Career Advice for Twenty and Thirtysomethings: Here’s how to avoid a mid-life crisis

My friends are now middle aged. Fortunately, most all are in good health. So, for those who have had a mid-life crisis, the cause stemmed only from (1) relationship troubles and (2) career troubles.

Those are the two big blocks of life happiness for most people. If you get those 2 right, keep in good health, and have some sense of your view on the meaning of life, you will likely avoid a mid-life crisis.  Of course, as a career advisor, I’ll focus on career issues.

Those who are approaching 40 and certainly 50 can’t help but realize that a lot of life has already happened and that they are no longer planning/building what had been “the future” in their 20s and 30s. They are living that future.

Emotionally healthy people don’t lament too much about youthful dreams dying. As psychologically sound people approach college age, realism sinks in and most are satisfied with not becoming professional athletes, musicians, and actors.  As the same type of people reach their 20s and 30s, most understand that they will not likely become billionaires or super famous (and they are ok with it).  And, most understand that it takes a lot of work to become wealthy or top in one’s field.  So, many emotionally healthy types realize that they are fine not becoming big conventional successes. Their happiness comes from a balanced approach to life.

And more than a few approach 40 and understand that they will be fine if their job pays the bills, helps support college funds for kids, can lead to a decent retirement, and they are reasonably happy in their job.

The one thing, however, that rarely becomes “ok” is not being reasonably happy at work. Unhappy careers lead to unhappy lives. Why does this lead to a crisis in mid-life? Most unhappy workers in their 20s have real hope that they will move to happier work soon enough. Those who are approaching 40 or 50 experience dismay because hope disappears. They feel trapped. That’s when the mid-life crisis occurs.

I provided a version of this lecture to one of my main staff members at The Learning Consultants.  He’s a young guy who is sorting out other life issues but has found his calling at our company.  (He probably is the best math tutor in Connecticut or at least the Eastern half of Connecticut).  In providing informal life advice, I bolstered him by providing this career counseling wisdom: if you find your career path in your twenties or thirties, you will limit the possibility of having a mid-life crisis.  He smiled deeply.