Helping Employees Avoid Mid-Career Crisis


First things first – individuals own their career , not companies or bosses or coaches or anyone else . Others can help , but only you can execute . I had this conversation about mid career crisis situations quite a few times recently in some variant with my mentors , and with people that I mentor . I thought I will jot down a few points that came up – mostly for me to come back to for a refresher from time to time . Feel free to add , challenge etc as needed via comments .

1. What got you here won’t get you there

Nothing changed my career for the better than this one lesson that I learned from Bill Smilie , at an executive training program few years ago . The essence of the idea is that you need to constantly evolve your thinking and approach to get to the next level . If you are an ace sales person , just doing what you do best year after year will maximize your commission – but won’t get you to be a sales leader who manages many sales people .

2. Hard/Smart work is required , but nearly not enough if you don’t know where you are headed

You should know where you want to go. Ideally with a plan B and C . If you can’t clearly define what is it that you want – certainly don’t expect your boss to do the thinking for you . Run ideas by everyone you trust – and do it periodically . But decide for yourself .

And for those of us who help others – we might not have the ability to solve all problems that are brought to us . So be prepared to coach your mentees to the level you can and hand them off to another mentor who can take them to the next level . This happens in sports coaching all the time , and is easy to do in career situations too .

3. Don’t wait indefinitely for things to change for better

Loyalty is a great trait – but don’t let that be a one way street all the time . Give time for decisions to be made and processes to finish . If it doesn’t happen at first shot, try few more times if there is some thing to be added to the approach . If all reasonable approaches seem to not work – stop wasting your time and go to plan B . Just don’t get yourself tightly wound up by repeatedly doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result .

4. If things don’t work and you have to move on , ALWAYS leave on pleasant terms

Be it a customer who never gives you business , a boss who never gives a raise or a vendor who is habitually late on delivery – if you are getting out of a business relationship , do so without a big fuss . I can say from first hand experience – time and distance heals most hurt and disappointments in business . Learn what you can from the relationship and move on – save yourself an ulcer in the process 🙂

5. Plant those saplings every chance you get and pay it forward

We all need help from time to time . But you will need to establish the support system before crisis hits you . This is another reason why leaving on pleasant terms is so important . Also – never hesitate to pay it forward . It is not always possible to reciprocate help – for example , your CEO might help you with making an important customer introduction. But your odds of doing that for him is low . But if you nurture that relationship and make an intro to someone else coming after you – it will be very useful . Don’t try to keep a count – make time to help .

I try my best to give time for anyone who asks – and as long as they are genuine , I will give them time again and again . It didn’t come to me naturally – I learned it from my mentors . And they taught me to not waste their time .

6. When things are going well for you , learn to present better and negotiate better

I very rarely meet people with poor ideas , or who don’t deserve what they ask for . However – in many cases , they can’t articulate their ideas and they don’t have good negotiation skills . The time to learn is when you are on a roll – but if you didn’t do it then , do it now . Take classes , practice , meditate , watch it on you tube – whatever works for you . But do it .

The whole idea of effective presentations and negotiations is simple – make it personal to who you are dealing with , and give them options to choose from wherever possible . Yes and No are not the only options I am talking about here 🙂

What would convince a CFO won’t convince the AP clerk . And listen – usually they will give you enough clues on what will work with them . My way of making a presentation or negotiation simple is to avoid slides and use a piece of paper or a white board . Try a few different ways and see what works for you and polish it .

7. Align your goals to a higher purpose that others can relate to

No , not world peace or anything of that proportion . I just meant it in a more tactical way .

In corporate world , I am surprised how many employees don’t think outside their narrow responsibilities . I had a difficult sales situation once with my management not willing to accept my idea on how to close the deal . And the customer chose to stand their ground as well . I could not close the deal that quarter as I had committed , and had to take a week off to keep my sanity . That was the first time ever that I failed in such a magnitude and sort of in such a public way .

In that time , I caught up on reading a lot of business magazines and so on and quickly it dawned on me that if I recraft my proposal to help in an area that was a strategic concern to the company – I might get it approved . So I went back to my bosses with a new plan – and put it in context of the strategy of the company . I got approval in 5 minutes – and they even offered additional concessions I didn’t even ask for . And the very next day – I closed the deal with customer . You bet it changed my whole approach to dealing with my superiors .

This is one point I need reminders on – I knew how to do this with customers for a long time . It just didn’t occur to me till this incident that I should have done it with my own employer too . You live and learn , eh ? Icing on the cake was a few weeks ago , one of my mentors called me to thank for this approach which he learned from me and used successfully in negotiating something big.

That’s it for now – my dogs are pawing me to go play with them . Off I go

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6 thoughts on “Helping Employees Avoid Mid-Career Crisis

  1. Hello Vijay,
    I would like to ask you about the point 2. You’re a smart guy and might have a cure for that. I have read many many articles that were saying the same you’re saying (no offense, I like yours, the others were not so… personal), but the weakness is the point 2. Why. Well, you need to know where you’re heading, of course, but this world is moving so fast.
    Let’s take an example: journalism was quite different ten years ago than is now (because of the internet etc.). Nearly every industry changed (is changing as we speak) a lot. So when you think about “where to go”, your strategy is “so old” before you brain even gets to approve it. Unless this “goal” or “target” is something naively statistical (like I want to sell twice as much or have twice as many people reporting to me), it is very difficult to set yourself a “smart” goal.
    So I ask: How do you do it? You’re on my “HANA gentlemen” list, which should guarantee that you move forward quickly since HANA is supposed to be so innovative. So how do you “see the future”? How do you know “where to go”? What sense does it make to set targets using the “old thinking”, when the goal is reached (if reached) in the “new reality”?
    If my post sounds a bit funny, I am not trying to be sarcastic or something. I am really interested in the answer for the question I ask. Normally I would not even try, but you’re actually one of the people that could give an inspiring answer:))
    Cheers Otto

    • Hi Otto

      Good question – and this is one reason I mentioned having a plan B and plan C too . Plan A might not work out due to speed of change or because the boss is terrible or for some other reason . You should be pragmatic enough to know that some goals have that risk and have that alternate option.

      Concrete example – there was a point in life where I had to choose between technical and management routes for my next promotion . Tech was my strong point – so I put management as my plan A , with the idea that if it doesn’t work out – I can always change direction to technology without much loss of time . Thankfully management did work out for me – but I kept technology skills sharp enough , and it came handy when I moved between employers .

      In short – be brutally honest and practical about your goals . Short term goals might need many tweaks because of reasons outside our control , but medium to long term goals need less tweaks if you are honest with yourself .

      Cheers
      Vijay

  2. Pingback: Helping Employees Avoid Mid-Career Crisis | Snippets Of Curiosity's Blog

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