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10 Keys To Get Through A Career Crisis

10 Keys To Get Through A Career Crisis

Dealing with a career crisis is a topic that has a very personal application to me. It is very real because I experienced one, and it had a profound impact on me. So much so that I literally wrote a book about it.

I had to deal with a major crisis early on in my career as a corporate lawyer. The crisis was simple: I found myself very discouraged and depressed at the prospect of doing law for the rest of my life. I truly disliked it, and I wanted to make a career change to something that brought me fulfillment.

The problem was that I initially didn’t know what to do. I had spent almost a decade obtaining the necessary education to become a lawyer, not to mention well over several hundred thousand dollars in real and opportunity costs to get my education. I had to really soul search and redefine what I believed about myself and what I wanted to accomplish in my career. The result was a tremendously empowering process, and in this article I will share 10 of the insights I learned in leaving law to find empowerment as an entrepreneur, consultant and writer.

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1. First, determine if it is a real crisis or simply a trying experience.

Not everything is a career crisis, and all careers have challenging times, even careers that are “right.” Just because your career is engaging, generally enjoyable, and personally meaningful doesn’t mean that it won’t have its challenging times. That’s life. Life is about change and challenge. So before we look at major changes, we should determine if this is a “crisis” or if it is simply a challenge. The answer will determine the steps we take next. A crisis could very likely lead to a career change. A challenge is an opportunity to dig in and develop grit, courage and persistence. It is a character moment.

2. If it’s just a challenge then remember your why.

It’s just a challenge if you still love the career and you want to get better at it and progress to the point of mastery. If you find yourself in a career “challenge” but you don’t want to leave the career, then simply remember your “why.” Why did you get in this career in the first place? Expanding on that, what have you yet to accomplish in this career? What have you yet to learn? How can you improve and grow? What does success in this field mean to you? Go back to the fundamentals of your why. When you do this you’ll gain resolve and courage to move forward beyond the present challenge.

3. If it’s a crisis don’t get discouraged, but know you’ll need to make a change eventually.

It may not be simply a challenge. It may be a full-blown crisis. That’s what happened to me in law. I knew without a doubt that law was not right for me, and I needed to do something else with my life. If you find yourself in the same position, don’t get discouraged. No one said you had to get it right on the first go (although it can feel discouraging to have to change, especially after you have educated yourself for a certain path). Stay positive: you can make a change, but know that the change is inevitable.

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4. It’s a crisis if your values are not aligned with what you are doing.

What do you truly value? What is unique about you? Do you like to create? Do you value teaching? Are you a contributor? Do you uniquely value freedom? Does your current career align with your unique values? If no, then you’re on a dangerous path. I realized that the things I valued most were freedom, communication, contribution, and adventure. Law didn’t provide that for me. Entrepreneurship was a better path. Do a values analysis and compare it to your current career.

5. Take full responsibility, only you can create a solution.

I can’t stress this point enough. Resist the urge to blame. Don’t blame your boss, your current employer, your parents. You are where you are because you made choices. You can get to a new place if you simply make new choices. You are the solution. If you blame someone for where you are, you are actually giving away your power. You are giving away the solution. If someone is to blame, then you have no power to change. But you do have power to change, and to accept the responsibility.

6. Change is never easy, take courage.

If you are in a full-blown career crisis you’ll have to do things that require courage. However, each action that you take that requires courage builds your courage a little. The first step might just be to admit to yourself that you are not happy and that you need to make a change.

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7. Keep composed and remain calm, good things will come.

Action holds anxiety at bay. I know from personal experience that a career crisis can be terribly stressful. Try your best to stay calm, and when you feel the anxiety, just take more action. Keep yourself healthy, move and breathe, take care of yourself. Stay composed because your actions will be most effective when you are calm in your mindset.

8. Be realistic in your expectations.

Being real is very empowering. It is realistic to suppose that all careers, even ones that are aligned with your values, will have their challenging moments. It is realistic to suppose that if you make a change you may not initially make as much money as you were making in the career that you hated. If you’re leaving a secure pay check to build a business, it is realistic that the business may take a little longer than you think to get going. But that doesn’t mean that you should quit. It just means that businesses often take a little while to get going. Be realistic in your expectations.

9. Take the long view.

This is a powerful strategy. If you take the long view, then little challenges won’t get you down. This is another test for whether you are in a career that is right for you. Do you want to master this field? Are you willing to work for years and years to become great at this? If you choose a career where the answer to these questions is yes, then you are on a good path. If you’re only concerned about the short term and the pay raises, you should seriously consider whether or not you need to make a dramatic change.

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10. Your work matters, so find work that is personally meaningful, independent of money or status.

Your work matters. Work gives us self-confidence and a sense of purpose. Don’t discount the intrinsic value of doing work that is personally meaningful. So much of our world is focused on getting more money and being recognized for our success, but these conquests are often hollow victories and they don’t have the depth of meaning that doing personally satisfying work does. When you find that career in which your actions are intrinsically meaningful, you are on the path to a lifetime of empowerment and fulfillment.

More by this author

Ryan Clements

A lawyer turned marketing professional, entrepreneur and writer who writes about entrepreneurship, career and personal development.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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