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Career Counselling: How to deal with a mid-life career crisis

It’s only a matter of time before working men and women will start facing the heat of a mid-life career crisis in their job. It’s seldom an overnight development that you can quickly put your finger on. Instead it starts creeping up slowly but surely. Office politics, burnout, ego clashes, loss of management trust, self defeating feelings of self-doubt.

If you want to find out how you’ve been managing your career well, try out the free career planning tool on this –> Career Guidance page.

Listening to the frustration release song (can you guess who’s the singer?) can offer a few moments of solace, but no real solution.

For many, a job change or an international MBA seems like a good escape route to reset the clock and start off afresh. But it’s an expensive & risky option and there’s no guarantee that the mid-life career problems you were facing will disappear. What if they resurface in the new company in a different form?

When faced with a similar crisis situation in his career, Vijay (name changed) initially thought of the typical escape route option i.e. leaving the toxic corporate environment behind and going for an MBA abroad.

When he reached out to us, we realised that his whole MBA admissions strategy, right from his GMAT preparation was chaotic. He ended up with a very low GMAT score that wouldn’t get him into any decent bschool. In a state of panic, he started looking at ways to bypass the highly selective hurdles.

But then he realised he wasn’t dealing with the real problems. He was just chasing simple (and ineffective) workarounds. That’s when he decided to adopt a different strategy. Get some career counselling and tackle the primary issues head on!

Not in an aggressive manner, though. That would just aggravate the situation. He discovered that there were subtle ways to tackle mid-career crises situations. It might take time and the results may not be immediately visible.

This is a true story, with the personal details taken out.


How career counselling helped me fix my mid-life career crisis

by Vijay

I am aged 29 years, and work in the Financial services industry with a leading Multinational organization in Mumbai. I have been employed with this organization for the last 9 years, and worked in different roles since the inception of my career.

I recently got transferred to a new headed by a young colleague, with whom I wasn’t very sure of working with. On the request of a senior colleague I agreed to join this team.

I had always enjoyed my work at this organization, except in the last few months when I didn’t enjoy working with the organization anymore and felt like pursuing other areas such as a management degree or another job.

I met with Sameer Kamat from MBA Crystal Ball, and decided to explore my thoughts and if my reasoning was correct. I had a very nice career counselling session with Sameer, wherein he explained the exact structure of my career, and where I could be possibly facing road-blocks.

Sameer took great effort and provided excellent insights on my organization and how he felt I should look at and improve.

I implemented the suggestions slowly, and also had a reflective chat with my CEO. The discussions thereafter were very impactful, and I received quite a lot of investment and support, including greater clarity of my role.

I was very appreciative of the discussions with Sameer, and I was able to experience the value of the consultation with the support received at my organization.

The only advice I would give to other people facing similar situations is that don’t hesitate to share even your smallest worries (of work / personal life) with other people or a good counsellor, as you wouldn’t know what would affect you when.

– Vijay

By the way, apart from putting an end to his mid-career crisis, Vijay also got a fantastic and unexpected perk at work – and it’s not money or promotion related. There’s a top bschool angle to it. We’ll save that part of the story for an offline coffee discussion.

Continuing the wild goose chase – GMAT, MBA et al – would’ve meant Vijay would’ve shelled out several lakhs of rupees from his hard-earned savings into a program that would’ve mattered very little. Instead, he chose to reach out and share his confusion and was open to a longer, slower approach.

In India, most professionals assume it’s a sign of weakness to reach out to others for career counselling help. It’s not. On the contrary, it requires maturity and a higher emotional quotient (EQ) to share something so personal with others, even if it’s someone you trust. Check out the inspiring story of an MBA Dropout (IIT grad).

If you’ve been struggling with job or career issues, rather than taking a quick-fix approach, we’d urge you to slow down, take a step back and re-evaluate the real issues & circumstances that triggered the mid-life career crisis.

Career counsellingApart from our regular MBA related services, we also offer career counselling support to folks where we think we can help. We clearly define the scope of what we can and can’t do.

Don’t assume that the career counsellor will magically making difficult problems disappear. But the counsellor could give you objective and logical perspectives that may be eluding you at a stage when everything appears so ominous.

If you think you could do with some friendly and objective advice, check out our career counselling page and contact us on: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

Also read:
How career counselling helped me

[Edit: We are no longer accepting new comments on this article. Please post your queries on this article: Fear and shame of a career change]

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

9 thoughts on “Career Counselling: How to deal with a mid-life career crisis”

  1. Hi, I have done my engineering in Electronics n Communication with good percentage and after that due to recession I had to take up a job as Marketing executive. After working for 15 months I got an opportunity to work in a defence company for a year, later I realized it was not going to assist me in my career as it was a contract job and involved very less responsibilities and almost after one and half a year I started working GIS and working till date. During one and half a year period I joined a course on .Net and after completion of the course I started hunting for a job as a .Net fresher but could not find one as I graduated in 2008 and that was a big huddle and because of which I have taken up a job in GIS field. Now, at this point in my career I very much worried about my future and helpless as I don’t understand where to head from here, should I do an MBA? Or start practicing .Net getting into any of the organizations as an intern. If I go for MBA, which specialization shall I chose? Should it be finance and HR or operations? Please guide me

  2. Hi Wajid,

    While starting any new career, the learning curve in the first few years is the steepest. However it doesn’t always bear the fruits (designation, salary, growth etc) you might expect.

    But it’s always good to stick around and pick up skills that will be useful later.

    If you reset the clock too quickly and too frequently to move into unrelated arenas (which is what seems to have happened in your case), the benefits of the previous experience are likely to get diluted.

    An MBA isn’t going to wipe out whatever has happened so far. So rather than triggering another shift (with a new degree), you might want to stick around to gain some solid experience in any chosen field where you already have the pre-requisite qualifications (.NET or GIS or anything else).

    Spend at least 2-3 years in that role before even considering another academic degree.

  3. Hi Sameer,

    I am a computer science engineer pass out from a very good engineering college and used to be a very bright student in my school times. I continuously topped in my school times for almost 12 years. But In college time I turned out to be an average student.
    I got placed in two companies during campus placement and right now working with an MNC. I have now got one and half years of experience in the same company. My current package is of 4 lacks .
    As I used to be a really bright student for the most part of my life, It’s difficult for me to be satisfied with this small package. I am thinking to do some higher studies to utilize my potential fully. My weakness is my communication skills. My English fluency is not very good and have stage fright.
    For higher studies I have 3 things in my Mind :
    1. Mtech :
    If I choose this then it would definitely waste my two years of experience.
    2. Public Sector :
    Somewhere it lacks money and requires a complete new ways for preparation which isolate you to come out from it and prepare for other sectors in case you don’t get anything good in UPSC exam. It’s a bit risky.
    3. MBA :
    Its handsome package always attracts me. My ambitions are very high and want to do my level best so that I can get satisfaction in life. Some hurdles between me and my MBA plans are :
    a. My weak communication skills.I am thinking to give CAT-2013, it means I have a complete year to improve it.
    b. I belong to a middle class family. B-Schools are very expensive. And that’s why I have to make sure that If I choose any B-School, somewhere there should be guaranty of good placement to come out from the debt of B-School’s fees.

    Should I start my preparation for MBA. I am sure I will crack CAT written exam with very good percentile. But I doubt my abilities in clearing GD-PI. Later on If I become a manager, would my communication skills and stage fright hinder me to achieve success ?

    I am really hardworking guys and ready to do hard work of any sort to achieve something really satisfying in my life. I also want to get a really good job to show my cast and relatives the importance of education in life as they still believe in doing works like farming and all rather than making their children educated. Really need your advice. Please, guide me. Thanks in advance.

    – An ordinary boy with extraordinary dreams

  4. Rahul,

    It takes guts to come out and share personal stories. So, kudos to you for doing something that most readers (with much better communication skills) of this post might never be able to do, though they wish they could muster up the courage to do so .

    And talking about communication, I think you did a pretty good job in explaining your dilemma, the options you’ve considered and the rationale for doing so. Stop thinking that you aren’t good enough.

    I haven’t heard you speaking, so if you are referring to your verbal communication rather than writing skills, then I would like to hear you talking. If you are interested, drop me a note and I’ll share a phone number you can call. It’s not going to be a formal counselling session, but I’d be happy to share my immediate thoughts about how good or bad your communication skills are.

    Coming back to your queries:

    I don’t think 4 Lakhs for someone with 1.5 years work experience is a shabby amount at all.

    MBA plans:
    Like the person in the original post, you are trying to look at an MBA as a quick fix to your problems. And when you say – ‘there should be a guarantee of good placements‘ – you already created an expectation that no school will be able to promise or deliver. Not even Harvard Business School.

    So I’d say, hang on. Don’t jump into more competitive exams at this stage. A post-graduate degree will have a miniscule impact on your primary (perceived?) weakness i.e. communication skills. And you might be forced into roles that require communication skills that are far more superior to take on more responsibilities and justify your bigger salary.

    First, see if you can build the skills that you really want, and do it outside the classroom. If you’ve been a good student, then your grasping power is better than most.

    Seek out smaller opportunities (maybe outside the office) where you get to polish your English as well as do something else that you’ll value later.

    E.g. take up a social initiative where you can teach English to kids either in a local vernacular school or through an NGO.

    Unlike your competitive colleagues who might constantly be looking out for opportunities to show their superiority, the kids you teach won’t ridicule you. In fact, you’ll be their hero.

    When you are confident that you have the right skills, and a better understanding of the financial risks involved, only then should you consider additional degrees. Given the option, try to make the need for additional degrees redundant.

  5. Sameer, I am really thankful to you for giving such a wonderful advice. It’s much better than what I thought. I think, I should postponed my MBA plans as of now and concentrate on polishing my skills.
    I am going to make some really good plans as suggested by you to improve my skills and will definitely update you about my progress.
    It’s a much needed advice came at the right time. Thank you again.

  6. Hi Sameer ,

    Telling you my lifestory in short –
    Passed out in 2004 with Btech in Computer science . Worked with MNC from Jan 2005 – Apr 2009 . About 4.5 yrs. Then took a career break to prepare for Civil services . But could not clear the exam so joined IT back again in Mar 2011 in a small company. Till date I have 6 yrs of experience and my salary package is around 7.5 Lac ( which is less at this level ).
    The attempt to prove myself in Civil services has not occurred. So still that fire is burning in me to do something big and get a good position.
    Presently I am team leader in Production support department of an IT company. From last 1.5 yrs I am working on a new domain and I like it very much and want to become a Business Analyst( BA). But the current organization is not allowing me this move . Getting frustrated , so thinking if I do a MBA then may be becoming a BA help. Or if I do a MBA in operations then may be better position open for me in leader ship side. Confused where I want to go – BA or Operations(IT company obviously).

  7. @Rahul: Glad that you found the suggestions useful. Come back here and share your story when you think you have some more interesting updates. Good luck!

    @ABC: The blog post has the email ID.

    @Sitaram: You gave your best shot and didn’t get into the Civil Services. Stop looking at it as baggage now and move on. I can’t give you a quick answer to which career goal you should choose (we spend several days trying to answer that question using the MBA MAP). But at a broader level, yes, an MBA could help you make that transition.

  8. Hi SK.

    Firstly thank you for helping thousands of people like us who need honest feedback and guidance!

    About me, I have done my schooling at a Bengali medium school in my home town. Till 8th I was good in studies and sometimes ranked as well. However, from the 9th standard, my marks started deteriorating and in the 10th I got 69%, though I wanted to study Bengali literature and wanted to become a schoolteacher; I tried taking Arts but ended up taking science as a major in 11th standard as my parents wanted. However, in 12 my score was poor at 48% and my parents decided to send me to Bangalore (as my housing brother was studying there) for a BBA course. A person like us coming from a small town with a Bengali background, was like a dead of my remaining confidence. It was difficult for me to even communicate basic statements ( mostly because of fear of shame ). I remember the initial days I used to hold my pee for a whole class (sometimes 2 classes in case of extended classes ) only because I was scared to say even a basic statement like “I need to use the toilet “. My marks there also weren’t good and I couldn’t even score 50%. I was broken, ashamed and clueless about my career. However, with lost confidence, I joined IIPM for a PGDBM degree and completed that with a 59% score. If you are wondering why I am taking so much time to explain all this because I wanted to give a detailed background of my education and the same time an idea about me as a person.

    However, coming to the main part, now I am working with an Indian apparel retail brand and I have prior experience of 14 years with sports and apparel
    MNC. In these 14 years and 6 months, I changed 2 companies and in my first stint which was 8 years in the same organization I got 2 promotions and then I switched to a 3rd company as a Regional retail manager in my current organization in 3 years I got one promotion but the profile remains the same since last 6 years. Now one side I have a stable job and my salary is 30lacs but I have no visible career growth as the organization has a flat structure and less hierarchy. As I am working in same profile since last 6 years (including 2 different org) , I want to be escalated to a national role which I am not getting in my current organization. I have applied to other organizations also for national roles, and there my profile is not even getting shortlisted.

    In this scenario, I have 2 questions which I want to ask a. Whether I asking too much considering my educational background and non-premier MBA? b. Is there any way out of which I can try to know my shortcoming and steps to overcome those and become more competitive? Kindly suggest



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