By Karen Darrin

According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the definition of “mid-career professional” is someone who is 10-15 years into their career.  

If you’re like many mid-career professionals, you’ve spent more than a few years working your way up to a good-paying job with a respectable title. But instead of basking in the satisfaction of a successful career, you find yourself feeling bored, restless—maybe even hopelessly stuck.

If you can relate, you’re in good company with many of my clients who are wondering how they managed to get stuck in a mid-career rut and how they can get out of it. As a “mid-career” coach, I work with many professionals, including our veterans seeking to shift from a military to civilian career. It is not an easy journey but I can tell you it is so worth it!

We were not taught in school how to successfully navigate through these career changes.  But by laying the right groundwork, you can get unstuck, climb out of that rut and land the career you really want.

Here’s how:

1)  Ditch the denial and recognize when you’re burnt out or bored stiff.  Do not ignore these signals. Realize that “doing nothing” is not a good plan!

2)  Fear of change will come with the territory so be ready with some established strategies to help you through, such as: a respected person who will hold you accountable, a trusted mentor who has already been through a mid-career transition, or professional career coach. For inspiration, read Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.” You are the hero here and there is an establish cycle of feelings and challenges you will go through. Be ready.

3)  Search inside yourself to find your next career path or goal. Your mix of talents, strengths, skills, and tendencies are one-of-a-kind. Where do you want to make an impact? What do you love to do and where would you like to do it? Now is the time to live those dreams you have been burying.

4)  Clarify your values.  Values change over time. Make sure that you are aligning your life and career to what matters most to you right now. There are numerous free tools to help you clarify your values and their priority.  Do not skip this step. You may be surprised with what you find.

5)  Study your past experiences for when you felt energized or drained with your work. Those moments are clues pointing to what brings you purpose and meaning. What was it about those moments that made is so engaging (or draining) for you? Extract those qualities so you can focus on finding them again (or staying far away.)

6)  Brainstorm with peers, family, friends, or a coach on how you can best use your talents, align with your values and unique contributions. Think beyond the employee category.  Would contract work best suit your new life style?  Or, has being entrepreneur always been in the back of your mind?

7)  Fear is your new friend.  There is a difference between fear – “I am going to fail and end up living in my car!” and fear — “There is a saber-tooth tiger chasing me!”   Get to know how those two kinds of fear feel in your body.  Fear of change can invigorate you, if you push forward.  Be brave. Step into your new, revitalized career choice, despite the your fears.


The bottom line is to have a clear vision of what you want and make your career choices carefully. Talking to peers, friends, family, mentors and career coaches can help you to achieve your career objectives. Create the life you want. There won’t be a better time than now.



With 30 years of human resources experience as her foundation, Karen Darrin has found her niche by guiding and encouraging others to create their ideal professional life. Her magic is helping others own their unique mix of skills, experiences, and tendencies (for that is their super power) and then finding the right place for those super powers to shine, be it in a corporation, non-profit or entrepreneurial adventure. Karen recently left San Diego behind for a simpler, country life in Prescott, AZ (a.k.a. Mayberry) and just can’t get enough of the views of the high desert, the pine mountain forests or the vortexes of Sedona, just a short drive away.  Karen spends her free time working with Circle L Animal Sanctuary and Ranch ( patiently cajoling abused horses and dogs into trusting humans again with the hope of finding their forever homes.  When in San Diego, she volunteered with Pegasus Rising ( an organization dedicated to the healing magic of horses with our veterans struggling with PTSD. Learn more about Karen at