Why would a mid-level executive at the height of a successful career consider a career change? One of the frequent reasons I find in working with clients is some version of “I’ve outgrown my job.” The particular task of making a midlife career change involves a process that includes vigorous and intuitive self-assessment, as well as a thorough investigation of possibilities and, finally, a choice.

Using Self-knowledge to Make Decisions

Midlife career changes can be challenging. Successful executives have to consider financial and family obligations. Their self-assessment often focuses on their advancement and probable success as well as a broader view of what constitutes “the good life”. Career change decisions at this stage are enriched by the increased self-knowledge gained through a history of professional experience.

A client of mine was a very successful thoracic surgeon who noticed that over the last three years he had less autonomy over his practice at the hospital. “I feel like a cog in a machine and I want more out of life”. He eventually cut back to part-time in the operating room and is now working on a medical device to measure important outcomes during surgery.

Recognizing That You’ve Outgrown Your Job

My clients report that they are no longer as engaged in the work, experience boredom from tasks that used to be challenging or become less tolerant of daily routines and co-workers. They have successfully built structures and processes for new endeavors and are not content to take on the role of maintenance. The exciting work is done. They feel stuck. It’s time to move on.

A woman client in her mid-fifties came to me because “I am just not having fun anymore”. As she told her story we discovered that she loved the early days of a project but got less interested as it became mature. “I love it when we are just trying to figure out our strategy and then the best way to go. It is such a democratic time with everyone pitching in his or her ideas. Later on, it is just policy and procedures and it is boring”.

Asking the Right Questions

While they may be reluctant to admit the need for a new position, most successful executives can access a network of colleagues and resources that have been carefully developed over the years. Making the right career choice in one’s 50s requires considerable self-knowledge and an intelligent strategy to uncover the best possibilities. In addition to a self-appraisal of one’s motivations, one must be able to identify the elements of a prospective ideal job. Once someone is clear about where they want to go then they can utilize informational interviews to discover where they fit.

So it is not surprising when particularly competent employees feel like they ”have been there and done that”. It’s a familiar path to accepting that they have outgrown their job. If there are no likely spots to grow within the organization, then it is time to do some hard work. That involves figuring out what to do next and then begin talking to the people who are doing it to see where they fit.


Peter Sherer is a nationally recognized career coach who offers clarity and confidence to mid-career and senior executives in transition. In just two short days, his rigorous assessment tools enable his clients to identify a meaningful assignment that uses all of their skills and experience. Learn more and get in touch with Peter today.