Ep. #27: How to Navigate Your Mid-Life (Career) Crisis
A mid-life crisis isn't just the time when you trade in your minivan for a convertible, it can also be an opportunity to revaluate and question whether you want to keep doing what you are doing at work for the NEXT 20 years.
Now is the perfect time to make bold decisions about your career.
So what DO you want to be doing?
Can you see yourself in this same position until retirement? If the answer is no then it might be time to make a change. And that change could be as simple as pursuing a higher level leadership position.
But while the decision to pursue a higher level leadership role can be simple, getting there is another story.
On today's episode I will be sharing with you why it can feel so difficult to navigate that messy place of middle management, what you can do to break out of it and how you can find the support you need along the way.
It all starts with asking yourself a few simple questions.
What You'll Learn:
- Why this is the perfect time to revaluate your career choices and create a plan for moving forward
- How to navigate the messy middle and why it feels so icky
- The reason transitioning into senior leadership may not be as simple as you thought
- Why middle management puts you in a unique position of power
- A simple, yet effective way to begin making that transition today
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
- Trudy B founder of The Center for Workforce Excellence
- Apply for your free career strategy session at stacymayer.com/apply
Leadership is a learned skill. Welcome to episode number 27. In today's episode, I'm going to be showing you how to navigate that kind of funky place in your career. That place where some of you might be experiencing a sort of mid-life career crisis. Looking forward at the next 20 years that you still have left before retirement and wondering, am I making the impact that I really want to be making? Am I enjoying the work that I'm doing? And am I living up to my fullest potential. At my career? So in today's episode, I'm going to show you exactly how you can navigate this time in your life and how you can move forward and really get excited about the possibility of the next 20 years. Listen on.
Welcome to maximize your career with Stacy Mayer. A podcast about achieving your career goals while also being yourself.
Hello, everyone, welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Career. I'm your host, Stacy Mayer, really happy to be here with you this evening. Man, I am having some really powerful conversations right now about race in the workplace, about diversity in the workplace and about what we as leaders can be doing better. This morning, I interviewed Trudy B.. She is the CEO of the Center for Workforce Excellence and a champion of diversity and inclusion. And it was just such a powerful eye opening conversation. And I can't wait to share it with you here on the podcast. In a couple of weeks, it'll probably be out at the beginning of July.
But I just wanna I just want to talk about if you're not somebody who is actively engaging in these types of conversations right now, it is such an incredible opportunity to really just open yourself up to understanding what can be done, what you can do better. And just really, I encourage you to just open the door and to ask questions of of people around you. And before I get into today's podcast episode, I also want to say thank you so much to all of our fabulous listeners.
Thank you to you for listening to this podcast each and every week. And thank you to June's destiny. She left me a five star review on iTunes. It says, Stacy is the real deal. I love Stacy Mayer's podcasts and informative resources. She is the real deal when it comes to navigating, getting promoted. Your career is a long game. That way, your career is a long game that is about using your gifts and knowledge to have more impact. Stacy helps me to drill down into how to identify implement an advocate for what I want. She definitely has helped me to learn how to use what I have and create an action plan in getting what I want to do. More impactful work. Yes. Thank you so much. JunesDestiny. And I encourage you, if you've been listening to this podcast for several weeks or even if you're a new listener and something really stood out to you as being powerful and impactful and is helping you guide your career to that next level of leadership, I encourage you to take a moment and to review our podcast on iTunes. It is not only good for you and for me, but it's also good for those listeners who are looking for a resource, who are having challenges, getting the recognition that they deserve. They're having difficulty navigating the politics at work. All of the positions of power, they're having trouble understanding what they can do, what control they actually have to navigate their career. This is the mission that I'm on, both as a coach and with this podcast, so you can help me be an advocate for my mission. If this speaks to you by giving me a review on iTunes. So please, I encourage you to do that. And I will thank you and give you a shout out on the podcast as well. So if you like that sort of thing.
Yeah. Thank you so, so much.
So for today's episode, I'm going to be talking about the lovely thing called a mid-life crisis. Now we all have it. It's a real thing. It's something that happens to each and every one of us. It's just it's basically human nature based on the time that we've spent on this earth.
Right. So when we look at every sort of 20 year cycles, you know, our first 20 years look very different than our second 20 years. And then now you're getting into your third 20 years. And then hopefully you have at least another 20, maybe 30 or 40 years after that to go. So the idea is that you're in the middle of your life. You have about 40 years behind you. And 40 years ahead, it's natural to question where you are and to look for something more. As we contemplate moving into this next phase of life and one of the places that this starts with is your career.
This is the place that we spend 40, 60, 80 hours a week and we start to ask ourselves, am I making the impact that I want to be making in my career?
Am it does my work actually matter? Do I like my job? Would I be happy if I spent the next 20 years in this exact same position in this exact same job? So these are the questions that you'll just naturally ask yourself at this time. And it's totally, totally normal. And not only that, I think it's imperative that you do the work now.
So you've got about 20 years left in your career before you retire. Let's say that you decide that you're just going to ride it out and kind of see what happens and figure it out as you go. And, you know, you've got other priorities right now. Other things that you're thinking about. What happens when you get into your 50s or age 55 and, you know, check with somebody who is that age? And I'm sure they'll be able to tell you, especially if they're unhappy in their career, that they wished that they had done something sooner. So it's it's really imperative that you use this time in your career wisely and really think about what are the next steps for me and how am I going to get there.
And like I said, this is a natural time to look at your career and to really think about what you know.
Am I happy?
Am I making the impact? And I want to warn you. So I see this all the time.
So everybody I work with is basically at this time in their life. And, you know, I'll be honest, I'm 45 years old myself. So maybe it's like I'm attracting like attracts like. Right. So I'm attracting other people that have contemplated this.
And, you know, I did my own midlife crisis work about five years ago, which is how I found myself on my career path right now. But I wanted to encourage you not to give up on what you have done so far. So what are the mistakes that I see a lot of people making at this point in their career is that they feel like they need to make a career shift. You know, like they need to choose a new industry or a new field or a new line of work. And while a lot of times that might be true and this could be, you know, totally relevant to you and could be exactly where you are.
What I encourage you to do is, is include leadership as this new career path. Now, that's what I can speak to. You know, I'm a little bit biased because that's my expertise, right? That's what I coach my clients to do, is to choose leadership. Right.
It's a really lean into what leadership can be like for the next 20 years of your career. But I'll also give you some selling points. So, you know, I feel like I'm doing a commercial for the leadership.
You know, as if this is like a product. Right.
But I'm going to try and sell you on this for a few minutes. So before you feel like you need to switch industries or switch everything altogether. Most leaders are at a certain age. Right. So a lot of times leaders are in their 40s, are in their 50s, you know, senior executive leaders at organizations. You know, we're seeing a lot of younger leaders now, but it just traditionally speaking, leaders are in that age. And the reason is, is because they have all of this career experience behind them. They have a lot of organizational experience. They have subject matter expertise. And then now included in that, they have the wisdom that comes with being a professional in the workplace for an extended period of time. So in the second half of their career, they're extreme, they're wiser, smarter. They're able to delegate better. They have their priorities straight. They're emotional. Intelligence is stronger. So all of this work has been done by this point. Hopefully sometimes. Sometimes not. Right. But the ideas that they are ready for something different now, leadership in and of itself is way.
More different than I think many people even realize. So a lot of times when people get frustrated, when they're not getting the recognition that they deserve and they're not able to successfully transfer the transition from like, say, a middle management position or even an individual contributor position into higher level leadership positions is because they think it's the same thing. They think it's just something that you get with tenure because you've worked hard and you should receive a promotion into these leadership positions. But it's actually a totally different career path. It really is. It is. It is as if you go from marketing into engineering. It could be that vastly different and unique. You have to learn a completely unique and different set of skills. So I'm not saying that to scare you, but I'm just saying that it does require a different skill set. It requires of different version of you. And it's imperative that you know that, because if you know that, then you can go out and you can get the leadership skills that you need in order to not only get to that position, but to actually get the recognition and have success along the way.
So that's the first thing I want to point out it. And, you know, as the spokesperson today for leadership, quote unquote, as a career choice, it is enough. It can be enough. And not only is it enough, it's also a simpler transition than completely changing fields of study. Right. So, so many people are like, I just have to give up. I'm just going to do something totally different. And like I said, that could be completely aligned. But I would I would just encourage you to look at leadership as the totally something different thing that really falls in line with where you're at right now in your career and could really be something great that you could do for the next 20 years, continuously growing, continuously learning, continuously challenging yourself. So by the time you get to 65 or 67 or whenever you decide that you're going to retire, you can look back and you can say, oh, I actually accomplished something in my career. I worked hard. I challenged myself and I received the recognition for that. So I have something tangible like money, salary, influence. Impact is also currency. So something tangible to show for it.
So it's a it's a really big deal. And a lot of people, that's what they aspire to do. So that's why they start to look at it at this point in their career and say, OK, what am I going to do for the next 20 years? So now I want to spend a little bit of time talking about the messy middle. So why it stinks to be exactly where you are right now. So first of all, I've already talked about how you're in this transition phase. You're starting to question things. But another reason why it's just it's really hard and difficult to be in the messy middle is because you look back on your past.
I mean, how many of you have looked at your past and idolized it? Right. Like, how so much easier in my 20s to get ahead in my career because I had no inhibitions. I had no fear. I was willing to just pack up and move. I didn't have responsibilities. I didn't have a family. I didn't have other priorities so I could just focus on my career. So you look back at the past and you sort of idolize it and you say, man, if I could just feel that way again, that would be great. And then you look to the future and you're scared, right? You don't know exactly what the future holds. You have this inkling that if you keep doing the same thing that you're doing right now, you won't be happy in the future. So that's feels fearful, but you don't really know what's going to happen next and what's actually going to get you towards that long term vision like it seems at this point, very outside of yourself.
Another way to look at this is, you know, really think about what's happening right now with the corona virus. Right. So with the pandemic, it gives you a really strong reason why we want to kind of run away from the messy middle. So I'll give you an example. Because of the crisis and because of what is so rapidly changing in our economy and organizations, people getting laid off, people switching jobs, you know, just like organizations folding. Right. So there's a lot of change happening right now. And we can probably look like far into the future and say, OK.
Three years from now, five years from now, we can assume, hopefully, that we have a cure rate, that we're able to go back to business as usual. Yes, there. This is the new normal. Yes. We're never going back.
But you can sort of look at the future and you could say, OK, at some point, at some point, we're going to no longer be sheltering in place and we're no no longer going to be worried about getting our co-workers sick. Right. So at some point, that will probably happen so we can look far into the future. And then we can also look at the present. Right. And that's like, you know, mindfulness practice. Right. Like, we only have the present. We can look where we are today and we can make choices and decisions based on what's actually happening in our life on a day to day basis.
So you can probably do that. And even if you're really, really busy and even if you're overwhelmed and even if you're stressed or are worried or whatever anxiety is coming up for you, you could still look at today and you can think about it and make decisions according to today.
But now let's go to September. Right. And right now, I'm recording this podcast in June and September kind of sucks. Like, when I think about September, I can't really nervous. And, you know, and mostly that is because my children may or may not be going back to school.
And so then I think about that. I'm like, oh, I don't know if they'll be in school in the fall.
Oh, well, does that mean that I'm going to keep doing the same thing that I'm doing right now for the next? Can I do this for six months? Can I maintain this for another year? You know, and you start to just get really panicky when you think about just two or three months out. That's the messy middle. That's the panic place. So where are you at in the messy middle in your career right now? It's basically that place where you look in the past and you're like, OK, this happened to me. You look to the future and you feel hopeful and you know, there's a promise of the future. But then you look at your present a situation and you can't figure out how to get out of it.
You're sort of like, well, I don't know. I don't know if I should do. I don't know. I, I.
I mean, should I do this? I could do I could do this. Right. It's like it's like you have too many choices. So it creates paralysis and then it kind of comes down to your paycheck and you're sort of like, well, I should be grateful that I have a job right now and I should just, like, buckle down and get my work done and focus on my work and and get back to work. Right. And I've already told you the reason why this is such a bad idea. It's because time flies, right. And before you know it, you're going to be doing the same thing, figuring out the same thing year after year after year. And it really compounds. Another reason why this is so important is that, you know, we all know that the promotion cycle is quite long and organizations guess it can happen in an instant. And I highly encourage everybody to be ready for that opportunity. So right time, right place is totally something within your control to create right time, right place will appear for you. And if you're not ready to capitalize on it, you will get passed over. So this happens time and time again. Even if it's not even if the person says to me, well, I wasn't interested in that job at the time. Give them a year and they'll look back and they're like, oh, my God, I should have totally taken that job. Right. And so it's so important to be prepared for that right time, right place.
But right now, the decisions that you're making about your career are going to affect your career. Six months down the line. So when you think about that. So, yeah, we don't wanna think about September because it's kind of overwhelming. But you need to think about it. Right. So that's when I say that the messy middle is uncomfortable. All I'm saying is that it's uncomfortable. Right. I'm not saying you should ignore it. And the best thing that you could be doing for your career right now is really looking at the fall and thinking, oh.
Like what I know I don't want is I don't want to have to wait yet another six months before anything shifts in my career. I don't want to have to wait another year even after that. So now we're like in 2022 and you're still in a similar position either. Like I said, title, but also maybe impact. You haven't made any progress. And then at that point, you find yourself getting really stuck and wondering what to do next. Should I just quit? Should I just switch careers? You know, maybe this is because the organization doesn't appreciate me. All of those types of things. So on today's episode, my real goal for you is to understand that that this messy middle. Doesn't mean that you can't lean into your career just because it's uncomfortable doesn't mean that you can't and shouldn't try and make these choices right now that are going to affect the next 20 years that you have ahead of you. And now I want to encourage you. So I already spoke why leadership could be a fantastic career transition for you. And I want you to think for a minute why the position that you're at right now as a middle manager or let's say you're even already in a senior V.P.
role or a vice president type role. But yet you're not able to make the impact. So if you don't feel like you're a valued member of the leadership team, you're basically in the middle. Right. So you have people above you that make decisions and then you have people below you who do the work and you're sort of somewhere in the middle. Once again, a key place to be, right? It's like it's like you're being micromanaged on both sides. Right. You have this expectation towards people below you and expectations from above. And then you can't make any real decisions. Right. So another reason why I want to get you out of there. Right. So that you can get into those higher level, higher authoritative, like if you see change and impact that you want to make into the world, get into a position of power. But it starts with you first. It starts with you owning your career choices, owning and understanding, and have clarity and a vision of what's in front of you. So the first thing I want you to understand is that, yeah, it's uncomfortable to be in middle management because of this, like boxed in sandwiched approach. But you have a unique wisdom that nobody else has.
So you can see and prioritize things that people in senior leadership positions can't deal with. And especially especially during this crisis right now. They don't have time, energy, willpower, like they're basically trained, the senior level leaders are trying to keep the company afloat right now. They're doing crisis management mode at the highest level. And so you are in this unique position where you're working with the people, even if you're a manager of managers, you're working with the people, you know what people need. And you have a greater perspective towards what can actually be done long term for the organization. So my challenge for you, because you were in sort of this Wisdom's seat, this wise person that has 20 years of experience behind you, a lot of knowledge and a lot of ideas. It's not that you lack ideas. It's that you. You have the inability to actually speak up and share those ideas in an effective and compelling way to institute change. And I want to encourage you to find ways to share what you're seeing, to find ways to share with your boss, to share with leadership what's working and what's not working. It could be for you very personally. You can even just start with what's working. Different changes that have been made in Utah as an accomplice.
Like, I encourage you just to open the door and get the conversation started. But it starts with you making a commitment to yourself over the next 30 days. I am going to take note and really understand what it is that I'm seeing. So what is that I'm seeing that the company is doing differently what it is that I'm doing differently as a leader? How are people responding? And this can be positive and negative and start to share those ideas. And if you don't have specific ideas as far as solutions, have conversations about it, open the door and just say, I'm just curious what you think. I'm just curious what you're noticing. Right. So I really encourage you to use this position of power that you're in at the middle management level to start creating change. So that is within your power now. And that in and of itself is what is going to get you to the next level of leadership. If you start acting like a senior level leader now in the position that you're in. I guarantee you that people will start to notice and at the point that they don't. Then you will have so much confidence in yourself.
You'll have so much ability to shift your focus and to figure out how to make the next best fit and find the organization and find your people who do understand you, who do appreciate you and who and the place, the right place and the right time so that you can actually start making that impact that you deserve, that you have the ability to make today. So I encourage all of you to get out there to start advocating for change, to start having these conversations today and really use this position that you have this power position, the seat in the middle to open doors for you. It will happen. I guarantee you, if you start doing it today, in six months from now, at the end of 2020, even in the craziest year we've had in a long, long time, you will see change.
Thank you so, so much for listening. I encourage you, if you like what I'm talking about in the podcast and you want to take this one step deeper, if you want to be somebody who really takes your career seriously over these next six months and you really want to make a change.
Maybe you don't know how you're going to do it. Maybe you don't know exactly what it's going to look like. Then I encourage you to sign up for a free career strategy session with me. I offer these strategy sessions by application only. Go to Stacy Mayer dot com slash apply to see if you're eligible. I encourage anyone and everyone to apply. You might as well give it a shot. And it's StacyMayer dot com slash apply? It's completely free. It's completely risk free. But if I see an opportunity and I think that I can actually help you get to that next level of leadership over the next six months, then I will tell you all about my one on one coaching package that's highly tailored specifically towards your needs to navigate the actual organization that you work for, your unique leadership style, and to elevate your career in 2020. So sign up today. I will link to it in the show notes as well. And other than that. Have a fantastic week.
Thank you so much for listening. Bye.
About Your Host
Hi, I’m Stacy Mayer, a Leadership Coach for emerging executives who are ready to take their career to the next level or seeking more fulfillment in their current organizational roles.
I help corporate managers reposition themselves to advance their careers, build confidence in their ability to solve problems in real-time, and step into their higher leadership potential so they can make a bigger impact in their organizations.
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