When Life Hits You Hard – the Existential Career Crisis

by K B , updated on March 5, 2015

I’m pleased to welcome the return of Steven Solodky as a guest author for InterviewIQ with a really interesting blog about the crisis many more of us are facing in looking for more meaning in our careers and our lives in general.

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.

Over to you Steven…..

Over the past twelve months, I’ve noticed a distinct shift in a client’s willingness to talk about spirituality.  Clients now frequently want to find more meaning at work and want to discover answers to the big questions in life – such as “Why am I here?” and “What is my life purpose?” – as part of the traditional role or career change process.

In some cases, this profound shift in world view may be part of a larger existential crisis.

An existential crisis refers to the shaking of your very core.  The purpose of your existence comes into question.  It is often
associated with the deep questioning of your life purpose and the realisation that many of your beliefs about life and the world no longer hold true.  Many of your centrally held values and beliefs around life and society come under the spot light and no longer seem to stand up to a renewed sense of questioning and self-enquiry.

From a career perspective, an existential crisis may bring a profound shift in your approach to work. This may include:

  1. Wondering what the purpose of your life is
  2. Feeling that your career is not connected to your life purpose
  3. Longing to do something with more meaning
  4. Experiencing a sense of confusion about what to do in life, whilst feeling a strong call to make a difference
  5. Having to cope with conflicting circumstances such as the strong inner desire to find a more enriching role but feeling restricted by a mortgage, family, relationship or other obligations
  6. Feeling that your career to date has been a waste of time
  7. Feeling like you have lost touch  and wanting to break free from the world of work

At the most basic level you may start to wonder if life is really just about making money, getting a promotion and the bottom line.  A shift of this kind may also result in seeing through the very construct of work itself.  That the pressure to maintain a high profile career driven by success and status may not necessarily meet your most inner needs.  On the other hand living in western society clearly requires ongoing income to provide for our most immediate material needs.

On an individual level, what makes an existential career crisis so powerful is that typical approaches to career management may not always work.  A strong desire to explore the big life questions, such as “Why am I on the planet?” and “How can I feel a greater sense of connection with life itself?” tend to take over your thoughts.   Topics such as spiritual awakening, meditation, higher purpose and oneness with the universe start to interplay with the new quest for answers – yet it is hard to find a well paying career that allows for such exploration.

Feeling increased levels of sensitivity is also another profound shift that may happen.  Your level of awareness may shift to the global level, in which the health of the environment and society become primary concerns.  It can become an immensely confusing time and may feel very difficult to stay grounded, let alone feel a sense of optimism
and excitement about the future.

It may help to know that you’re not alone in this period of global change.  Every day I am humbled to meet clients who
are prepared to question their very reality whilst having to balance work, family and finances.  It’s not an easy game, yet the quest for answers can bring some profound and extremely rewarding life changes – albeit with a roller coaster of emotions.

At the organisational level the quest for more meaning calls for a new generation of leaders who are able to cater for the psycho-spiritual needs of employees.  At the same time they need to have the courage to make decisions that are in the best interests of society, the environment and the bottom line.  It’s a vicarious position that has no easy answers, but perhaps within this dimension lies much of the answers that one may seek.

At the personal level, the solution to resolving an existential career crisis is also not an easy one.  However it is not only reserved for yogis and gurus in a distant land.  What is needed in today’s world are more people willing to question the status quo and bring a renewed sense of caring, compassion, mutual care and environmental preservation to daily work life.

It may involve a willingness to go within and really honour your true desire to express yourself in a new, creative, genuine and uncensored way.  Paradoxically, it’s not so much about pinning this down to one answer.  Rather it’s about being open to exploring the many facets of your being – as you let go of old patterns, beliefs and values that no longer serve you. It’s a wonderfully scary, emergent and turbulent journey that presents no fixed destination; however it can be full of surprises, life learning and unfolding.

Stay tuned as we explore the many facets of finding one’s purpose.

Steven can be contacted at steven@careerontheroad.com.

Thanks Steven.  I’d like to add that my next blog Lifelong Careers – A New Blueprint could resonate with people looking for deeper meaning in their careers and lives and may be at least one piece of the jigsaw.


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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Undercover Recruiter (@UndercoverRec) (@UndercoverRec) August 12, 2012 at 7:11 pm

New @InterviewIQ When Life Hits You Hard – the Existential Career Crisis http://t.co/scw4wyN6

Sarah August 15, 2012 at 9:36 pm

“What is needed in today’s world are more people willing to question the status quo and bring a renewed sense of caring, compassion, mutual care and environmental preservation to daily work life.”

Yes! Love it.

Let’s just keep it to accepting, diverse and open minded compassion though – because that can be positive for employees and the corporate image. It’s when searching for a higher cause, ala Chick-fil-A / Gloria Jeans style, that shit hits the fan.

BrainTrack (@BrainTrack) (@BrainTrack) August 16, 2012 at 7:30 am

When Life Hits You Hard – the Existential #Career #Crisis http://t.co/ZZ3bTUAM RT @interviewiq

CCPA Career Chapter (@CCPA_CareerChpt) August 16, 2012 at 9:30 am

Early, middle & late career people have these ? RT @InterviewIQ: When Life Hits You Hard-the Existential #Career Crisis http://t.co/B2o3cllv

Karalyn Brown (@InterviewIQ) (@InterviewIQ) August 16, 2012 at 2:41 pm

When Life Hits You Hard – the Existential Career Crisis http://t.co/KxHJ3uH1

Karalyn Brown (@InterviewIQ) (@InterviewIQ) August 18, 2012 at 12:00 am

New post: When Life Hits You Hard – the Existential Career Crisis http://t.co/KxHJ3uH1

Hung Lee (@HungLee) September 3, 2012 at 1:05 am

The Existentia Career Crisis: http://t.co/9zao9i41

Lisa Sutherland-Fraser December 31, 2012 at 5:20 pm

As someone who has worked with Steve for career advice, I echo his blog post as I was one of those people. I have felt like this for most of my life. Always questioning why should I be doing something most of my life that I don’t like. Truly most work is a bore and chore. I see the world of the creatives as the one to aspire to. Doing what you love without a thought for $, truly ideal and seemingly unrealistic but I feel the ideology of the whole work life is changing and I am so happy to see that. I see 2013 being one of more change, questioning and more and more the fabric of the life and society as we know it to morph into something quite different. Much will change over the next year and I for one am looking forward to those changes. Thanks Steve for a fantastic journey!

@RonMcManmon February 14, 2013 at 1:03 pm

When Life Hits You Hard – the Existential Career Crisis http://t.co/9XvVCrqg via @InterviewIQ

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