Agnes Uhereczky is a consultant, podcaster and workplace transformer. She is the co-founder of the WorkLife HUB.
I was totally taken aback by that answer at the time. However, as I am also approaching my mid-life years, I keep thinking back on that encounter, because that woman’s story is not unique.
Since then I have met many women, and men, who have pivoted their careers during their mid-career period, perhaps just as they would have reached success and could have sailed smoothly into retirement. Or perhaps this is exactly the reason, a kind-of a Torschlusspanik, a last window of opportunity, to in fact live a life of meaning and purpose - even if it means greater financial insecurity and perhaps less status and definitely less perks.
I believe employers are not reckoning with this. There are however, a number of trends and an increasing of opportunities that may mean even in your organisation, that top talent may jump ship, and then you need to deal with succession and the costs.
Often the reason behind this pivotal moment may be the birth of a child, divorce, the death of a loved-one, a diagnoses, an illness, or even a chance encounter. Sooner or later we may all experience a mid-career crisis, so it’s better to prepare and be mindful about it.
Balancing work and family life, or major life events outside of work may have us profoundly question our life-choices (and our career and work are important ones), as well as our purpose, and a deeper realisation, whether we are truly playing to our strengths in our current role… or just chugging along.
What are some of the trends and factors that lead us to these pivotal career changes?
The issue: Job-function restrictions
An employee's job is made up of a “set of task elements grouped together under one job title and designed to be performed by a single individual”. Thus, tasks represent the most basic building blocks of the relationship between employees and the organization and are composed of “the set of prescribed work activities a person normally performs during a typical work period”. But due to automatisation, much shorter economic cycles and constant change, the comfort zone of a single, repetitive task which we can practice and perform to perfection is hardly there anymore.
The answer: job-crafting and more fluid, agile teams
The issue: learning a multitude of different skills
The phenomenal vast choice and availability to learn new skills, new crafts, new professions is amazing. There is so much available online, either on user-generated content platforms like youtube or Instagram, or on more professional platforms like Coursera. Hand on heart! Who hasn’t learnt something new in the past couple of months on any of these? And as the knowledge is so accessible and mostly free, we can really hone in on them. And who knows, we may get so good: it becomes our profession. Mentoring women entrepreneurs made me cross paths with a number of these brilliant self-starters, who went from diplomat to stylist, from banker to cookie baker, from journalist to yoga teacher.
This is all great, however these multi-pationals are disrupting the workplace, training and recruitment in surprising ways. On the one hand, because their side-gigs may catch the attention of their supervisor, and them not necessarily becoming your first new customer. Second, how the hell does this look on a CV? Only to drive AI driven recruitment softwares mad - and have them spit out your qualified applications.
The answer: A new paradigm about work and employment
The issue: work-life conflict
We often bring up major life-transitions and how they disrupt employment on our Blog, in our podcasts and work-life balance is our bread and butter. Becoming a parent or a carer, going through illness, suffering an injury or experiencing menopause are also major life events, that at some point during our working lives will become our priority. We cannot stress enough the need for a long-term thinking to replace short-termism in hiring and retaining employees. In addition, there is a major obstacle in organisations to tackle these efficiently, and that the responsibility for dealing with these disruptions in a sustainable and systematic way, are shared between a number of roles, from the line-manager, to HR, from health and safety to facilities and even operations.
The answer: work-life integration management
The issue: searching for meaning
This is a tough one of course, and it involves a lot of searching and asking questions like: How to have a fulfilling life? Is work defining who we are? And why are we in that job to begin with? Especially with jobs where the end product or service is particularly far removed (either in time or space) from the employee, it is very hard to align the organisational purpose with an employee’s personal goals and the meaning of the work.
Career anxiety is our latent talent howling through our minds, desperate not to go to the grave unspent.
The answer: self-awareness
We may not believe that a certain job, a type of career or even success are available to us, and this may be due to something we may have heard over and over again by our parents or teachers. Also, we may not know what we are good at, or think that what we are good can be valued. This is the case of many so-called “soft-skills”, like empathy, systems thinking, the ability to navigate and solve conflict, to prioritise…
The first step there, is either by yourself or with the help of a career coach, defining what success means for you, what may be the new blueprint for your life: And then you need to take responsibility for it by embarking on the journey that will take you there.