Solutions to mid-career ruts

An early to mid-career rut is very common, and is often part of what we understand as a 'mid-life crisis'. It can occur from your late-twenties to your early-fifties, or even beyond this, as we are now working for longer.

By the time you’ve reached this age, you will tend to have an understanding of your likes and dislikes at work. You’ll generally have had enough experience to know what stresses you out and what motivates you. The feeling of being stuck, however, can eat into your self-confidence, and this is when a mid-career rut can feel all-consuming.

Situations where you may find yourself in a career rut

If you look at jobs across a spectrum, at one end you could be in a high-powered job, but have a large amount of stress, where the level of demand on your time is through the roof. This is wearing you down, and you don’t know where to go from here.

At the other end of the spectrum, you could be in an unchallenging role. This is where you are asked to do repetitive work which leaves you feeling bored and with low self-esteem, as you are not using your skills and knowledge to your best advantage. This is now known as 'rust out'.

Somewhere in the middle is a happier place, where you have clarity, freedom, and can relax into your work and have motivation and purpose.

How to get out of a career rut

Here are some pointers about how to move on if you find yourself in this situation.

1. Assess your skills

An assessment of your transferable skills, occupational skills, and experience will be essential. A career coach can help you with this and can give you the confidence to make the most of yourself. A reflection on these skills and how they can be used in different ways to find a role that meets your expectations can make all the difference.

2. Assess your values

This will be a reflection on what sort of a role you would like to be in and what would make the difference to you. If you are in a boring role, where your skills and talents are not being used to their best (i.e. you are experiencing rust out), is there something that you can re-train in? This is essential to review so that you don’t waste your life on mundane, unmotivating work.

Or, if you are in a high-powered role, is there another company that has a culture that is better aligned to your values? Otherwise, can you have a conversation with your boss or someone who has power, to let them know that you are feeling unhappy and unmotivated in your work? This will give them the chance to see if they are willing to change anything that will make your life easier and your work more enjoyable.

3. Look out for opportunities for formal, semi-formal, and informal training

Formal training may be provided by your organisation and this may allow you to move in a direction that suits your skills and values. However, do consider semi-formal and informal training too.

  • Semi-formal - this is where the training doesn’t lead to a qualification but gives you valuable knowledge which can help you bridge any gaps for your next career move.
  • Informal training - an example of this is where you put yourself forward for a role, for example chairing or being a deputy-chair of a meeting. This can be invaluable, as can getting involved in charity work or any volunteering role.

4. Job search

This leads on from assessing your skills and values. It is good to have an idea of what other roles are out there. This is important for those in a high-powered role, where you can’t find a way through, after talking to your boss or to someone who is in power. For those at the other end of the spectrum, this will be essential.

Be also mindful of your LinkedIn profile and any other online personal branding. You can also start networking to find contacts that may lead you to find more suitable roles. Getting interview-ready will also be important here and something your career coach can help you with.

5. Planning retirement

This is important to think about, especially if you are in your forties and fifties. You’ll want to plan when and how you will retire. Will you work full-time until state pension age or will you turn to work flexibly? Here you’ll need to plan for pension provision and work out how much you’ll need financially.

In conclusion

Thinking about the above points will help if you find yourself experiencing a mid-career rut. Finding a career coach to help you at each of these stages will be one of the most positive moves you can make. They will help you to have more control over your career, so you will be able to get your life back on track.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Lisa Stone, Career Coach

Freelance careers writer, qualified careers and leadership coach specialising in working with graduates and adults. I have over 10 years experience as a career coach. I graduated in 2012 with a PG Dip in Careers Information, Advice and Guidance from the University of Warwick. I specialise in helping people who are mid-career.… Read more

Written by Lisa Stone, Career Coach

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