Are Mid-Career Changes a Mask for a Larger Issue?


Are mid-career changes by an executive, masking issues in the second half of their life that need to be addressed?

It is common to see executives climb the corporate ladder, even jumping to competitors to propel their career. However, when an executive entirely changes their career path and is being considered should we be digging deeper in the recruitment process?

One reason I postulate the question is that a mid-career change could be a sign, or as I describe it a “trigger”, of a life event that can cause a deep personal introspection. Such an introspection could be addressing issues about an executive’s life.

This is because the second half of life is a time when an intense personal struggle can ensue due to three challenges that all have to be faced. These are physiological (e.g. getting older), interpersonal (e.g. children leaving home, parents dying) and intrapersonal challenges (e.g. dreams being unfulfilled).

Failure to address these challenges often can produce a mid-life crisis especially when the challenges are ignored. Once can view this personal struggle to be about understanding and accepting one’s mortality and placed into the perspective of one’s lifespan time horizon.

Often the outcome is a desire to be more authentic which may require taking off the “mask” to reveal the true self. This is the essence of the second half of life. How resilient a person is, sometimes is reflected in how these challenges are met.

So while one should not be spooked about mid-career changes, whether one is coaching or interviewing an executive, it may pay to dig deeper to understand if the change in career is occurring due to mid-life issues, that the change in career itself may not solve.

Dr. Andrew S. Kane