The feelings of mid-career misalignment are easy to recognise. What is less commonly recognised or discussed however is that there are different types of misalignment that are responsible for causing those negative feelings or experiences.
If you're wanting to feel more fulfilled in your job/career then it's crucial to understand what type of misalignment you are currently experiencing so that you can take the rights steps to realign.
Common Signs of Misalignment
Many people in the midlife mid-career stage are feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied with their work and life in general. The common signs include feeling:
Whilst nobody wants to experience these negative feelings, these signs are giving you important feedback to let you know that who you are, your true priorities and what naturally motivates you are out of alignment with your current job/career.
The key is to recognise whether the misalignment you're experiencing is temporary or something deeper/more lasting.
Feeling unfulfilled or disengaged at work doesn't always mean you need to quit your job or change careers.
Why are you Misaligned?
Often when you're feeling unhappy or miserable at work, there's a tendency to just bundle these negative feelings into one cause or assumption, for example "I'm in the wrong job so need to find a new one!"
The problem with this approach however is that without really understanding why you're feeling unfulfilled or disengaged in the first place (the root cause), then you're unlikely going to find the right solutions available to help you change your situation for the better (for more fulfilment).
Pinpointing exactly what the real problem area is means you'll gain clarity on what your options are to realign for more fulfilment.
4 Types of Mid-Career Misalignment
After personally navigating the midlife mid-career stage and from talking to others going through similar challenges, I realised there's actually four different types of misalignment that can happen in your job.
Knowing the differences between all four means you're better informed about what it is that you may need to do (what action to take) to change from feeling unhappy and unfulfilled to more energised, motivated and fulfilled at work/in your career. Plus you'll avoid wasting time, energy and potentially money on making changes in the wrong areas.
4. Temporary Misalignment
Meaning: You're in the right workplace and role but aren't connected to the meaning and purpose in your work.
Feeling connected to the meaning and purpose in your work is the key to experiencing fulfilment and engagement in any job, regardless of role or industry type.
Every job has a purpose and makes a contribution/impact in some way. If however you aren't personally connected to the meaningfulness in your work, then you aren't going to find it fulfilling.
It may be that you were once more engaged or found your work more enjoyable and rewarding or that you were never connected to meaning and purpose in the first place.
I call this misalignment type temporary because usually what is required is a perspective shift/reframe of how you view your job/work. Recognising how your job is helping you to achieve your highest priority values can help you to realign for more fulfilment.
3. Role/Team Misalignment
Meaning: You're in the right workplace but in the wrong role/team.
This type of misalignment can happen if you've been at the same organisation for a long time, have mastered your role and now finding your work rather repetitive or just too challenging.
It's normal for your values and interests to change over time, if your job/work doesn't evolve to match your skills and interests then you can become misaligned.
If you feel overall that your job/employer still ticks a lot of boxes for you then it might be worth looking at practical job design strategies. These can include:
Job rotation - opportunities to work in a different team/department to add diversity to your role
Job enrichment - adding increased responsibility to your role to expand your skillset
Job crafting - making tweaks to your existing role so you can do more of what you enjoy doing (what energises).
The ability to implement these strategies effectively will depend on the nature of your work and the appetite for your manager/HR to support them. However, I help my clients to understand how to personalise their jobs through job crafting in ways that can be done without explicit input from HR.
2. Workplace Misalignment
Meaning: You're in the right career/role but in the wrong workplace (employer) or wrong location.
Workplace misalignment can happen for many reasons. The common one is due to a mismatched cultural fit between you and your employer.
Other key reasons can be that you're in a toxic workplaces or just due to practical reasons, such as your workplace is in the wrong location (perhaps the commute is too long or there's challenges with remote working).
If you feel that you enjoy the work you do/the role you're in but the problem is more the environment you're in or trying to navigate, then this is a strong indicator that you're experiencing this type of misalignment.
There may be strategies to that can help you to more effectively navigate challenging work environments but if it's clear that the option to realign for more fulfilment is to leave then I highly recommend a couple of things first before you jump into a job search!
Reflect on why there's a problem - is it you, them (employer, colleagues, customers etc.) or a mix of both? Being honest and accountable here can help you to avoid a repeated experience in a future workplace/organisation.
Get clear on what type of culture you do want to be in - a good starting point is to list what you don't like about the current environment you're in then identify what you'd like instead, this can help you to better target potential employers you'd like to work for in your job search.
1. Career Misalignment
Meaning: You're in the wrong career.
I've saved the biggest misalignment type to last! If you feel that the reason for your unfulfilment is because you're in the wrong career then it's important to get clear on what it is that you do want to do and why.
When you are in a job that you hate or just don't enjoy it can be normal to dream/fantasise about packing it all in and starting something brand new.
Plenty of people in the midlife mid-career stage successfully change careers but it's not easy and often takes a lot of planning, preparation, setbacks and sacrifices. The key is to recognise if your desire to change career paths is being driven by the need to escape from your existing situation rather than being driven towards realigning for more fulfilment.
The key starting point I recommend for midlife mid-career professionals that are considering a career change is to first get clear on what is authentically driving/motivating them from within so that they can align with their unique highest priority values (an INside out approach).
How to Diagnose your Misalignment Type?
Because diagnosing what type of misalignment you're experiencing in your job is the key to understanding what to change to create more fulfilment, I created a free Mid-Career Misalignment Diagnosis Tool specifically designed for midlife professionals.
Don't quit your job or start a job search before reading the Mid-Career Misalignment Diagnosis eBook!
Free eBook to get you started
The eBook takes you through all four different mid-career misalignment types and includes a handy checklist that you can use to help understand/interpret the signs and feedback you are experiencing (diagnose the real problem).
In addition to helping you understand what might be the root cause of your problem(s) at work, the Mid-Career Misalignment Diagnosis eBook also includes information on the possible options/solutions for you to explore (to Try On) to help you to start feeling more fulfilment at work and beyond.
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.