What To Do About The Feeling Of Torschlusspanik?

I am often asked: Who is the typical candidate that we place at our Pharmaceutical and Medical Device clients at Morunda? Whether they are in their late 30s, 40s, or 50s, they all have a sense of urgency and are willing to alter their career paths and switch companies. Changing companies comes with some risk, as the employee equity built up at one’s present company is recalibrated at the new company.

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Germans have a lovely term for this sense of urgency: Torschlusspanik, roughly translated as gate-close panic or last-minute panic. This is the fear that time, and hence opportunities, are running out. It describes the sense of panic when you realize, one day, that you haven’t done very much with your life, and that if you don’t act soon then you may miss out on the remaining opportunities as time passes and the ‘gate closes.’ In English, we might say mid-life crisis, but Torschlusspanik carries much more powerful imagery.

When is the ideal time to act on your feeling of Torschlusspanik? I guess the average recruiter would say, “Yesterday, and please send me your resume.” Well that approach is too short-sighted. A person should take action when their career at the present company has stalled in relation to their goals. If a candidate is aged 38 and is a Marketing Brand Lead managing one or two Product Managers, and their goal is to be a Marketing Director, Business Unit Head or Country Manager in their 50s, then they should be feeling a bit of Torschlusspanik. The finite resource in building a career is time — most people need to be hitting their goal by their early 50s, and to do that they need to build up enough experience, achievements, and have scored significant runs on the board to be considered a candidate for the career-defining role that will occupy the winter of their career.

The ideal situation is for employees to achieve their goal within one or two companies, to avoid the emotional strain of changing companies. However, simple calculation reveals that there are only a limited number of roles in the career pyramid at any given company. Therefore, the best candidates are those who are able to assess the risks versus opportunities of moving to a new company.

We have seen a number of cases where the feeling of Torschlusspanik has overwhelmed candidates, leading them to make the wrong move at the wrong time; they have let their feelings be the driver of their career, and have not properly assessed their talents and have the new employer.

To feel a little Torschlusspanik is healthy. That said, the best way to advance one’s career, either internally or externally, is to acknowledge the feeling and do a phenomenal job in one’s present role.

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