When does a career crisis happen? Are there symptoms?

It happens at different periods in a person’s life. We have mapped out 3 crisis periods that an individual undergoes, while in the workforce.

The 1st is a quarter (career) life crisis; around age of 28 to 32 yrs.
The 2nd is a mid (career) life crisis; around age of 38 to 42 yrs.
The 3rd is a second part mid (career) life crisis; around age of 50 yrs.

External factors like late marriage, parenthood, illness, death of a sibling etc. can speed up or delay the onset of a crisis point so age ranges are estimates only.

The feeling you get and the behaviour you exhibit is that of burnout, i.e. you reach a high point of frustration with the work you do and consequently you begin to distance yourself from the work.

You want to try something new but then struggle to remember what interests you. Then you resort to a variety of things including soul searching or bouncing ideas off friends and family, but get little relief.

Why do people get into a crisis situation? Is it very common?

It has to do with goal setting and the idea of when those goals should be achieved. It is also dependent on the development stage a person is in as well as societal norms.

For example, the quarter (career) life crisis is a new phenomenon. It has been documented to afflict people from newly industrialised countries, including those in SE Asia.

It is a recent phenomenon and most employees will suffer through it largely in silence, for complex reasons. It happens because these societies expect people to move and develop faster than their parents typically have developed.

People in the quarter (career) life, at the executive level, get stressed out by perceived societal expectations. They are expected to enter junior management roughly by 30 yrs of age but some find themselves not fully equipped to meet the challenge. Others that do not make this expected transition to management then get side-lined.

For some people, the push that caused them to choose their current career may have come externally. So, by the time they reach 30 yrs of age, they run out of energy and reach this same crisis point. The causes and the symptoms of the mid (career) life crisis are different but the burnout feeling is similar.

Can I avoid getting into a career crisis?

It’s possible but it’s less likely as goal setting is a necessary facet in any career.

Many people will however try multiple distraction methods in an attempt to alieviate the build up of stress, before they reach a burnout point.