It seems to creep up for many job seekers around age 47-55, but can happen at any point in one’s career. It is especially characteristic of professionals who have put in many hard years, running fast and furious, adding up the frequent flyer miles, the late nights and long days striving for that utmost ring on the career ladder. It is often these people who during time of job loss or transition sheepishly divulge something that they can barely say above the tone of a whisper. It is usually during career and job search planning when we discuss their next career move and begin to prepare a plan how to get there that I sense a slight hesitation. The source of the hesitation turns out to be the true confession of the job seeker.
It is when the job seeker admits that they just don’t want to work that hard anymore. It is important to recognize that this often isn’t coming from a place of apathy, complacency or laziness, it is coming from a place fatigue. The fatigue that has accumulated over the span of their career. This admission however causes an immense sense of guilt in a culture where hard work is rewarded and defines our Midwestern work ethic.
Hence the dilemma. There seated before me is a job seeker who is on the cusp of entering the job market and needs a job but feels conflicted and even sometimes ashamed. This is where I introduce the concept of cruising altitude. We talk about how the trajectory of a career can look like the path of a jetliner. Early in our career engines roar, we barrel down the runway, and climb, climb, climb. Then at some point the jet finds its cruising altitude where it is still going many miles per hour with seemingly little effort, still covering many miles, quite efficiently.
So for the job seeker I tell them that they seem to have approached a time in their career that they are done ascending, which is only natural and to be expected. Think about it, a plane that constantly ascends will go to heights where it will eventually be void of oxygen. The moral of course is that it is just time for the job seeker to set aside their guilt and figure out what it is they want to do next that will allow them to find a cruising altitude that will take them to the next phase in the career, just more effortlessly.