Mid age career crisis

By Blackholesun Blackholesun Points: 60 | Level: Starter | Status: [Member]
Posted on: 6/24/2011 11:30:22 PM | Views: 9504 | Points: 30
Hi Friends,
I am currently out of work for nearly two years now. I have a left my previous organization cause it was just not working for my after putting years of hard work and dedication I had a burnt-out feeling and total boredom. This ultimately led to health issues like insomnia and tiredness and also affected my performance at work. I thus decided to take a break around 6 month to get my self charged but unfortunately move didn't worked out well. I was down with jaundice and took quite long to recover and it was followed with various other family related issues which you cannot avoid (some of them still going on). Anyways after all this one day I found myself almost a year without work, but I was not worried (probably due to the fact I didn't had any other issues like loans repayment, other EMI'S to tackle nor am I married yet) so I was selective in searching for a new opportunity. Soon quite a time had gone by without a fruitful result which had got me worried now and I am also loosing self-confidence due to this and not sure which way my life is going on.

Some information on my career
1. I have a 12+ years of experience (excluding two years of non work)
2. I am proficient in C/C++ on Windows Platform, WIN-32 API Programming and MFC programming. Pretty Good at C++ Templates and STL. C++/CLI programming. Java and Java Swing programming.
3. I think I am quite good in SDLC, Object Oriented Programming and Analysis and familiar with Agile development.
4. Never worked on databases except for application specific few flat file ones.
5. Never really worked on Web based technologies except a very few in the later part of my career.
6. And unfortunately never really worked enough on the Enterprise of Java (JEE and related technologies or the .NET framework and related technologies)
7. I was a Technical Lead when I quit

Sometimes I really feel vulnerable due to these handicaps but I had done quite a different kind of work during my career and I was good at it. I do want to learn new technologies but I am not sure how many recruiters and organizations are willing to give a chance to an experience person.

Off lately (since 40-45 days) I have been seeing offer mails for project manager, assistant project managers and team leaders performing all sorts of project and people management roles but technical and that is due to 12+ years in my resume however I know from inside that project or people management is just not my cup of tea. I may help my project manager or team leader in accomplishing their task but I cannot think of a full time similar role for myself.

Thanks and Regards.

Sainath's Advice on Friday, July 15, 2011 :

After going through your entire career question in detail, I can suggest the following:

1. Forgive yourself first

When a person goes through a prolonged phase of negativity upto the point where it leads to insomnia, feelings of guilt are but natural. To err is human, and everyone makes mistakes. In your case, the mistakes may have to do with the choices you have made in your professional and personal life which has probably led to chronic problems in both places. Unless and until you forgive yourself completely, you will not be able to make a fresh start.

Basically you need to stop thinking "What's happening? Why did things go wrong? Where is my life heading?" and start thinking "This is where I stand now, let me make a fresh start once again."

2. Take responsibility

"I am also loosing self-confidence due to this and not sure which way my life is going on."

This thought process arises when you approach life with a "passenger" mentality - and the problem is most people are living life this way since it is easier and absolves them of all responsibility. The passenger is there for the ride and expresses surprise and shock when the destination he has arrived at is not to his liking.

The truth is, at any point in life, you can choose to adopt a "driver" mentality. You can choose to identify a target destination and start moving towards it. Most people avoid being a "driver" because it automatically means that now it is upto them to figure out how they are going to overcome the inevitable obstacles in the way. Being a passenger is easy, being a driver means taking responsibility and taking charge.

The following questions / lines of thinking are extremely important:

"Where do I wish to end up, what is the end point / destination I am targeting?"

From what you have mentioned, the management track is not for you. Evaluate your past successes, if you have been a successful C/C++, MFC person than that should be your target area of focus. The strategy is simple, we unnecessarily complicate it. If we are good at something and like to do it at the same time, then it naturally follows that we should "pursue excellence" in that area. Success will come only when you are among the top 5% who are really good at what they do. Being a cricketer will not make you successful automatically, being an "excellent" cricketer like Sachin Tendulkar will ensure success. It is disheartening to see people jump from LOB applications to data warehousing, MFC to LOB apps, "hoping" to succeed. They are missing a key fundamental point - success will keep evading you no matter what area you are in unless and until you are willing to pay the price to achieve excellence. The success I am referring to is rock-solid success, not the artificial success which you sometimes observe in corporate circles which arises out of smart manipulations and collapses at the first rough weather.

"I don't know how, but I will SOMEHOW."

There will never be a point where you know all the answers in advance before commencing the journey. At the most, you will know enough to take the next step and when you complete that step, more will be revealed to you.

Imagine if Christopher Columbus had thought in that fashion, the human race would never have known America. The same is applicable across all human endeavours.

"I will until"

At any given point, 3% of the human race is thinking on these lines and this 3% is usually the most successful people in the world, irrespective of nationality, field, etc. At some point, you will have to resolve once and for all that you will succeed despite and inspite of all the hurdles. This is usually the turning point, the point where the tide turns in your favour. But this will not happen until you make up your mind.

3. Seek professional help

There is nothing wrong or shameful in seeking help from a medical professional - the  fact is, and I have heard no less a person than Mrs.Sudha Murthy (chairman of Infosys foundation) mention this in one of her famous speeches that maximum cases of psychological problems are in urban areas and specifically from IT. This is due to various reasons - however, a seasoned professional will help you get back on your feet faster and save you time. Sometimes a little bit of external help will go a long way in recovering your balance. Save time and stack the odds in your favour by asking for professional help - sometimes this can also be a huge effort and I won't be surprised if you are feeling that way. My point is, you need to get up and get going fast without any more delay.

4. Start small and be consistent

Target some small successes for a start - for example, it could be as simple as opening the IDE and regaining some of your old skills which gave you your past success. Just knowing that you are still competent will be a positive change in momentum for you. Consider it a success even when someone sends an email or calls you up to check what your skills are for a potential opening irrespective of whether things move ahead from that point or not. The problem with most of us is, we are our own worst critics, rather, we should be our own best cheer leaders. It is quite a paradox, we are very competent when encouraging a child to walk or do something for the 1st time but we forget the lesson when it comes to ourselves.

As you start gaining confidence, your self-talk and your self-esteem will gradually improve and you will automatically start aiming for higher targets, this is natural. If you are consistent, you would have turned the momentum in a span of a month, maybe in even lesser time as this is a "mind thing", not a function of elapsed time.

"The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones."
    - Chinese proverb

5. Please don't make excuses

As human beings, we have a tremendous ability to justify our current position, or for not taking corrective action. Your mind may come up with excuses like -

"I have been out of work for too long"

"I am too old now, my age will work against me"

"I am a C++ guy, not sure if my skills are in great demand."

There could be many more. For every excuse that your mind comes up with, there is someone out there who overcame it and did what was necessary. You need to do what is necessary and not what is convenient.
If you focus on excuses, the list will keep growing longer. If you focus on solutions, the path will appear before you.

6. Remember who you are

The fact that you were a Technical Lead in the C/C++/MFC area implies that you had a certain degree of competency. But obviously, not everyone can aspire to occupy those shoes - it needs real ability. But it quite possible that you may have forgotten your own latent strength under the weight of circumstances.

If you have seen the classic movie "The Lion King" there is a point where wise King Mufasa appears in a vision and reminds his exiled son, Simba,

"You are more than what you have become. Remember who you are."

Till that point, Simba avoids his responsibility. From that point onwards, Simba takes responsibility and takes action and finally becomes King of the pridelands after killing his uncle. Your situation is no different, you need to take charge and get into the action zone.

Do not allow yourself to be defined by :
  • what other people think
  • what peers think
  • what family members think

Only you know what you are capable of becoming, in fact, the more you advance further your vision and opinion about yourself will grow. Compare what you are in the present against what you could possibly become - this is the only yardstick which is important. All the other measures are irrelevant.

7. Expect starting trouble

I have observed some patterns and no matter who you are, these patterns are consistent. The moment you make up your mind to move forward, you will be confronted with a series of insurmountable obstacles - some of which you may not anticipate at this point in time. This is the point where the strength of your resolve will be tested - and this always happens no matter who you are.

I personally look upon this from a different perspective - I know I am on track when these obstacles appear on the horizon. In a way, this is an accurate feedback system for me.

Here are some examples to prove my point:

(i) Lance Armstrong

After recovering from stage 4 cancer, Lance Armstrong trained hard for 1 year keeping the target of winning the next Tour De France, which, as you might be aware, is the highest achievement in the sport of cycling. As confident as he was, Lance suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Boogerd in one of the preliminaries and was devastated. This is what he had to say after the defeat,

"After the loss to Boogerd, I went back to training. I rode, and I rode, and I rode. I rode like I had never ridden, punishing my body up and down every hill I could find.

I rode when no one else would ride, not even my teammates.

To win the Tour I had to be willing to ride, when no one else would ride."
    - Lance Armstrong, 7 time Tour De France winner in his book "It's not about the bike"

He went on to win the Tour De France that year.

When he came out of retirement at age 37, he experienced the same situation once again when he broke his collar bone in 4 places which required 12 screws and a metal plate to be fixed. Please check the image below:


He overcame this initial setback and won the 3rd place in the Tour De France in his comeback year.

(ii) Muhammad Ali

Perhaps the greatest boxer of all time, life was not easy for Ali when he re-entered the ring which he had dominated after a 4 year ban.  He was in for a rude shock when he was defeated by the then champion, Joe Frazier. Another rookie boxer of the time, Ken Norton also broke his jaw and defeated him. At 31, Ali discovered that his reflexes had waned, his legs did not move as fast as they had in the past and he was suddenly vulnerable to opponents punches. His main strength, his great speed in the ring was no longer there. Technically and logically, his career was over.Sports Illustrated carried a front cover announcing to the world "End of the Ali legend"


which shows Ali suffer a humiliating defeat at Joe Frazier's hands when he was brought down twice in the 15th round. His desire to regain the World Heavyweight Title he had once held seemed unachievable. But Ali was far from finished. In his own words:

"Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even."
           - Muhammad Ali

What followed from that point onwards was an intense and grueling training regime, the like of which would send shivers down anyone's spine.

"I hated every minute of training, but I said, ''Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.''"
    - Muhammad Ali

As if all this wasn't enough, Ali, at age 32, was slated to fight the new Heavyweight champion of the world, George Foreman. At age 24, Foreman had an incredible record, 35 straight knockouts with most bouts not going beyond 2-3 rounds. It was 3 years since Ali's comeback and he was yet to regain the World Heavyweight crown. Ali had made some interesting adjustments - he was far more defensive now, and tended to conserve his energy by not moving around too much. Also, he relied more on his technical skills rather than his now reduced speed. The bout began with Foreman attacking Ali at full force and the worst fears of Ali's supporters appeared to take shape. Surprisingly, Ali took all the punishment Foreman could dish out for 7 straight rounds by intentionally leaning against the ropes, a tactic now famously called the "rope-a-dope" tactic. Towards the end of the 8th round Foreman was visibly tired and began punching into thin air. That was all Ali wanted - with a speed that is unmatched to this day, Ali produced a lethal combination of punches and knocked out the reigning champion to regain the World Heavyweight crown. He dominated the sport then on till age 36 when he won the title for a record 3rd time, a feat unparalleled in human history.

This is recorded in history and illustrates the same point which I have made earlier:

"I don't know how, but I will SOMEHOW."  - remember, Ali had to modify his approach.

"I will until." - Ali had to wait for 3 long years for regaining his title as World Heavyweight champion.

(iii) Sachin Tendulkar

Amidst all the fanfare about unarguably, the greatest batsman of all time, most people have forgotten his dark hour. There was a period when his performance had dipped so low which prompted former cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar to say that Sachin Tendulkar was a white elephant in the dressing room. Unjustified  remarks, but nasty, nevertheless.

Here's what the master had to say about the tennis elbow injury,

"I have played with some serious injuries, but the problem here is that I cannot grip the bat. It's as basic as that. In other injuries, you can at least hold the bat and still manage, not this one,"

Please check the below link


The fact that he used to go out for drives at 3am and also had cried many times illustrates the extent of the problem.

The comeback wasn't easy either, he had to change and adjust a lot of things starting from his heavy bat and his natural aggressive batting style. Now he relies more on skill and technique.

"I always play in pain, all the time. I played with a broken finger for the last three months, but you know when pain is manageable or not, and most of the time I can do it... I can still do what I did when I was 25 but the body is changing, so your thought process has to change too. I have had to change how I think, which is about taking less risk"
            - Sachin Tendulkar

The point which I am trying to make is, successful people find a way out, when most believe there isn't one. Success is not easy, neither is it convenient. But it is definitely possible for those who want it badly enough.

8. The Master Key

The master key to all your current problems - personal problems, financial problems, family problems, career problems is this - getting back into the work force and becoming productive. This one act on your part will automatically propel all the other associated problems into solution mode just as the entire cloth becomes undone when you pull out the correct string. This is the only thing you should focus on at this point and none else - trying to solve everything at once will only overwhelm and you will end up producing very less in terms of tangible results. Focus is crucial, and for a sustained period of time.

I hope you decide to act from this point onwards and this becomes the turning point of your career and life.

Sainath S,

Note for Blackholesun : You can respond to this advice by logging into the website.

Comments or Responses

Posted by: SheoNarayan on: 7/16/2011 | Level:HonoraryPlatinum | Status: [Administrator] | Points: 25
Dear Sainath,

No words to say the points you have made in this advice, very valid and useful not only for "Blackholesun" but also for all of us. I am sure we all one or the other point in our life go through the similar situations.

You are a GEM Sainath, keep shining and throwing lights on us :)

Best regards
Sheo Narayan
Posted by: Skraghava on: 7/16/2011 | Level:Starter | Status: [Member] | Points: 25
Nicely written.
Posted by: S.faizaan on: 7/17/2011 | Level:Starter | Status: [Member] | Points: 25
Very well written..highly motivating
Posted by: Vishvvas on: 7/20/2011 | Level:HonoraryPlatinum | Status: [Member] [MVP] | Points: 25
Great analysis and solutions, Sainath. I am impressed and its good that I have a chance of interaction with you.
Hey, you have everything, one need to succeed. Start small.. change your login name for this site :). The trap in this situation is to get into shelf and you need to avoid that. You are competent enough and hence reach out recruiters,contacts, friends as I believe there is place for every one. As you have metnioned you are forunate that you have no finnacial worries.
The best way to tackle is to keep in touch.

ALL THE BEST. Life is beautiful.

Posted by: Jiyeer on: 7/27/2011 | Level:Starter | Status: [Member] | Points: 25
Man you have given him a great motivation... Not only to him! even to us...

Login to post response

Disclaimer: Reply given to your question by our expert panels are based on their personal experience who have been successful in their career or are well acquainted in the role they are/were playing. This may or may not be suitable in a specific circumstances, please consider this as an advice that may help you carve your career. DotNetFunda.Com or its expert panel members will not be responsible for loss of any kind because of any decision you take based on these advices.