Midlife Ruminations

Coping with midlife job insecurity

Whatever happened to the days when you expected a good pat on the back and a trophy of some sort, even a nice watch, for professional longevity? What happened to the days when people retired at 60 and had a lucrative financial nest to see them through the rest of their lives?

These scenarios have become rather fictitious because they only seem to figure in novels these days. I find myself in the absurd position of feeling envious of some protagonist in a book who retires at 60 and goes off to solve a murder committed at a (delete as appropriate) village fete/on a cruise ship which they happen to be on/in the local pub which they frequent regularly because they have much time on their hands.

The point isn’t that I am looking to become the next Miss Marple. The point is to question why life isn’t imitating art anymore.

Job insecurity has become a cyclical experience for me in midlife. With organisational priorities changing, I find myself on the hamster wheel of the equivalent annual Holy Grail search for job security i.e running around in circles looking for the one break in the form of a job that offers long term security.

Does it even exist anymore? I am referring to long term job security and not a hamster wheel. Any decent pet shop will have those on sale. By contrast, the labour market does not offer jobs advertised as ‘for life’.

According to Forbes, a midlife career crisis is the norm of the modern professional life. The article draws an analogy with the modern family model (stepparents, co-parenting etc) to substantiate the evidential case for change.

I find this analogy rather hard to grasp. The modern family model has evolved due to people being freer to express their wants and needs thanks to a cultural loosening of the nuclear family model. There is a sense of consent and love involved. People adopt and adapt to different scenarios according to what their circumstances are but, at all times, it is based on human connection.

A job, on the other hand, consists of a relationship between an organisation/company/firm with an individual. The balance of power resides with the former and not with the individual. The employee doesn’t have a say or any autonomy when it is decided that her/his job is superfluous to business need. The employee has no choice but to hit the job hunt trail to be able to keep paying the bills.

I have spent weekend after weekend filling out job applications and this one has been no different but for one unexpected discovery. As I was redoing my CV it struck me that my skills and experience have reached a level which I hadn’t anticipated it ever would. My CV now runs to more than three pages and this is in abbreviated form. This change has been driven by having to upskill myself each time. Quite inadvertently I have actually improved my professional capacity and capability.

In the Forbes article, the writer states that a midlife career crisis can be a positive experience because going through a change process can result in finding something that is reflective of the skills you have accumulated. These skills may be a lot more suited to a contemporary labour market. In other words, your evolution may land you a better career deal.

While this may be cold comfort as you stress and experience insomnia over your future pay slips, take some comfort in the fact that you, as a midlifer, are not alone in facing job insecurity. Do a skills audit and surprise yourself.

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