How to make it through a midlife career crisis - IMD Business School
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How to make it through a midlife career crisis

Analyze your past, present and future with these specific questions, says recruitment industry leader Tobias Tafel (MBA 1983).
November 2020

At about the time of their 40th birthdays, many executives start getting nervous. They typically ask themselves these questions: Am I on the right track for career success in the coming years? How far have I come and where exactly do I want to go? What can I still achieve? What options are open to me? Can I start again, doing something completely different? What are my core capabilities and which companies are interested in these skills?

Rather than worry, determine the state of your career today with this helpful checklist:

Take a look at your past

What have I already achieved professionally?

  • Is there a thread of continuity running through my CV?
  • Can I develop a career narrative based on my CV that will make sense to decision-makers and multipliers in the job market?

Analyze the present situation

What’s my view of my current career environment?

  • Do I have any mentors? Who are they?
  • Would my boss stand up for me?
  • Do I know what is expected of me and do I meet these expectations?
  • How am I regarded by people who work for me, or by colleagues and superiors?
  • Do people listen to what I say? Are my suggestions taken seriously?

Am I really satisfied and do I know what my career objectives are?

  • Am I satisfied with my current position?
  • Do I know my objectives e.g. regarding my role in the company and my income?
  • Do my objectives fit in with the goals of my department and the company?
  • Does my everyday work schedule include enough free moments during which I can take time to make decisions for myself?
  • Do I know for whom I would really like to work?
  • Am I able to balance work and family well?
  • Is my current position secure?

Which skills make me unique? What’s my USP?

  • What are my strengths? Where are my deficits?
  • Which skills do I need to develop?
  • Do other people share my assessment? Or do they see my profile differently?

Planning for the future

Develop a personal marketing plan

  • Develop a narrative for my professional career
  • Identify the successes that I have achieved in each of my roles
  • Settle on a reason for changing my position and prepare arguments for all other job changes until now
  • Learn how to present my USP – verbally and in writing
  • Get to know how to use a short statement about my abilities and value (elevator pitch) in an effective way
  • Check whether my curriculum vitae, my self-presentation, my motivation to change, my salary expectations and career goals offer a coherent picture

Define your own market value – how much in demand are my abilities?

  • Is there a specific market for my profile?
  • What companies could be interested in my skills?
  • What is the level of remuneration in these companies?
  • Do I know executive search consultants that work in this area?
  • Should I stay with my company but switch roles?

Will it be necessary to intensify intelligent career networking?

  • What is my network like? Who belongs to it?
  • Can I name all my important contacts and judge them correctly?
  • Am I in a position to create resilient relationships?
  • Do I systematically keep in touch with my professional contacts – F2F and digitally?
  • Am I aware of the latent opportunities in my professional network?


Tobias Tafel (MBA 1983), Managing Partner, KONITZER & TAFEL Managementberatung, Düsseldorf, Germany is an IMD MBA Career Mentor who is the driving force behind the career coaching program.