Tips for Overcoming Mid-career Malaise and Finding Fulfillment

Tips for Overcoming Mid-career Malaise and Finding Fulfillment

With the right mindset and tools, you can overcome mid-career malaise and find renewed passion in your work.

As the chapters of our professional lives unfold, there often comes a point when the once vibrant enthusiasm for our careers can wane. This natural phase, known as “mid-career malaise”, can cast a shadow of doubt and restlessness, causing us to question our path and yearn for a more fulfilling journey.

It’s common for employees in the middle of their careers to feel dissatisfied. According to an Associate Professor of organizational behavior at the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD), Gianpiero Petriglieri, midlife marks the point when people start to recognize the value of time and the limitations of their opportunities, thus dispelling any illusions of immortality.

He explains further that this feeling of professional discontent in middle age is not limited to occasional frustration or challenging projects. Instead, it’s a prolonged sense of uncertainty and feeling like one might be missing out on something important. 

Amid mid-career malaise, uncertainty can cause stress and anxiety. Fears of making wrong choices, financial pressures and the relentless march of time converge to intensify these emotions, ultimately leading to psychological distress. Recognizing the signs of this phase is important. It can act as an early warning system, allowing for proactive steps. This article explores mid-career malaise indicators and offers guidance on building resilience to maintain a purposeful and vigorous professional life.

Know the indicators

So, how do you determine if your mid-career malaise has set in? These could be some indicators:

  • You reluctantly head to the office daily, out of necessity, while questioning the whereabouts of your once-present passion. 
  • Concentrating on tasks becomes challenging, leading to increased social media use and frequent breaks.
  • You’re indifferent towards work, lacking motivation for better outcomes and missing the drive to excel.
  • Work’s negatives overshadow the positives and affect your feelings towards your job. You often voice job complaints and engage in needless discussions about colleagues, and this negativity might affect coworkers’ morale.
  • You’ve reached a point of stagnation. This means that your professional growth, learning and opportunities for advancement have come to a standstill, leaving you in a state where your role or responsibilities no longer seem to be evolving or developing.
  • Chronic fatigue serves as an added signal, emerging from the void of endorphins that were once activated by a sense of achievement but are no longer being generated.

​​Navigating the issue

Having gained insight into the various symptoms that can signify a mid-life crisis, it becomes essential to delve into the strategies and actions to facilitate a smoother journey through this challenging phase of life.

Learn something new

One way to combat the feelings associated with mid-career blues is to embrace new challenges and experiences. According to an Executive Coach and the Author of several books, including Build an A-Team., Whitney Johnson, ongoing growth stems from continuous learning. But as we age, our careers can become dull due to boredom. The thrill of learning and achieving wanes. While it’s tempting to request a promotion or take on new tasks to revive this enthusiasm, Johnson suggests considering a lateral transition that allows you to take on new challenges and learn and grow in a different way.

For example, a marketing manager can opt for a lateral transition by moving from traditional advertising to digital marketing. This shift offers new challenges and skills without seeking a vertical promotion, revitalizing their enthusiasm for growth and learning.

The power of connections and conversations

As the years go by, it’s not uncommon for motivation levels to dip. Yet, engaging in conversations with colleagues and mentors can help you gain a broader perspective on how your work contributes to the bigger picture. A Life and Career Coach at Upstairs Coaching, Alex Kingsmill, recommends creating a “People Map” by listing all your contacts. Then, invite them for coffee and inquire about their professions, career journeys, suitable work for you, potential leads and connections to explore. This proactive approach opens doors to fresh perspectives and perhaps new jobs.

Surround yourself with positivity and seek self-motivation to minimize exposure to negative influences. Having a mentor or coach can also provide valuable guidance and insights.

Take a break

Constant work can lead to burnout and a negative mindset. Taking time off lets you rest, engage in enjoyable activities, recharge and reevaluate your priorities. This renewal can positively affect your career outlook. Some companies even offer paid sabbaticals to support self-renewal and growth, showing a commitment to employee well-being. Remember, breaks can vary in length, so plan thoughtfully to align with your responsibilities and goals. You’ll likely return with increased clarity, enthusiasm and a brighter career attitude.

A collaborative endeavor

Addressing mid-career blues is a shared responsibility between both the company and the employee. Organizations need to create an environment that fosters growth, skill enhancement and a sense of purpose for their mid-level talent. This includes offering mentorship, opportunities for skill development and recognizing the importance of work-life balance

On the other hand, employees must take charge of their own career development, seeking out avenues for growth, engaging in continuous learning and proactively addressing personal and professional challenges. Organizations highly value enthusiastic employees, recognizing that their energy and commitment contribute significantly to the overall success and vibrancy of the workplace. 

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