Not very long ago, you were a wide-eyed enthusiastic employee at a new job. But as the years roll on, it can seem harder to hold onto that excitement and motivation at work. If you’ve often been feeling this way in recent times, you could be in a mid-career slump.
What Is a Mid-Career Slump?
Unlike a mid-life crisis, a mid-career slowdown is harder to spot. On paper, you might seem like the perfect employee with a great work ethic and good benefits. But behind the facade, you could be battling stress, boredom, or dissatisfaction. This is true for millions of workers. According to the Gallup 2022 global survey, stress at work has touched a record high for two years running.
Very often, an active and fulfilling career might be stressful because of the challenges it provides. A mid-career slump might cause stress because of the absence of excitement, challenges, and novelty. You might even wonder to yourself whether it’s time for a change. Before you start making drastic career plans, here are 4 signs to spot mid-career burnout.
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Four Signs of a Mid-Career Slump
1. You’re Ok With Good-Enough
When you are interested in your work, there is a sense of purpose and a desire to learn and be better. But if you’re in a slump, you might find yourself just doing the bare minimum, rather than going ‘above and beyond’ like you used to. This kind of effort might help you pass under the radar, but it signals a lack of interest.
2. You Don’t Want to Build Connections Anymore
Socialisation is a big part of work. Lately, you might be finding yourself avoiding people and conversations or feeling off-balance around colleagues. This difficulty connecting with people might be coming from a place of boredom and dissatisfaction.
3. You’re Not Interested in Learning
Learning new skills or taking up courses is a fun and exciting part of developing your career. You might find yourself avoiding training programmes or feeling disinterested in gaining new skills.
4. You Feel Stuck Creatively
One of the biggest indicators of a mid-career slump is a sense of confusion and a block in creativity. You might not be able to come up with new ideas and find yourself stuck when it comes to brainstorming.
What Are the Causes of a Mid-Career Slump?
Research has shown that a mid-career slump can occur due to reduced time, energy, and mental resources. This can happen over the year or due to a change in personal responsibilities as one gets older. For instance, studies have shown that Indian women often have to balance childcare, family responsibilities, and work throughout their careers. This can lead to burnout and a build-up of stress.
Tips to Overcome a Mid-Career Slump
It might seem hopeless, but there are many techniques that you can use to pull yourself out of a career slump. Here’s what you can do:
Identify the Root Cause
When you are in the belly of the beast, it might be hard to see a way out. Taking time to reflect on your situation without any judgement is the first step to recovering from the slump. To make the reflection process simpler, here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- How do I feel when I go to work?
- How do I feel about my job and the organisation?
- What are my current personal and professional priorities?
- What would I have to change in my job to feel better?
- What do I spend the most time thinking about when I am at work?
It might be difficult to answer all these questions right away. If you give yourself time to reflect, it can help you move forward slowly.
Take Small Steps
You might not want to change your career or leave your job. Instead, you can begin by choosing small experiences that make you feel interested and joyful. Some of the possible opportunities that you can take up include:
- Working with a new team
- Taking up new upskilling opportunities
- Travelling for work to get a change of scenery
- Learning a new skill by shadowing a colleague
Seek Meaning Internally
You might have asked yourself, ‘why am I working?’ or ‘what am I doing this all for?’ Questioning yourself and your sense of purpose can make you feel unsettled and dissatisfied. You can develop more meaning in your life by reframing your thoughts. When you start to believe that you have more control over your life, you start feeling better. This is called ‘Internal Locus of Control’ and it can lead to greater mental wellbeing. Every time you feel stuck or annoyed with work, you can ask yourself these questions to help reframe your thoughts:
- What is one thing I learnt from my job today?
- What do I like about my work/career?
- Who is one person that I was able to connect with during work today?
- What is a small step that I can take to make my work more interesting?
A mid-career slump doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can be an interesting way for you to shake things up and find even more meaning in your work.