Are you mid-career wondering what’s next?

Does your original career vision not match reality?

Success means different things to different people.  Whether you have a family and dependants – it might mean providing for them so money is important.  It might mean getting rewarded for effort with promotions.  It might mean having work-life integration.  It might mean working for a multinational, or spending time with family in your breaks.

Many professionals have a vision of success for their lives and careers early on.  I know I did.  I wanted to be an engineer.   When I got that done, I started work and quickly decided I wanted to be in management rather than be a technical “expert” in my field.  So I went to work on getting into management.

I worked hard, long hours, in pursuit of that dream.   Looking back now,  I think that reaching the “top” of the organisations I was working for was in part to stroke my ego and how I got my own self-worth.  It was like getting good grades at school and uni- I was on an achievement drive.  This paid off and I got the manager’s job after 10 years of professional work.

But after five years in that role I lost my mojo.  I wanted to have a greater influence and change things in my organisation, but I wasn’t getting promoted to the next level.

I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning; I wasn’t being a good mum and I most definitely wasn’t being the best person possible for everyone at work in my teams.  I had lost my vision of success in mid-career. 

My past career “success” was no indicator of my future.

If your expectations of where you thought you’d be in your career don’t match where you are – you might be there too.  Now let me share with you how I found my mojo again. There were 3 key things.

#1 Recognise careers go in PHASES

Randy Block, Chair of the Forbes coaches council talks about when you reach that career goal, there may be a sense of emptiness. And if you have accumulated responsibilities (mortgages, family), then any options to change what you are doing will always pale in favour of the comfortable status quo. 

So, the first thing to realise is that careers go in PHASES and what your vision of success was for early phases, may not be the same for the mid or later phases.  So what PHASE are you in?  If you have stopped learning in your career that is a good sign that you have reached a point where you need to take some action.

#2 Take tiny steps in MULTIPLE DIRECTIONS

The action I took was tiny steps in multiple directions.  I had some idea of what possible alternative roles/jobs/industries might be – and even if I thought options weren’t available to me – I still took action in that direction. That is key.  Where you think there is no opportunity you need to still consider it is possible and take action. Some practical action is to pick up the phone and have a conversation with someone in power.  Let them know you are ready for the next step up – even if you think there’s no way that’s possible.  Who knows what might happen!

The other key thing to do is to not think too much about what is going to happen (if you concern yourself with the unknown future, then this is also like a handbrake on your ability to move out of the phase you are in.) Even though it’s really hard to do, when every day you might experience a sense of emptiness, try to spend some time appreciating how good your life is RIGHT NOW.  This helps in getting perspective and puts you in a better place to be taking tiny steps.

#3 What CONTRIBUTION do you want to make?

This is key.  Your career goals may have been self motivating for you and what you wanted in life.  But once you reach a certain phase in your career with all those years of experience and knowledge, you can now play a bigger game.  So for me; I got clear that my vision of success wasn’t just a “promotion” to exec level; but it was to help people.  If I could look at alternative roles/jobs/industries that I could work in with this lens, then a whole world opened up to me, not only at the next level in my organisation. 

So, have you got clear on what contribution you want to make to the world, now you have accumulated everything you know up till now?  This is much more motivating than sitting there wishing you could get a promotion.  If you go to work on this and get crystal clear of your vision of success – in terms of CONTRIBUTION then the reason for taking tiny steps will be clear and it will pull you along. 

When people in mid-career get clear on their vision of success, at the current phase of their career and life, it’s rewarding to be a part of.  It’s incredible how rapidly you can get out of that feeling of emptiness and on a new pathway, when you decide to take action. So these few steps look good on paper; but a mentor is worth having at your side to see what you can’t see and hold you to account to take the action.  So if you think your future isn’t playing out how you thought it would – try these few steps to re-imagine it and make it happen- and add resources to maximise your chance of success!