conference calls with clients and end with working to meet late night deadlines. Perhaps you can’t deal with the rage you feel when the client sacks your most brilliant ideas and asks you for a “Got Milk?” inspired headline instead. Or maybe you’re like me, and you wake up in the middle of the night worrying that a robot is going to take your job in five years.
Whatever got you to this mid-career crisis, now you feel irreparably fried and like it’s time to get out of the industry. So, what do you do now?
First, get your head in the right space.
Whether the solution is finding a new job or just making a small change, it’s critical to get some mental space from your work issues before you make any life-changing decision. Then you’ll know you’re making thoughtful choices that are based in reason and not simply having a knee-jerk reaction that you may regret later.
If it’s possible, take a few days off, or use your weekend to seriously recharge. Block out time for yourself just like you might block off time for projects. It also might help to seek out therapy. A therapist can teach you skills to better handle your challenges and reveal other opportunities for change. If you have health care coverage through your employer you probably have access to mental health benefits, or even an Employee Assistance Plan, which provides benefits like a certain number of visits to a mental health professional, financial planning advice, and similar services that can come in handy when you’re trying to figure out the rest of your life.
Then, do some soul-searching.
If you’re able to get time for yourself, start asking the hard questions. Swapping careers is a big jump, and for some, a big risk, so getting specific about your wants and needs in a new job needs to be a serious step. Some questions to ask could be:
Do I still enjoy what I do?
Perhaps switching to a different company or organization in your industry is what you need, instead of a significant career shift.
Is it something, or someone, in my current work environment that’s making me unhappy?
If you have that one co-worker you can’t seem to shake, consider a different department or asking to be reassigned to a different account. If the entire work environment is getting you down, it might be time to find a new one.
What am I great at and what tangible skills do I have?
List your abilities out if you need to, so you can see where else they might translate.
Where do I want to be in five years? 10 years?
Keep asking yourself this until you have a clear picture of the type of person you want to be.
Take an honest look at your answers. If you’re at the point where the fear of the unknown feels less awful than the dread of another Monday, you’re ready for a change.
Now, make time to move forward.
If you know what you want to do next:
Congratulations! You’re that much closer to transitioning to something new. Your next steps are to address the skills gap, in case your expertise won’t transfer laterally.
If you need to acquire new skills, there’s no shortage of online learning options. If you can’t swing new training or classes, start with MeetUps and networking events in the area you want to shift to with the goal of getting to know more about the types of people who’ll be your future colleagues.
If you have no idea of what you want to be when you grow up:
There’s no easy answer, but start by looking at your strengths and what you love. If there’s still nothing that stands out to you, reverse engineer a career by looking at people whose lives you love and want for your own. (No, Beyoncé doesn’t count.)
There is perhaps no more daunting feeling in the world than knowing you can’t continue as you have been, yet also not knowing what you want to do. As you did when getting your head in the right space, take time and work through it with yourself and others. This is another part where a knee-jerk reaction will risk you being no better off than where you are now.
If you’re not quite ready to make the switch:
Volunteering for a cause can make you feel like you’re doing something more meaningful or worthwhile than what you’re currently doing at work. Volunteering can also help you build a new network, make new friends, and burnish your self-esteem — all of which can make you happier, in general, and make it easier to stick it out in your present circumstances until you’re ready to take the plunge.
Many of us also find extracurricular creative outlets to be essential. Discover the things you enjoy doing; they can give you a feeling of accomplishment that you just aren’t finding at your job. And above all, remember that you deserve to be happy and it’s never too late to make a change – mid-career crisis or not.
Lisa is a Creative Circle candidate and seasoned advertising copywriter who lives in Los Angeles. Her background includes both in-house and agency work on Fortune 500 and global accounts in the consumer and healthcare/pharmaceutical fields. She excels at words, fashion, and cats. If you want to work with Lisa, contact Creative Circle Los Angeles.