Career identity crisis
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What is a career identity crisis?

We often see our jobs as a defining detail of who we are, so what happens if you’ve worked hard all your life with one career trajectory in mind, but reach a point when you ask yourself, “is this the job I want to do for the rest of my life?” This behavioural pattern is common now more than ever. 


Traditionally, people had one career path their whole lives. One profession, one identity. “But it doesn’t need to follow a straight line and there’s no blueprint or timetable for climbing the career ladder”, according to The Balance Careers article on the definition of a career path. It’s increasingly normal to jump careers multiple times, so if you’re experiencing career confusion, first of all, don’t panic. You need to just ask yourself, is this a career crisis, is it time to jump into another industry? Because potentially, you might be experiencing burnout, and after the year we’ve had, that would not be a surprise.


No career identity crisis is the same and they can occur at any point in your working lifespan. Maybe you have a passion you enjoy in your free time and you’re considering turning that into a career. Maybe you’ve realized your skillset might be better suited to a different role, you might have hit a professional ceiling, you may have simply grown out of love with your profession, or you’re confused about your next move. This article will help you figure out how to differentiate if you are experiencing career burnout or a career identity crisis.


Career Crisis VS Burnout

In high pressure working environments, where competition is rife, and being overworked is typical, it can lead to the perfect storm of burnout.


As a society we have faced our most challenging time. The pandemic caused untold stress that covered both our professional and personal lives. Less than two years later, there are still questions over international travel and while The Kingdom is in the midst of a successful vaccination rollout campaign, COVID-19 still hangs in the air, affecting life decisions for all age groups. It’s not a stabilising feeling. So, if you’re struggling with your profession, if your career feels stagnant, and you’re considering a drastic move, take a step back and consider that alternatively, you might be feeling burnout, and you might just need some rest and relaxation.


According to, burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress which occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. Here are some feelings someone facing burnout might feel:


  • Sense of failure and self-doubt.
  • Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated.
  • Detachment, feeling alone in the world.
  • Loss of motivation.
  • Increasingly cynical and negative outlook.
  • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.


You can take steps to heal from burnout including giving yourself more ‘me time’, scheduling social activities, doing things that make you feel valued and addressing issues you may have head on.


How to deal with a career identity crisis

If you’re facing a career identity crisis, you’re probably asking yourself the big life questions we previously discussed. ‘Are my skills right for my current career’? ‘Have I outgrown my profession’? Could I add more value elsewhere’? ‘I have a passion, can I turn it into a career’?

Considering a career shift can be scary. Change is uncomfortable and many people shy away from it, they stay in the role they’re not happy in, simply because it’s the easier solution in the short term. Moving professions is unpredictable and taking a leap might be one of the most daunting moves you’ll make. ‘What if I’m not good enough’? ‘What if it doesn’t work out’? ‘How will this career shift look on my CV to future employers’? These are common career identity crisis questions you might be asking yourself.

It’s worth noting that people shift jobs multiple times in their professional lifetime and if you’re truly sure you would like a career shift, learn to be comfortable with change and understand that career transitions are normal. Directly address the issues you’re facing, is a career change the right move?

Your next move

If you’re navigating a career crisis, there are strategic moves you can make to ensure your next decision is the right one for you. A report by insightsolutionspro outlines key points you can focus on to help figure out your next move 

  • Address the issues you’re facing - Will they be solved by a career switch?
  • Write about who you are and take part in activities that make you feel good
  • Allow yourself some ‘in between time’ to figure out what you want to do
  • Understand your practical skills to help you understand the value you might bring to alternative professions
  • What’s your area of expertise? Which industry does your speciality lend itself to?

And finally, take a breather. Your mind might be littered with questions, so take some time to understand your skillset and where your passion lies to help you discover your next move.