A Municipal Employee in a Mid-Life Career Crisis: Time to Reinvent?

Filed in MUNICIPALITY by on May 1, 2018

A typical career trajectory goes like this:

Your ‘20s is the ‘pay-your-dues’ decade. That’s when you are learning about yourself and starting to figure things out. It occurs to you that you are really good at some things … it’s when your career path starts to emerge.  In your ‘20s you are allowed to take some professional risks – maybe even make mistakes. You can even afford to work for relatively low pay. Outside of repaying student loans, you probably don’t have a lot of financial commitments, and job hopping and career exploring aren’t out of the question.

In your ‘30s, you’re settling into whom you are as a professional. You likely have a relatively stable job/career with a not bad paycheque, and you’re starting to think about the big picture: marriage, a home, children, saving for retirement … maybe even a vacation. You’re feeling good about your career and are “moving up the ladder,” taking on new responsibilities and with them, new opportunities open up.

But, then you wake up one morning and, suddenly,  you’re in your 40’s! You look in the mirror and ask, “When did that happen?” Suddenly, you’re committed. You might have the expenses of kids, a mortgage, retirement, healthcare, car payments … the “whole nine yards.” Suddenly you’ve found that life’s responsibilities have almost completely precluded the kind of risk-taking (particularly career risks) that came so easily in your 20’ and 30s.

Quite often, this is the time when it’s is very common for professionals to start getting bored with their careers and job routines. They’re tired of the “same old, same old,” and start wondering, “Is this all there is … is this best I can do?” or “This is not what I thought I would end up doing my whole life. Or, how about, “I can’t stand my mayor, I don’t like the councilors and I definitely think the CAO is an idiot! Sadly,” you feel, “there’s no way out! There are bills to pay!”

Well, if that’s how you’ve been feeling, you need to know you’re not alone. Mid-life career crises are incredibly common, and they can have a really negative impact on our jobs, and our lives in general.  Over the years I’ve met with many men and women in their ‘40s and ‘50s who are facing a mid-life career crisis – a crisis that can be the result of many things.

  • I regret the job I’ve chosen but don’t see a way out.
  • I’m at a point where I can’t move up anymore.
  • I hate my job. I hate my boss. I hate the municipality I work for.
  • I really want to do something that excites me – something I am passionate about, but I’ve got to pay my bills too.
  • I have this constant, nagging fear that I’ll lose my job. And then what?

Sometimes, through no fault of their own, mid-career professionals are pushed into crisis: they’re let go from their job. Their job has been phased out, or their municipality simply doesn’t keep records on file cards anymore, and they haven’t been trained in the new technology! Suddenly, the skills they’ve relied on are out-of-date. In many cases, mid-career professionals haven’t done a major job search in years. It’s been such a long time, that they’re lost and confused in trying to write a meaningful resume, apply online, learning to network, being interviewed, and all the other many job-seeking procedures that have suddenly been thrust upon them.

If you’re reading this, and you’re saying, “That’s right!” or “Ya, that’s me all right!” here are a few things to think about:

Actually think things through … don’t make a “Viking Decision”

Are you in a crisis or a slump? Put another way, are you really fed up with your job or the career path you have chosen, or is this just a temporary “burp” – a “blip on the radar screen of life?” It’s very seldom a good idea to make sudden drastic changes. So, don’t be making any “Viking decisions” (remember … the Vikings burned their boats when they arrived on enemy shores, so there was no going back. They either won their battles or perished!).

Before you’re tempted to do that, take some time to think things through. Stop and consider your options. If you’ve been with a town, city or other municipality for a while, in all likelihood they wouldn’t want to lose you. They probably already recognize and even value your dedication, commitment, and history with them. In a day and age when an organization really needs to have a good “culture,” they probably believe you are a ‘fit’ for their municipal culture. Imagine the loss they would feel just from the relationships you’ve built over time?

So, try this … talk to your boss. Is there something new you can do? Is there a path to management you can follow? New responsibilities you can oversee? Different projects you can work on? Will they pay for you to get your MBA or other training?


Think long and hard about all of the things you want to do moving forward. If you choose to ‘reinvent’ yourself, consider the level of training you need, the types of jobs available, and whether those types of careers are accessible in the city where you live. Also, assess the skills, expertise, experience, and accomplishments you’ve built over time that are transferable to another career or industry. Have you managed or supervised? Will your skills in marketing and sales from your current career help you as you jump into something else?

Equally important, make sure you’ve thought about and planned for how your decision will impact you financially. What salary do you expect in your new career? What are your monthly expenses? Can your monthly expenses absorb a period of time as you get yourself established doing something new?


There are lots of examples of people who have successfully gone through career reinvention. Read books, meet with people, and learn and follow the strategies of other successful mid-career reinventions. By doing so, you can learn to avoid the common mistakes as you move forward.

Bottom line: A mid-life career crisis is common.  But it can also be overwhelming.  Through strategic planning and taking the steps to assess your situation, and recognizing the valuable and transferable skills, talents and expertise you currently possess, you can minimize the overwhelming nature of a change and make this a manageable adventure toward living the life you want!

Whether you are looking for a personal career change or you are in management and looking to add “Top Talent” to your municipality, feel free to call us anytime. As the ONLY search firm in Canada that absolutely specializes in municipal work, Ravenhill Group is connected…

1-888-447-5910 ext. 727


Bruce Malcolm

About the Author ()

Bruce's background includes 30+ years of human resource management experience covering all aspects of HR administration with a clear specialty in team building and recruiting. He created and developed the concept of “Ethical Head-Hunting™”. Bruce began his recruiting career in 1971 with Prudential Assurance.

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