How to Avoid Mid-Career Doldrums: Rediscover the Joy of Learning

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If you’re an experienced professional, once-exciting work can start to feel like a daily grind. You know your job inside and out, few things about it engage you, and fewer yet offer inspiration to perform at your best.

This slump can be especially dispiriting if you love your organization and are invested in its success. Jumping ship—possibly the quickest way to shake things up—isn’t really an appealing option.

We spend so much time at the office or working after hours, that job unhappiness can easily affect our non-work lives, too. If you don’t think you need to make a change for yourself, consider doing it for your loved ones.

From professional development to personal growth

What if I told you that going back to school for even a couple of days could give you just the boost you need? I am not talking about college or an advanced degree—you probably have those already—but simply attending a professional development course can provide you with the ideas, tools, and techniques that can help you rediscover your passions and purpose and ways to achieve them.

Some professions require continuing education for its members to keep in good standing skills-wise and legally. Medical doctors, school teachers, architects, and even hairstylists, among others, all take a number of classes a year to maintain their licenses. Sure, these classes tend to be more skills-focused and cater to highly specific professions, but they also provide less tangible benefits like staying connected to a professional community, learning from experts in the field, and keeping abreast with the latest advances and best practices in the profession.

Making a time investment in yourself

In fields where licensure is not required, professional development is often an afterthought or a “nice to have,” and, if unaddressed, can lead to deepening job dissatisfaction. Business is one of those fields. As a mid-career executive or senior manager, you are probably thinking that you can’t afford the luxury of time to invest in your own professional growth. You may go to industry conferences or networking events when you can or when you have to, but these activities are not designed to re-ignite your passion for your work or equip you with enhanced tools and techniques to be more effective.

Executive education, on the other hand, is a way to cultivate the skills and the mindset you need as a mid-career professional to continue to do the job and the work you love.

Course content can range from general management subjects to more specific topics like law or digital marketing or international trade. The course material is developed and presented by knowledgeable faculty who give you the latest insights into your field.

Your fellow learners are people who bring the same level of experience to the conversation, giving you the opportunity to learn from peers in other industries. And last but not least, being out of the office for a couple days and away from distractions, can be incredibly refreshing.

Rediscovering your purpose

As the associate dean of Executive Education at MIT Sloan School of Management, I am in the fortunate position to be exposed to all the great learning and ideas in our executive education programs. We have over forty to choose from, but it’s impossible for me to attend anonymously. Yet, getting fresh ideas and new perspectives are important to me, so I also look further afield to find that inspiration.

This is why I find attending conferences and workshops like FRED Forum fulfilling, rewarding, and highly inspiring. FRED Forum is an annual event that brings together leading innovators and senior executives responsible for developing leaders from the business, education, social and government sectors. I make a point of attending it every year, and each time I leave with a lot of new ideas and the energy to implement them as soon as I get back to my office.

Last year’s theme was Purpose. On the first day of the conference, Richard Leider, a renowned executive life-coach and author, guided us through a workshop on how to identify and articulate our individual purpose in life. An interesting experiment in self-reflection, it was no small task by any measure. While each person’s purpose is a deeply personal matter, Leider pointed us in a general direction of leading a meaningful life by growing and giving, as people and as leaders in our fields. Of course, having a clear purpose does not guarantee that you will succeed, but striving in the right direction will get you closer to leading a fulfilling life. Leider returned to FRED this year, along with an array of equally impressive speakers and facilitators, and the amazing community of leadership development professionals and business leaders.

Choosing what’s right for you

Just like picking the best college to attend, finding educational experiences later in life that are meaningful and effective for you personally is key. Granted, events like FRED Forum or TED conference tend to be about big, inspirational ideas, and if that’s not your thing, there are many more practical options out there. Executive education could mean anything from classes at your local business school or university up to travelling to one of the top schools that you wouldn’t have thought to attend—but now, with executive education, you can! And if you’re lucky enough to have one of these schools right in your city—don’t wait, check out their calendar and sign up.

Some people have found such an oasis in MIT Sloan and keep coming back year after year, either taking classes or working toward an Executive Certificate—a popular option for professionals who are committed to lifelong learning. Others we know like to sample across a whole range of offerings. (Of course, they always tell us that ours is the best!) Whichever route you take, continuing your professional growth through education will always keep your thinking fresh, make your day-to-day more exciting, and make you a nicer person to be around.

Peter Hirst leads the team of professionals who partner with clients and faculty at the MIT Sloan School of Management to develop, design and deliver innovative executive education programs for individuals and companies. Here are 7 books that the faculty at MIT Sloan recommend.  

Comments

  1. Im recently divorced, and I also work from home so I do get discouraged at times. Reading stuff like this helps me pick myself back up and remember who I really am. Thank you.