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Stuck in a Mid-Career Rut? Get Help from a Mentor

It might sound odd, but people need the most help not at the beginning of their careers, but in mid-career — especially when it comes to making decisions. That’s a key finding from a research study publish by Harvard Business Review.

They have found that one reason for not adapting to this meaningful shift in expectations is that — with increasing personal and family responsibilities, as well as higher positions and incomes — the average mid-career manager feels they have more to lose if they make a mistake. They talk themselves into making decisions that play it safe, where they feel in control. They put off decisions when they should be examining what needs to change. In decision-making moments, they overestimate the risks of change and underestimate the risks of preserving the status quo.

As a result, they feel stuck in the status quo.

If you’re a mid-career professional, take an honest look at what you are doing on the job. Ask yourself:

  • Do you spend each day getting through what’s on your calendar and to-do list without asking if your involvement makes a difference?
  • Are you critical of change without truly considering the likely consequences of maintaining the status quo or the potential rewards of change?
  • Do you avoid or procrastinate making decisions that you perceive as creating more work for you or as taking on risk you would like to avoid?
  • Are you seeking help to understand how the work of leading is different from the work of managing?
  • Have you articulated what kind of leader you are and what kind of leader you want to become?

If you answered “yes” to any of the first three questions or “no” to the final two, you might want to seek support to ensure your career doesn’t become derailed. If you would rather avoid the subject than seek help, you’re abdicating your power to lead your career. Take charge. After all, you’re not doing your job if you’re too busy to think about the future.

If this situation sounds familiar, don’t just hope things will change — get help.

  • Find a trustworthy mentor (within your company or outside the company) who has navigated the same challenges and come out the other side. During your meetings together, discuss the tough work situations you’re facing, and ask about their experiences and how they push themselves to keep growing.
  • You could also find an executive coach to meet with regularly. A good coach will help you understand what’s holding you back and explore options for your future.
  • And do some reflecting on your own, too. Think about whether you still get satisfaction from your job, whether you’re playing it safe at work, and where you want your career to go next.

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