Things aren’t going well. Is it a full-blown career crisis?
Or is it just a perfectly ordinary transition and you are not prepared?
It’s impossible to go through your whole professional life without having some sort of professional set back. But it’s important to understand well the difference between a genuine career crisis and a glitch.
Not every negative workplace experience is a career crisis. Most jobs have ups and down and some are more stressful and challenging than others. They are just normal transitions which happen to everyone. How you respond and react will determine the outcome. Don’t forget the Chinese proverb that “out of crisis comes opportunity.” You will have the chance to step up and excel, or dig in deep and show fortitude and resilience. But there is a fine line which can be crossed and it’s important to be able to make a distinction.
So what criteria would you use to work out the difference? Here are some solid guidelines.
When it’s NOT a career crisis, just a glitch
There are any number of circumstances which cause us to doubt our career choices, whether it’s the function itself, the sector or organisation. This could include adjusting to a new boss, adapting to a different technology, a merger or a takeover. Very often these situations seem more catastrophic than they really are.
To find out whether you are over reacting or could respond differently, do a reality check. Carry out a thorough audit of your career. Only 5% of women set career goals, which leaves them at a distinct disadvantage and forces them to be reactive not proactive. Being clear on what your goals are, understanding your options and creating a strategic way forward are all critical to accepting that you have the skills and qualities to propel your career forward. This will propel you out of crisis mode.
Find out what’s involved in a career audit HERE
Borderline glitch/career crisis
There is a whole grey area where challenging transitions seem like crises because we are not hard wired or set up to cope with them. Having a career strategy and Plan B in the background can reduce the status of a career crisis to a challenging glitch.
- When your conscience and values are compromised: If anything is happening in your organisation that makes you feel uneasy or compromised in any way, then it is time to move on quickly. This could be around legal or moral issues. It’s vital that we feel psychologically safe and well in our place of work. Non alignment of values long-term can lead to mental and physical health issues.
- If you are experiencing bullying, mobbing or harassment of any kind: This is a serious issue and needs to be tackled immediately. I would include in this a toxic management or boss. It’s very hard to make an impact here and very often moving out and onwards is the only real option. Once again it’s about inclusion and feeling psychologically secure.
- When you cannot face going into work in the mornings: This may have nothing to do with the organisation or job, but could be your personal circumstances or simply that you have changed. This happens frequently. Change is ongoing. The point is to accept that which will give you the mental agility and readiness that you need.
- Financial uncertainty: In uncertain economic times and with sometimes exploitative employment conditions, looking at another organisation is imperative. If your organisation is cutting back on jobs or hours worked then it’s key to reassess your position.
- Job loss: There could be circumstances where your job is under threat or conditions that you rely on, such as flex or remote working, are being withdrawn. This can be very stressful and although it’s important to see the period as a transition, it can morph into a full-blown career crisis, especially if there are time constraints and you feel pressurised.
When it IS a career crisis
- When your physical health is impacted by your workplace: This could be manifested in physical symptoms such as muscular or joint pain, migraines, stomach or bowel problems, loss of or increase in appetite, self-medication or reliance on prescription drugs. In this case you must see a doctor immediately.
- When your emotional well-being is being damaged: This will show as anxiety, stress, depression or even in the physical symptoms listed above. Once again consult a doctor urgently.
- Unexpected job loss: This can happen where organisations let people go wihtout warning and it completely blindsides everyone.
Career crisis or glitch
There are always ways forward.
- In a full-on career crisis seek professional support: This could be a doctor, coach, therapist or bank manager. Or even all. In some cases such as redundancy or harassment, the employer will be willing to support the cost.
- Take care of your health, both emotional and physical: Taking concrete steps and being productive in a mindful way will help you feel in control. Exercise, watch your diet and practise self-care.
- Nurture your relationships: Women tend to be good about sharing any problems with their immediate relationships. But now is the time to really focus on building a wider and more diverse network.
The fact that women tend to look outside their organisations less frequently than men, and are less strategic about their careers, means they are more vulnerable to workplace transitions and career crises. It’s important to be prepared so you can tackle any issue head on. When you are prepared that crisis will become a regular transition.
Download our podcast on setting goals and creating a career strategy HERE.