A career crossroads is a place many of us will reach at some point during our working life.  It is a place where we are faced with a choice of different career paths we could follow – either to carry on in the same job or try something new, be that a new role, a new employer or a new sector. It is also a place where people can feel very lost, lonely and confused.  And it can have a huge impact on wellbeing – physically, mentally and emotionally.

Having employees who are at a career crossroads, and don’t feel properly supported, can have a detrimental impact on any business or organisation. If not dealt with properly, it can lead to:

  • Lower productivity and effectiveness
  • Higher staff turnover
  • A poorer image to be able to attract new, high-quality employees with
  • A negative impact on other members of staff

Post-pandemic, there has been a significant increase in the number of individuals facing career crossroads, desperately in search of more clarity on the best path to follow and the courage with which to make any necessary changes. 

The root causes of being at a career crossroads

The root cause of reaching a career crossroads can be linked to many things. Here are some of the most common reasons which have triggered many to consider a career change:

  • Unclear boundaries – the proliferation of working from home coupled with an ‘always on’ culture is blurring the lines between work and life. This is adding extra stress into people’s lives and creating tension in their relationships.
  • Misalignment with values – if a person’s core values are not being honoured in a workplace it can create deep feelings of unhappiness and even resentment (values such as creativity, autonomy or making a difference). It may also be the case that people are simply lacking the clarity on what their values are.
  • Disconnection from purpose – many people at a crossroads are feeling unfulfilled by their work and yearning for greater meaning and purpose. This can be exacerbated by reaching a milestone birthday which throws up into question people’s very existence on this planet and whether they are really reaching the true potential they thought they would reach by that age.
  • Lack of confidence – being at a career crossroads can also be caused by a lack of confidence to do the role someone is paid to do and so they are choosing to look elsewhere hoping the problem will go away. The occurrence of imposter syndrome is also on the rise, often stemming from a lack of feedback, praise or proper training.

Spotting the signs of an employee at a career crossroads

 In some cases, it may be quite obvious if an employee is at a career crossroads, but in others it may require a little more observation. Here are a few questions to consider to help you detect whether an employee may be at a crossroads:

  • Have you noticed a lack of interest in growing, developing or moving up the ladder in your organisation?
  • Or perhaps they have previously expressed an interest in moving roles or departments but not been properly considered?
  • Have they recently seemed a little less engaged in their role or their willingness to contribute within your organisation?
  • Are they showing any physical or emotional signs of stress?
  • Have they taken more time off recently than they normally would?

8 ways to support an employee at a career crossroads

Once you have identified that an employee may be at a crossroads, here are some practical ways you could support them:

  1. Understand what their values are – often there are some simple fixes once you understand what is deeply important and motivating to someone. For example, the value of autonomy could be addressed by giving them a little more responsibility or trusting in them more to get the job done. The value of creativity could be honoured by putting them on a project which allows them to express their creative side more. Invite them to list out their top 10 values and have a conversation with them around what they discover.
  2. Clarify their purpose – it is easy to lose connection to the purpose of your role or organisation, especially in fast-paced working environments. Reminding or clarifying with your employee the mission and purpose of your organisation and how they fit into that might just be the difference-maker to reengage them and turn around any feelings of disconnection and unfulfillment.
  3. Assign them a mentor – often people at a crossroads can feel very lonely in their workplace, so assigning them someone in your organisation who they could confide in and have an outlet for their thoughts and feelings could help them process what they are going through.
  4. Acknowledge their skills and any gaps – invite your employee to list out their top 5 skills and top 5 strengths and to also note any which they feel they are lacking which may be affecting their confidence. Offer them to attend a training course (internally or externally) to plug any skills gaps. Or see how you can enable them to play more to their strengths in their role.
  5. Feedback and communication – having regular one-to-one meetings with a manager where there are open lines of communication can also be a real support to people at a crossroads as well as providing feedback on how they are doing in the role and direction as to where they and the organisation are headed.
  6. Encourage them to find more balance – if your employee is clearly suffering from stress, and there is an ‘always on’ culture in your organisation, you could suggest or support the setting of new boundaries such as turning their laptop off after 6pm or making sure they have taken a proper lunch break. Lack of proper work life balance can often cloud people’s judgments around wanting to leave their job.
  7. Offer empathy and compassion – a career crossroads can be a difficult place to be, and it can be a very emotional time filled with inner turmoil. It is a place we could all find ourselves in at some point in our career. Offering empathy and compassion could have a huge impact on an employee. Even if they do still end up choosing to leave, the ripple effect of these high vibration qualities will also be felt by others in your organisation.
  8. Help them find a new role – having explored all of these options, you and your employee may conclude that leaving is the best way forward. In order to help them with their transition, you might be able to suggest some more aligned roles either within your organisation or outside of it. Consider what contacts you have you could put them in touch with or resources which you could guide them to.

If an employee still feels stuck

I always believe it is possible for someone at a career crossroads to find more happiness within their current role, however challenging it is for them at the time. There is always the chance that they can realign with their job and employer and discover the happiness and fulfilment they are so desperately craving. I have seen this happen often.

However, in some cases, despite taking these steps, an employee may still feel stuck. At which point, it may be more effective to offer impartial / external support. Especially as some of this work (if it is to be truly impactful) involves some soul-searching in order to understand what is going on at a deeper level. Otherwise, people will be simply moving the problem around from job to job.

Here are some resources and places which could help your employee to find the clarity to move through their career crossroads:

Rebecca Kirk
Career Coach at Rebecca Kirk | Website | + posts

Rebecca Kirk is a spiritual career coach and author. She enables people who are unfulfilled at a career crossroads to find greater confidence and clarity to align with their true purpose. Rebecca was called to begin working as a coach in 2016, and is now dedicated to enabling people to awaken their career and discover greater purpose, peace and prosperity in their working life. Rebecca works with one-to-one clients across the UK and around the world. Her book 'You're Here for a Reason' launched in September 2023.