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Midlife Career Crisis: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Can't Quit?


Woman in midlife mid-career feeling stressed at work

There can be many reasons why you find yourself stuck in a job that you hate or is making you feel unhappy. It's what you decide to do about it that really matters. The usual response is to quit and work elsewhere in a similar role or go for a complete career change.


However, if you're in the midlife mid-career stage then quitting is not always that easy or necessarily the right decision. The good news is that there are other options available that don't involve changing careers or even leaving your job.


Can't Quit (Just yet...)


Before we begin, let's clarify something. Your job is not a prison sentence (although it may feel like it at times!), you aren't been held there against your own free will so there's always an option to quit. In reality though, it's about timing - you may not just be able to quit just yet.


This is the reality for many professionals in the midlife mid-career stage that are feeling unhappy, disengaged or burnt out in their job or career. The desire to escape from where you work is weighing heavy on your mind but because you can't just up and leave (you have responsibilities, others to think of, bills to pay, mouths to feed etc.), you start to feel stuck or trapped - which further perpetuates the negative feelings.


Do you really need to Quit anyway?


Ok, if you're completely disliking or hating your job then you're probably feeling a bit irritated by this question but stay with me while I explain...


If you're feeling unfulfilled, disengaged or miserable in your job or career then it's because there's some misalignment between who you are, your motivations and aspirations (your highest priorities and what you find personally meaningful) versus how your job/career supports you in enabling to achieve this.


It may be that these negative feelings have crept-up on you over time or there's been some life changes that have happened (which is common in midlife) that's triggered the feelings of misalignment.


Understanding why you're feeling misaligned in the first place (the root cause) is the key to understanding what the options are to realign for more fulfilment and engagement. At The ChangIN Room™, I introduce clients to the four different options/opportunity areas that are available to 'Try On' to realign - depending on the type of misalignment they're experiencing.


If you'd like to learn more about the 4 Different Types of Mid-Career Misalignment then please view this article here.

Avoid feeling trapped & stuck


If you're in a job, workplace or career that you dislike or even hate and don't have an idea of what to do about it, then it's easy to feel trapped and stuck which can fuel further resentment and desperation to escape.


It's a key painpoint for many in this situation. That's because humans are wired for autonomy - the ability and freedom to make choices, it feels empowering and contributes to our wellbeing. Conversely, it feels rubbish if you feel controlled and forced to do something, like turn up to a job you hate every day.


Having personally experienced this situation in the midlife mid-career stage, I know how painful it can be to feel trapped and stuck in a job that's not bringing out the best in you.


That's why I have spent years researching and developing tools and approaches to help clients understand the practical opportunities available to 'Try On' to improve your experience in the job that you are currently in.


There are two overlooked options that many unhappy, disengaged employees don't consider when they are in an unfulfilling job/career - either because they're not aware of them or they are just don't know how to realistically apply them to their situation. Let's take a look at what these options are...



2 Options for you to Try On to feel better about your job when you can't quit...


Two options to consider

1. Connect or re-connect to the meaning & purpose in your work - make it personal (really personal).


When it comes to feeling more fulfilled and engaged at work it doesn't matter what job, industry or position you are in - if you aren't personally connected to the meaning and purpose in your work then it's highly unlikely you'll feel fulfilment and satisfaction.


Every job has a purpose else it wouldn't be required and every role within an organisation makes some kind of contribution. The problem is most employers are pretty bad at helping employees to personally connect to the meaning and purpose in their work, and most employees don't know what's truly meaningful to them. This is why the majority of the workforce are disengaged.


You're in control of how you connect to the meaning and purpose in your work.

The beauty of this however is that because connecting to meaning and purpose is a subjective experience - it's you that's in complete control of this (and autonomy is what we want to stop feeling trapped and disempowered!).


If you feel your job is meaningless and lacks purpose then it's time for a reframe - it's about Trying On a different perspective.


Meaning is not found in the job itself but in the way you view your job. However because meaningfulness is a personal experience, there's no quick shortcut to identifying what this is for you, i.e. your employer can't tell you what it is and you won't find it on your organisation's intranet (your organisation's purpose is different to your personal purpose).


It takes a bit of work on your behalf to identify and connect with the meaning and purpose in your work in a way that engages and inspires you. This is where the guidance of a professional coach/facilitator can be valuable in helping you to shift your perspective. I specialise in helping individuals to connect to the meaning and purpose in their work, as this really is the key to fulfilment.


How?


Because The ChangIN Room™ is about helping individuals take an INside out approach to creating and experiencing more fulfilment at work, the starting point is always understanding what it is that is authentically driving (INtrinsically motivating) you, knowing what your unique highest priority values are.


One of the key problems is that we aren't taught how to link how what we truly find most important (our unique highest priority values) with how our job/work is helping to serve us.

In addition, it's about delving into the practical aspects and realities of your job/work. Zooming in and out to see how what you do specifically makes an impact/contributes to others inside and outside of your organisation.


Then it's about framing how all that relates/connects to your deeper purpose/mission in life. As a Certified Demartini Values Facilitator, I help clients to see and appreciate how what they are doing is helping them on the way not in the way of their personal journey through a powerful values linking process.


Sometimes it's about a perspective shift, sometimes it's about practical changes. Always it's about starting with knowing what is personally meaningful and fulfilling for you.


2. Make tweaks/changes to your role in a way that benefits both you and your employer


There are three basic universal human needs that need to be met for optimal employee engagement in a workplace - autonomy, connection and competency. Being able to structure job roles and tasks to meet all three needs can be achieved through practical job design strategies.


Job design strategies refer to the various approaches and techniques organisations can use to create effective and engaging job roles for their employees. The commonly used job design strategies include: job rotation, job enrichment, job enlargement and job crafting.


Because job design strategies are usually led and implemented by Human Resources (HR) departments, employees often overlook or are not even aware of the opportunities available to them to help intentionally shape their roles to better align with their skills, interests and working style/preferences.


This option requires you to understand what it is that you'd really like to do more of and less of within the context of the organisation's needs. If you can demonstrate to your employer how what changes you'd like to make is a win-win for both you and the organisation then you are more likely to gain the support of your manager/HR.


You don't have to wait until your annual performance review...


Most employees think they need to wait for their annual performance review to discuss these types of requests but this isn't the case - being proactive about your work and your intentions to maximise your engagement and performance is something that most employers are open to and supportive of.


Not all employers are that receptive to the idea of changing roles or job duties. This is where knowing about job crafting can help you because they are employee-led and can be done without explicit input from HR.


Job crafting empowers individuals with the ability to personalise their job roles, tasks & relationships to better align with their preferences & motivations.

Job crafting is an under-used strategy that can help you to personalise your job to better align with your skills, interests and values (motivations) within the boundaries of your existing role.


There are different opportunities to craft your job ranging from making practical tweaks to processes, nurturing relationships or building new connections, and most importantly mindset/cognitive crafting - where you reframe the meaning and purpose of your work to make a personal connection to your job.


If you're keen to understand more about how you might be able to use job design or job crafting strategies to help you re-engage and find more fulfilment in your existing job then please contact Zoë for further guidance.

Woman in midlife mid-career hating her job

No way can I see staying as an option! Now what should I do?


For some people, the two options above may be enough to realign them for more fulfilment, for others, it may provide some temporary relief (coping mechanisms) until they can find an alternative job or career.


If you'd like to know more about understanding what you should do to realign for more fulfilment at work, then I recommend:


  1. Identifying what type of mid-career misalignment you're experiencing (know the root cause before you take action) - I have created a Free Mid-Career Diagnosis Tool which provides a valuable starting point

  2. Determining your unique highest priority values (using the Demartini Values Determination Process™) to understand what truly motivates and is most meaningful for you in your life

  3. Contact me (Zoë) to help you understand what you may need to Try On to realign for more fulfilment.

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The ChangIN Room™ specialises in helping unhappy overwhelmed midlife mid-career professionals to access the right resources, tools and support to help them realign and re-engage in their work/career. If you'd like to know more then please visit: https://www.changinroom.com.au/ or contact Zoë below.

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Zoë Blasch helping mid-career professionals

Author, The ChangIN Room™

Zoë Blasch

MBA-qualified Mid-Career Coach & Demartini Values Facilitator

Helping unhappy mid-career professionals to understand what they need to Try On to experience more fulfilment at work & beyond.

I'm based in Melbourne, Australia but work with clients globally.

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