The “Quarter Life Crisis”Featured

No one warned me about the Quarter Life Crisis.

In 2020, I completed my university degree and entered the “real world”. At this time, I was 22 years old and had not stopped to consider the logistics of which career I wanted to pursue. Did I want to go back to school? Did I want to work in consulting? Tech? Recruitment? Event planning? The list of options was long and terrifying to come face to face with. I call this my Quarter Life Crisis - that time in your life when you’re suddenly faced with the opportunity to make choices that impact the trajectory of your career - but you have no idea what to do.

What I learned during this time, is that there is a significant lack of conversation around the sheer number of individuals who feel overwhelmed at the idea of having to navigate their careers. The fear of making the wrong decision (or not being able to make a decision at all) is a feeling that many individuals experience, but unfortunately, don’t talk about.

Some individuals leave high school or university knowing exactly which path they will be following. Many choose paths that inspire them, that they’ve had their heart set on for as long as they can remember, whereas others pick their course based on external factors (i.e. money, family, accessibility). Remaining, are the group of individuals who suddenly feel underprepared to face the reality of the decisions they will have to make because the need to make what seems such a “final” decision is often paralyzing. This is the group that I fell into. I worked all through university, however, my main goal was to pay off my student loans - not to build a solid foundation of experience and line myself up for my dream career.

Many young professionals don’t even know how to begin determining which career path makes sense for them. I don’t remember having a single conversation throughout the duration of my studies on how we were going to figure out our careers. The individuals around me were changing their career aspirations every other week from “I want to pursue a master's degree” to “I think I might switch programs”.

As it happened, most of the driven and inspired individuals I knew throughout my degree suddenly felt lost after graduation. There is safety in academia, having known only the classroom and education system for almost 2 decades means that without the safety of a classroom to explore your interests, many individuals suddenly feel pressured to align themselves into a thriving and successful role right after graduating.

Additionally, social media networking is at an all-time high, with websites such as LinkedIn being flooded with the professional successes of our colleagues. When in a career rut, it is difficult to remind ourselves that the posts we see on LinkedIn are just the highlights of people’s career pathways. I often had to remind myself that the pressure that I felt is one that thousands, if not millions of others have felt throughout their careers. It is challenging to remain motivated when you feel as though you’re alone in the struggle you are facing. It can be even more difficult when you believe that everyone around you is thriving based on their social media presence.

With all of this in mind, I worked to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I did research. A lot of research. Joining communities like Elpha or Slack communities for professional women allowed me to connect with individuals who could empathize with the challenges I was facing. I had phone calls, video calls, and continued email conversations with others who had experienced this same feeling of career paralysis at some point in their careers. I sought advice and understanding and was shocked to discover how many others had felt the same way as I did.

For those who have felt or are currently feeling stuck in their career journey, I encourage you to consider discussing this challenge with those around you. Whether it be with your friends, colleagues, or online community, the sentiment of not knowing where to go or what to do is more common than you may realize. Opening up and being vulnerable about the difficulty I was having allowed me to connect and empathize with others who had experienced the same feelings.

In addition, I’ve found power in reflecting upon my experiences. Even fresh out of my university degree, I still had preferences regarding my work environment. Making lists and breaking things down helped me process my options. Do I want a career where I work independently, or do I want to work in a collaborative environment? Remote versus in-office? Public versus private sector?

Without realizing it, the pieces of careers that fit into my personal preferences started to align, and this would not have happened had I not discussed the challenges I was facing with those around me.

Despite its challenges, figuring out my Quarter Life Crisis was fulfilling. It has allowed me to connect with wonderful individuals that I would have never met if not for the difficulty I faced. It has also allowed me to help and provide reassurance to my friends and colleagues who experienced the same sense of hopelessness or confusion around their careers.

There is power in connection, and anyone who is feeling a sense of loss or confusion around their careers shouldn't feel as though they are alone.

@lahnrobbins You are not alone. I understand what you are going through. In my case, I discovered my passion late. My environment and the timing of the economy aren't helping either. This is challenging, and decision paralysis is an additional nuisance.I'm optimistic that we will get over this. Hang on tight, and let's live life one day at a time.
@MargaretCezar thank you for sharing! I could not agree more, it not an easy journey, made even more difficult by the economy. We will definitely get through it 💪
@lahnrobbins this post is incredibly timely and I'm so glad you've opened up about this. literally, half an hour ago, I was on a call with a friend who works in VC and I was sharing how I feel I've become complacent because I've got no end goal to work towards. mostly everyone is lost but it's so difficult to share about this and more so when people say, "this only you can answer" I feel like it's such a burdening feeling - it scares and scars me because I feel how do I take the responsibility of making something out of my life and what if I fail? despite doing pretty fantastic as of now and continuously seeking opportunities, I tend to feel alone and a bit demotivated. iId love to have a call with you if you'd be up for it!
@sakshishukla it truly is such a scary feeling - and it’s incredible that you’re not afraid to talk about it with the people around you - I hope you know that!I’d love to chat more about this, feel free to send me a message anytime 😄
Have you seen the book by Christine hassler? It was my first self development book 20 years ago! 😳🫣🤫
@KQ I haven’t read it yet - but it’s on my list to check out! 😁
this book is really nice to help out with the quarter life crises - (especially the first half of the book) - also bill burnett's ted talk For me one of the most powerful strategies for any life periods like this is to play with cycling between action and reflection, where action is a lot about piloting and learning from experience. Meaning, taking a bit of dedicated time to think and make a plan (no perfectionism but based on best that you know in that very moment) and then stop thinking (before getting into overthinking :)) and going into action to make a pilot or test of that plan. Ideally, testing it in a smaller pilot which gives you quick feedback (eg. how do I really like this kind of work? Is it how I imagined it, or perhaps not so much?) and quick experience-based information.Then, stepping back into reflection and adjusting the future plans, including these new experience-based insights. But I guess big part of it is also not being afraid of mistakes and experimenting :) My TEDx talk touches on this topic lightly too - you can find it here
Thank you much for the wonderful links and resources! I'm definitely going to check out your TEDx talk! I love the idea of cycling between action and reflection -I'll have to use this in my career!
hey @lahnrobbins how is it going with the "quarter life crisis" hihi? or post-crises? :) any new insights and tools that you discovered?
Hi @Mirna! Sorry for the late reply honestly networking has been and continues to be the big thing for me! Getting insight from others who have experienced this has been the best type of support for me!