The 18-year-itch: Millennials hit 'career fatigue' after two decades at work

We’ve all heard of the seven-year-itch.

That milestone point in a marriage where couples re-evaluate their relationship. Do you feel happy and fulfilled? Or is time to reconsider?

Well, the same goes for your career – except in this situation, the itch comes a little later.

New research has revealed that British workers start to feel stuck in a job rut by the age of 37.

With most people entering the full-time workforce at the age of 19-years-old, that’s 18 years before we feel that itch and hit peak ‘career fatigue.’

In fact, the survey conducted by international coding school, Le Wagon, found that 48% of thirty-somethings said they felt disillusioned with their career, and 45% admitted to spending their time daydreaming about a new job.

Dr Lynda Folan is a workplace psychologist and author of Leader Resilience, The New Frontier of Leadership.

She tells ‘Age 35 to 40 is a crucial transition phase and a critical time to reflect on the meaning of life – and how to move successfully to the next stage.

During transitions, Dr Lynda says it’s normal for people to experience some or all of the following:

  • ‘Questioning their achievements and success.
  • ‘Feeling under pressure and weighed down by responsibility. 
  • ‘Feeling lost and unsure.
  • ‘Feeling anxious, irritable, moody or upset more regularly than usual.
  • ‘Difficulty sleeping or restless sleep.
  • ‘Lack of interest in work and personal pursuits.’

But you can use these feelings to your advantage. ‘This is a pivotal time to listen to your internal dialogue and take the time to reflect,’ says Lynda.

‘This reflection should include successes and failures in the past, and what success will look like for you in the future.’

It’s important to note that it can be emotionally demanding to do this reflective work, and you should put strategies in place to support yourself.

‘Make sure you have the mental and emotional capacity to complete the processing required,’ says Lynda. ‘Invest in self-care and ensure you maintain your well-being.’

After going through the reflection phase, you might feel like you aren’t ready to give into that itch just yet.

From quiet quitting to end-zoning, feeling trapped in your job can have serious impacts on your mental health, but Dr Lynda says there are ways to reignite your enthusiasm.

She suggests:

  • ‘Keep learning new things and developing your skills in a range of areas.
  • ‘Take on new assignments that are challenging and stretch you out of your comfort zone.
  • ‘Spend time developing your emotional intelligence. This is the key to unlocking success at work.
  • ‘Don’t become complacent. Find ways to maintain your relevance in the workplace.’

And, if you really are ready to call it quits, it’s never too late to try something new.

Yesterday, we spoke to experts about making a career change – no matter your life stage.

Janine Blacksley, director of Walters People, says that as long as you’re dedicated, making a career pivot is more than doable.

Janine tells ‘When you do choose a new career, carve out a path and come armed with a plan of action detailing how to get there.

‘Don’t be afraid of a little rebrand. This is where those transferable skills come in to their own.

‘You never have to change who you are for a job, however tweaking your CV to suit a specific field can be helpful in appealing to a brand new set of hiring managers.

‘And whether you’re choosing a career based upon an existing passion or not it is very important to make sure you’re clued up on every aspect of the position you’re going for – you don’t want to be caught off-guard by any details of the position you didn’t expect.

‘So read up and keep informed on both the career and current events of the field you are looking to advance into.’

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