At the beginning of their 50s, many previously successful corporate rising-stars suddenly find themselves stuck in middle management. Since top positions are scarce, only a few of them can continue climbing the career ladder. The rest end up in a professional dead end. Instead of remaining resigned to this fate, these managers need to have the courage to use their showcase their strengths and embark on a professional fresh start.
Management consultant and coach, Richard Wolff has repeatedly had to deal with executives over 50 who’ve been frustrated in their current positions. “These managers had grown accustomed to moving up the company hierarchy when, all of a sudden, there’s no attractive future for them,” explains Wolff.
“Stuck state”: From the fast lane to the sidelines
They earn well, don’t feel overwhelmed with their job duties, and are also living fulfilled private lives, with home and material protection usually well positioned. Sounds great, right? For a time, yes, until these previous career climbers realize that in order to keep climbing this can’t go on.
“It’s too early to remain in this comfortable a state until retirement. After all, you still have a third of your working life ahead of you. If you don’t want to end up on the sidelines, you have to set the course for the next 15 years of your working life”, says Wolff.
Since there are many executives who deal with this problem, Richard Wolff has written a book about his experiences: The title “Reboot – how managers can reinvent over 50” was published in November 2017.
“Reboot”: Ways out of the professional dead end
Why “reboot”? Just like computers that get stuck, according to Wolff, there is only one option for managers over 50 who are stuck in a professional dead end: a forced reboot. “Reboot means thinking ahead. But the analogy also implies that a ‘reboot’ only starts when nothing else is working”, explains the experienced business coach.
The topic “Reboot” has two stages for Wolff. First, realize your reality! Face the situation and analyze it clearly and courageously. Secondly: look for new ways and think ahead! You should ask yourself the following questions about your professional situation:
- Is this what I really want, am I satisfied with it?
- Is this all, or should I expect more from life?
- Why don’t I use my network and contacts to look for other options?
- Am I willing to accept financial losses for pursuing what I would truly like to be doing?
“An important insight of any period of self-analysis should be: If I am no longer driven by my current circumstances, I must realize that I am free to make my own decisions, based on careful consideration,” said Richard Wolff. The possible paths then follow the familiar pattern: “Leave it, change it or love it.”
3 options for a successful restart
For the middle-aged managers who feel stuck, Richard Wolff sees three options:
- Option 1 – Separation from the previous job: This can lead to one looking for a new job within the current organization, or changing his/her employer altogether. This is not necessarily easy over age 50, but quite feasible. Of course, this decision carries with it the risk of failure or the danger of being sidelined in the new company after some time. At the same time, however, you have the chance to start over and motivate yourself to start again.
- Option 2 – A complete exit from the previous environment: This solution can include a change of industry, a leap into self-employment, or working in a mixed format, such as consultancy contracts or in a phase as an interim manager. But beware: the assumption that a self-employed person has less workload than an employed person, and earns approximately the same as before, is an illusion. Self-employment has a different quality: You do what you do for yourself. That can be incredibly motivating and fulfilling.
- Option 3 – “Rejoin and rejoice”: You can also decide to return to the old system from which you have distanced yourself, but to do things differently and to fall in love again with the company and your job. This is possible if you have honestly decided within yourself that this is what you want. In this way, your new outlook will bring about a new feeling of connectedness.
Of course, there are also many people who do not see any opportunities for change and can’t bring about a new outlook. In this case, they must come to terms with the situation, and try and continue to do a good job and integrate. “One can be content with what they have created professionally, and focus more on developing things outside of the job that make them happy, e.g. family and community,” says Richard Wolff.
Anyone who gets stuck in a dead-end in their early 50s should not bury their head in the sand. Instead, they should actively set the course for the next 15 years of their career. After an honest analysis of the situation, the review of one’s own life goals and the careful consideration of the options could bring about a courageous “reboot” to inspire their career again. Life is just too precious to remain feeling “stuck” in your current state while counting the days to retirement.
About the author
Markus Hofelich is a business and finance journalist who lives with his family in the south of Munich. His journalistic experience includes working as editor-in-chief for the German business magazine Unternehmeredition, and for GoingPublic Media AG. He was also head of the editorial department at DIV Deutscher Industrieverlag and deputy editor-in-chief at Cash. Markus Hofelich has a master’s degree in International and Cultural Business and studied at the University of Passau and the Sorbonne in Paris. After further education in Online Marketing and Social Media Management at the ptm Akademie, he founded the website www.SinndesLebens24.de, an online magazine for philosophy, happiness and motivation and is currently on the lookout for new challenges.