What to Do if You Feel a Mid-life Career Crisis Coming On Strong
My 40 (ahem, er) somethingth birthday is in, like four days. This means, among other things, that I spend no shortage of time contemplating things like Botox, grandiose adventures (YOLO, people. YOLO), and a potential brand, new Corvette (I grew up in Detroit; this was near the top of the list of classic “mid-life crisis” moves, as I observed it).
Oh, yeah. And serums to hide dark circles under my eyes. Oh, the hours I spend on this one.
But one thing I am fortunate enough to not be dealing with as I gear up for what I’m considering a well-earned mid-life crisis is, “How am I going to manage a job change at this age?”
Many of my current and former clients, however? They’re somewhere between mildly concerned and full-on distressed about how their age, appearance, or level of seniority may factor in as they approach the job search or consider a career pivot.
Fear not, grasshoppers. Fear not. Well, fear a lot less, especially if you’re feeling a mid-life (career-related) crisis pulling into the station. Here are four incredibly realistic (I’ll even argue, simple) things you can do right now to help ease your distress, and catapult yourself forward:
1. Take a Few Deep Breaths and Realize You’re Already Incredible
I recently worked with a job seeker—about 52—who was relatively certain that she was experiencing age discrimination. In spite of solid, up-to-date credentials, she was getting little response. When I peeked at her resume, it was pretty darned impressive, and gave little indication that she was a more seasoned professional.
And so I asked her to point to a specific example in which she felt she’d been the victim of age discrimination. She could not. The concern, she says, was that she assumed it was going to happen, so she mentally insisted that it was already happening.
Don’t do this.
Yes, take steps to present yourself as modern, current, and energetic (we’ll cover more of this in a second), but don’t assume that it’s happening, because it will simply serve as a hindrance to your progress. Instead? Take a few deep breaths and drill it into your core that you are already straight-up incredible. And it’s a matter of attitude and strategy that will take you the distance.
2. Understand How Youth and Vitality Is Celebrated, and Strategize Accordingly
There’s no denying it, especially in western culture—youth and vitality is celebrated, and rewarded. (Were it not, do you think I would be on an endless hunt for under-eye cream? No, I would not be.) Hiring managers and recruiters are looking for people who are vibrant, energetic and—importantly—whose skills appear to be current.
If you look, on paper, to be a bit long in the tooth, these decision makers may jump to several wrong conclusions, including, “She’s looking for a place to ride out the rest of her career,” or “I’ll bet her skills are out-of-date.” Is this unfair? Oh, hell yes. But it goes on every day.
This being the case, you have a couple of options: One, get mad at the game and refuse to play. Or two, understand the game and strategize around it.
I vote strategize around it all day long. A few ways you can do this are to: remove your college graduation dates, remove non-essential jobs prior to, say, the late ’90s, and be sure and showcase any software platforms or other “completely 2016” skills or areas of expertise, front and center on the resume.
Also, when it comes time for the interview? Invest in current clothing and a current haircut. And, if cost is a factor, consider resale shops, eBay or, my current favorite, Thredup.com.
3. Don’t Do Anything Major Without Giving Yourself a Waiting Period
Another more seasoned client I worked with was so fearful that he was wasting valuable years at a job he hated (a company he’d been in for 17 years), that he walked in one morning and quit. And he didn’t just quit. He went out in grand, blow-torch-the-bridge-to-the-ground style.
And then, precisely a week later, he panicked. And he panicked even more when, three months later, he didn’t have a new position lined up.
If you’re feeling the mid-life (or quarter-life, or any-life) bug to do draw a line in the sand with some grandiose career move (or any kind of move), I’m going to recommend that you force yourself to give that decision a few days (or weeks), rather than marching into your manager’s office and telling her where, exactly, she can stick that job.
Not all mid-life crisis moves are good ones. Especially the ones that likely cannot be easily undone (e.g., trendy tattoos and abrupt resignations without a Plan B.)
4. If You’re Reliant on Someone Hiring You, Don’t be Completely Ridiculous
I’ll get this right out there—if you’re your own boss, sometimes being completely ridiculous will work in your favor and garner you a more ardent following, because you’re ridiculous in an endearing, compelling way. However, in most of corporate America, acting ridiculous is not going to be celebrated, or accelerate your path to a new job or career.
Now, this is not me saying, “Don’t be original,” or “Don’t be memorable,” or “Don’t be creative.” Not at all. It’s me saying, “Acting like you’re in full-on, mid-life crisis mode may not be perceived as awesome by everyone.”
Don’t make your mid-life crisis turn into a detriment; instead, look for ways to make it advantageous to catapulting (or, even inching) you somewhere great.
And, for the love of everything, if you have the magical secret to erasing dark circles? This 40-something is all ears.
Photo of woman thinking courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Jenny Foss is a career strategist, recruiter, and the voice of the popular career blog JobJenny.com. Based in Portland, OR, Jenny is the author of the Ridiculously Awesome Resume Kit and the Ridiculously Awesome Career Pivot Kit. Also check out the recently-launched Weekend Resume Makeover Course, find Jenny on Twitter @JobJenny, and book one-on-one coaching sessions with her on The Muse's Coach Connect.More from this Author