NEW COUNTRY, NEW JOB
It was a Sunday evening (back in Feb 1998) and I was talking to the next-door neighbour of the person in whose house I was staying as a paying guest.
“You’re lucky you don’t have to go to work tomorrow”, sighed Sridhar (name changed).
I thought I hadn’t heard him right! Was he being serious or was he taking a dig at me for being unemployed? I wasn’t sure what to make of his comment.
Despite my 13 years of work experience back home, I had drawn a blank thus far with all my applications. To be honest, I was feeling a tad jealous of Sridhar (also an Indian immigrant but of three years vintage). He worked at the NZ branch of a multinational company and I thought his life was perfect, as he had a job that was the envy of most migrants.
And so I told him, “You’re so lucky to have this job. You know there are people who would give an arm and a leg for your job”.
Sridhar replied, “Just enjoy this phase as much as you can brother…once you start working, you’ll realize that work sucks out all the joy from your life”.
“Well, I’d gladly trade places with you if we could”, I said and we moved on from that topic.
This conversation from nearly 23 years ago is still fresh in my memory only because I found myself in Sridhar’s position some years later. That was probably when I truly realized what it meant to be in an unhappy job or career. When you start feeling that an unemployed person is better off than you, despite you having a permanent job and receiving a monthly salary, you know that you are on a slippery slope towards “Mid-Career Blues”!
THE WEEKLY ROLLERCOASTER OF EMOTIONS
· Why are so many people the world over unhappy with their jobs?
· Why is TGIF even a thing? (For all those lucky people who love their jobs and probably need this acronym explained it stands for “Thank God It’s Friday”!)
· Why do most employees hope that if they make a mistake at work, they do it on a Friday and not a Monday?
I have worked in 8 companies in NZ over the past two decades, and the pattern in all of them was depressingly similar. Mondays felt very sombre and Fridays had the flavour of a carnival! A typical reply to the customary query of “how was your weekend” on Monday mornings generally began with the excitement of describing the weekend (if something worth describing had been done over the weekend) and within a few minutes, it would move on to how depressing it was to be back at work. If I got a dollar for each time that I heard someone say on Monday mornings “I wish I had won the lottery and not needed to come to work”, I would have become a millionaire without winning the lottery!
In the first half of our careers, we are busy trying to establish ourselves at work and also building a life outside of work in terms of relationships, parenthood, mortgage, etc. During this phase, job satisfaction is generally not a priority for most people. There are too many responsibilities and commitments that demand our attention. In the second half of our careers, we tend to have the immediate needs taken care of, and the mind drifts towards questions like “Is this what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my working life?” and thoughts like “I don’t like this job/career as it feels boring, monotonous and bereft of any growth opportunities”.
I believe that as we grow more mature, we start to feel the need for a larger purpose or meaning to our lives. Since work is such a big part of our lives, a job or career lacking in purpose or value (beyond the obvious purpose of an income to pay the bills) at this later stage of life loses its sheen pretty quickly. When we are in that frame of mind, small issues or friction at work tend to have a much bigger impact on the harmony and peace in our lives.
Here is a little memory exercise for all those who consider themselves to be in the second half of their careers…
Think back to the early stages of your career (maybe in your 20s or early 30s) …try and recall a difficult boss who didn’t give you much respect, appreciation, or even simple acknowledgement for your hard work. Did you carry the negative feelings of an unpleasant interaction with the boss back home and let it haunt you for days after the incident, churning it over and over in your head? I’d venture to say you probably left those feelings behind at work or maybe just mentioned it to your family at home if you had a particularly bad day, and got over it fairly quickly.
Now recall a more recent job where you might have had tough times with a boss with whom you didn’t get along very well. How did skirmishes with that boss affect your emotions and mind?
If you’re thinking this exercise is not relevant to you since you’ve always had wonderful bosses and you’re enjoying your career then I hope you continue to stay blessed. You belong to the small and exclusive club of “happy employees” and you probably don’t need to be reading this post – you should be celebrating instead!!😊 However, if (like me) you’ve had the misfortune of having less than desirable bosses for most of your career, chances are that you might have taken any tiffs or friction with your bosses in the latter half of your career more to heart than the ones in the early part. Maybe recent work problems have led you to look for another job, or you might even have considered ditching your job without lining up another one. Here’s a confession…I have done the classic “walkout” – tossing the company car keys on the boss’s desk and walking out the door, after a particularly heated argument!
From a personal standpoint, during the later stages of my career as an employee, I noticed that my tolerance level for corporate BS had dropped significantly. What used to be water off a duck’s back in my younger days agitated and disturbed me a lot more as I grew older. Do you have similar experiences?
Just for the record, I would never recommend the ‘walking out in a huff’ strategy to anyone who might want advice on handling a mid-career crisis. While it can seem temporarily satisfying, the ‘act in haste and repent at leisure’ method of handling a frustrating career situation can cause greater frustration down the line, especially if financial difficulty comes into the equation.
So what can you do about handling the mid-career blues?
The first step is to determine the seriousness of your problem. Are you just having the odd bad day at work or going through a particularly stressful period - a new project implementation, a new machinery installation, shifting warehouses, etc. – or is it something of a more ongoing nature?
If you observe your feelings over a period of time, you should be able to find a pattern.
· Do you find yourself dreading going to work every day?
· Do you suffer from the Morose Monday to Fun Friday routine every week?
· Do you constantly feel overwhelmed by the volume and nature of your work?
· Do you keep thinking that you would be happier almost anywhere other than your current workplace?
· Do you feel stifled or trapped accompanied by a strong desire for more freedom and flexibility?
A “YES” to one or more of the above questions would suggest that you might be suffering mid-career blues. But the good news is – you can do something about it! Once you identify what is the root cause of your dissatisfaction and frustration, solutions can be worked out. Different problems require different prescriptions, hence diagnosing the problem is critical to forming an action plan.
If this blog has resonated with you so far and you would like to know more about how to overcome mid-career blues, I would recommend watching the following video that I recorded recently in which I discuss SIX ways of tackling this issue. Hopefully, the video will set you on the path to finding your solution. It is an 18-minute watch – well worth your time if you find that your inner voice keeps asking questions like “Is there a way to be happier in my job?” or “Is this the right job/career for me?”.
If you would like one-on-one assistance and support, you can get in touch with me through my website or email and we can dive deeper into finding solutions specific to your situation to help you breeze through this challenging phase.