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Nov 3, 201411:54 AMOpen Mic

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The 7 warning signs of career distress

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Midlife — it’s supposed to be the time when we have it all. In actuality, it’s more like, “My life is more complicated than I ever imagined and my career is not turning out as I had hoped. I’m at a crossroads.”

Perhaps the most difficult part about finding your career in flux is that this is the time when you have the most to give. And yet you are feeling the most vulnerable, trying to determine whether your company considers you valuable and whether you will continue to be rewarded and given challenging assignments.

To dig out of your doldrums, start by bringing awareness to your current circumstances. To create awareness, you have to have the ability and presence of mind to step back and see your current situation for what it is. While everyone’s situation is highly personal, some common themes can be found among people at a career crossroads. These are what I refer to as the 7 W.A.R.N.I.N.G. Signs of Career Distress:

1. Wavering self-confidence: You have put pressure on yourself to succeed, but you have never felt completely satisfied in your career choice, instead questioning the benefit you provide. After years of doing something you don’t love, often with unrealistic expectations, you have a diluted sense of worth. As a result, you are uncertain about your value and cautious about finding the career you want.

Tip: Create your own definition of success that highlights your value and the contribution you bring to your organization.

2. At sea: You are no longer learning and feeling challenged. Your career has lulled you into complacency. You have been a good soldier, performing as expected and thus allowing others to control your destiny. In doing so, you have not actively managed your career. But when something (such as a significant company change) forces you to finally look around, you discover your job has become something you never wanted it to be.

Tip: Reassess your career goals and ambitions. This may be the time for reinvention by learning new skills or potentially finding a new employer.

3. Relinquished control: Scratching and clawing your way to the top can result in losing sight of who you are. Your eagerness to be successful can be blinding. Without a good early role model, you can quickly latch onto how others in status positions behave. You begin to sacrifice yourself in order to fit in and be part of the club.

Tip: Clearly articulate the leader you want to be. What are your beliefs? How do you want to be treated? How do you want to treat others?

4. Neglected: Have you ended up in a career or job where you no longer feel as though you have control over how that job is performed? Do you feel as though you are drifting in a swirl of corporate despair, neglected and shunted to the side by your team, superiors, or board? Now you are struggling to make yourself relevant.

Tip: Get reacquainted with your best assets. List your top five strengths and the key contributions you’ve made in your current position.


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