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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Wise Wednesdays: 3 keys to getting through a career crisis

Career crises are becoming the norm. They still remain stigmatised; yet, a growing literature is beginning to document this phenomenon objectively, and its relationship to mid-life crises in general.

If you are between 30 and 40 years, you have a 1 in 2 chance of being in a mid-life crisis right now! (according to one UK study) Career crises also seem to take place earlier in life (35 is the new 50).

Of course, this doesn’t help in finding the answers to the deep questions that these crises elicit. However, the research findings provide some perspective. Read on or take a look at the short video for a few quick insights and reassurance.

And now the good news!

Career crises appear to resolve of their own accord after a few years (once we hit our 50s). If you don’t want to wait that long, you can be mindful of the process and bear these three things in mind:

1) You’re not alone: As the statistics above show, it’s pretty common. So if you’re feeling isolated, opening up to almost anyone is likely to result in an exchange of insights and empathy. It’s important to let go of unhelpful, negative narratives built on personal circumstances, as they are likely to be part of the problem rather than the solution. Consult an advisor and start building a new narrative based on your talents and gifts and see where you can contribute.

2) It’s normal: From a human potential perspective, we continue to grow until we die. Carl Jung described the individuation process as continually unfolding. The brain’s neuroplasticity (ability to learn) extends into older age and research shows that the human brain isn’t even fully mature until our 30s and 40s. So a mid-life crisis is akin to another adolescence: we are finding ourselves again including what we really value and how we want to live. It may be confusing to shed old paradigms before we find new ones, but it’s just a phase.

And so…

3) It’s an opportunity: Since, this is a normal biological process for many if not all of us in some form, it is wise to go with the process and make the most of it. After mourning the loss of old dreams and expectations, it is an opportunity to start anew. Reconnect with forgotten pleasures, integrate them into a new, wiser vision of life and set off on a new journey. Rebuilding from the rubble, we get the chance to live in a way that reflects a more developed, authentic and mature part of us. At this point, we also get the chance to know, without the shadow of a doubt, that life only happens in the present moment rather than as something we strive for endlessly in the future.

What to do?

When an organism undergoes metamorphosis, there is always an ecological change (a change in the organism’s environment). This can extend a career crisis because we are creatures of habit and fear change. It’s important to allow the change to occur gradually (by not ignoring it when it begins). Create time to take stock, be open to new opportunities and cultivate patience and wisdom where things can’t change immediately.

At the bleakest times, remember that the Buddha became enlightened at age 35 after a long crisis that started in his late 20s (he resigned from his job as future king and became homeless). If you’re going through a career crisis, you’re in good company.

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