The Existential Career Crisis – a guide to success.

by Richard , updated on May 23, 2013

It’s a pleasure to welcome our guest blogger Steven Solodky back with a follow-up to his blog When Life Hits You Hard – the Existential Career Crisis.

Steven is a Senior HR Consultant but he also works privately as a career
practitioner, helping individual clients to grow their professional working
life through career, resume and interview coaching services.

I must say from a personal perspective, Steven’s new blog has rung very true.

Over the past two years as I moved from corporate training into an area for which I had real passion (community education), a fundamental shift occurred in my life. And as I persevered and bid my time, a very healthy income followed.

So take it away Steven with another great blog.

Knowing where to start.

In my last post, I asserted that an existential career crisis is accompanied by a desire to find more meaning in your work life.

It’s waking up in the morning and longing to do something completely different, while struggling to balance the reality that you pretty much need to

This can be an immensely confusing time, as it’s not always clear where or how to start.

Let’s take a look at how to commence the journey of discovering a career direction that energises you and creates a sense of meaning.

Stage 1 – Recognising the need for change.

The first essential step is to recognise the signs that you want change.

Dr. Wayne Dyer says it best; the soul does not like to be restricted.

  • Do you wake up with a sense of dread in the morning?
  • Do you spend your working week longing for the weekend?
  • If you didn’t have your current family and financial commitments,
    would you quit your job?
  • If money was not an issue for you, what job would you automatically

This stage may be accompanied by a feeling of low energy when you think about your current role, fear about making a change and deep confusion about what you should do next. You may also feel that change isn’t possible due to your current situation. And that you can’t succeed if you make any kind of change or that it’s safest to leave things just the way they are.

Recognising that you want change is critical, as the impact is immense.

It means that you are about to question your present reality. It means that you now need to start contemplating an alternative job focus, assess the potential financial impact and undertake a deep personal journey to discover a more individually rewarding direction.

This first stage is not so much about finding answers.

It’s more about having the courage to admit that you want to do something different with your life.

This initial building block is essential because all too often our job can become such a deeply entrenched part of our daily life, that we overlook the alternative realities that are available. It’s truly possible to discover a new path that is meaningful, financially secure and energising for you.

This can literally be a ticket to freedom, as once you decide to change; things can only get better.

Remember you don’t need all the answers or to know what direction to take.

It’s just an intention to start looking at options. And to being open to the possibility that you can discover something different in your life, despite life’s ambiguities and the discomfort brought on by your fears and doubts.

Stage 2 – Become an explorer in your own life.

Once you recognise the need for change, it’s time to start exploring what you would love to do. This is a very deep journey in which you need the courage to admit to both yourself and the people around you that you need more meaning in your life.

At this point, I think people fall into two main categories.

You’ll either clearly know what you want to do, because you have been suppressing this life energy within you for such a long time, that it’s screaming to be expressed.

Or you’ll be in such a state of confusion that you need assistance to identify what path to take.

For example, you may have chosen a more traditional career path, when you actually longed to become an artist or to start your own business.

What parts of you crave to be expressed? What parts of you have you supressed, or told yourself that you could never succeed at doing something new?

What things in life really inspire and energise you? What in the world would you love to change if you had the opportunity?

Another key consideration is having the courage to truly admit what you want, both to yourself and the other people in your life.

Do you want to drop out of corporate life all together?

Do you want to give up working for a while? Would you rather be a stay at home mum or dad (Yes, men, you can stay at home too)?

Do you want to explore your interest and passion in something such as building models, painting, drawing, or perhaps doing something off-centre like giving up a high paying career to clean hotel rooms?

The key point here is that it doesn’t matter how much your dream is going to pay you. This is a secondary issue. They primary issue is truly admitting what you long to do. It’ s an irony that money seems to get in the way of people achieving their dreams, as the most fundamentally important and personally rewarding jobs in society seem to pay the least.

This stage isn’t about assessing if you would succeed or if you could make a living.

If you’re unsure of what to do in life, such as feeling a complete sense of loss, or mind block at what to do, you still have choices. A qualified career counselor, psychologist or career coach may help you re-focus your options. Career assessment tools may also help.

I truly believe that each and every person is born with a unique set of skills, beliefs and passions that make them a critically essential part of this planet.

To this affect, I would ask you;

‘What would you do if you knew in your heart that you would not fail and could still earn enough money?’

When I ask this question to clients, I typically get objections such as:

  • “I would never earn enough money doing that”
  • “I’m not smart enough or don’t have the qualifications for it”
  • “My parents would not allow me to choose that career”
  • “I’m too old.”

These are very real objections, however I don’t for a moment dwell on them.

Putting money aside, I truly believe that if each person was guaranteed a certain level of income and success (whatever success is defined to be) we would see a vastly different world, in which people would be free to explore their dreams, passions and interests. However, as we don’t live in this kind of world, the question becomes how to incorporate your dreams, aspirations and interests into your daily life?

Stage 3 – Implementing the change.

I’m not for a moment offering you a million dollars for following your dreams or passions.

I am however suggesting that if you take one simple step towards exploring what you’d like to do more of, you’ll start to experience a fundamental shift in your life.

Now I know that achieving your childhood dream of being a pilot or doctor is not always possible. But could you possibly find a job in an airport or hospital? Or start working towards your pilots license?

I know that becoming a highly recognised artist is a difficult challenge. But could you take a short course or an evening art or music class? Or could you become involved in a local art or theatre society?

The point here is to drop any intended association with earning a certain income. Because it isn’t the critical point. It’s about exploring what’s important to you first. As quoted in the movie The Shift (Hay House, 2009), “Do not let that song inside you die.”

So as you can see, there’s a fundamental difference between doing what you love and the secondary attachment of having to earn enough money.

The reason I make this distinction is that I feel it’s more important to at least identify what you want to do more of, then let the money follow. You may not be able to earn the same level of income as you are now, but at least you are choosing a direction in life that brings you more fulfillment. You may not be able to stop your day job, but you can at least start to pursue a course, volunteer opportunity or an area of interest to you.

Now here’s the critical part – if you love what you do, you will always be successful.

I don’t make this statement lightly. This is a day-to-day reality for many people. Simply take note of those around you that love their job. They’re typically vibrant, energised and make you feel good in their presence.

I actually don’t care if you’re an office worker, cleaner or neurosurgeon. Because the important question is, do you enjoy what you do? I’ve met Mona Lisa’s working in restaurants. I’ve met Picasso’s who came to unblock my toilet. I’ve met pilots who are true healers, as they know how to make people feel safe and at ease. I’ve met bus drivers who are guardian angles because they guide you to your destination.

The important thing here is to explore and take action.

Yes, we all need to maintain a certain level of income, but this shouldn’t stop you from contemplating and commencing your journey into your inner most desires and passions.

On another level, I feel it’s critical to let others around you know of the shift you’re going through. Even though you may not know what direction to take, or be able to initially provide assurance to your family that it will earn you enough money, it’s about starting to seek support, feedback encouragement and advice from others.

What’s been your experience? Let us know by leaving a comment.

It’s no coincidence that I think the topic of earning money needs to be addressed.

Stay tuned as we explore the topic of earning enough to pursue your dreams. I feel this is one of the greatest barriers to choosing the job of your dreams.


Did this article stand out from the crowd? If yes, please retweet, post it on Facebook or LinkedIn, and /or email it so it can help others. Subscribe to the blog for more job hunting intelligence. It's free. I'd also love to know YOUR take. Please feel free to comment below.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Undercover Recruiter (@UndercoverRec) (@UndercoverRec) December 8, 2012 at 8:57 pm

New @InterviewIQ The Existential Career Crisis – a guide to success.

Older Workers (@olderworkers) December 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Career Crisis?? #olderworkers #mature workers

Mary Sevinsky (@MarySevinsky) December 30, 2012 at 11:02 am

 The Existential Career Crisis – a guide to success.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: