Starting in my late 20’s to early 30’s and coinciding with the break-up of a long-term relationship, I felt stuck in my 10-year City recruitment career that I’d fallen into – Hello Quarter-life Crisis. I was earning decent money but frittering it away on socialising, clothes and taxis with nothing concrete to show for it.
Travelling home one late evening, I glimpsed my reflection in a tube window. I looked miserable and disengaged. I thought, “There’s got to be more than this”. It was then I decided to make a change that eventually led me to coaching. This is why I’m so passionate about helping other people who find themselves in similar position. My clients are typically in an industry for five or ten years, and they say, “I don’t even know if I like research or IT Consultancy or marketing. I just fell into it”. They never truly figured out who they really are and what they want.
Meanwhile, the economy has left people with great fears about taking a leap into something else, but I say now is the time to explore the question: What do you really want to do for the rest of my life?
In 2001, Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner identified a phenomenon coined a Quarter-life Crisis in their book Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties, where young adults finish school and then need to place themselves in society. In doing so, some may feel overwhelmed with life’s choices or by a choice they’ve made. This leaves them feeling lost, a lack of passion and confused about where they’re headed in their career and life.
During my years of coaching, I have found that many young adults experience what I call a Quarter-life Career Crisis. They come to coaching because they are uninspired about their work. This greatly impacts other areas of their lives making them feel lack luster and disengaged. For example they avoid meeting up with friends that they perceive as being successful because they feel embarrassed or ashamed of the kind of work they do. Underlying this embarrassment and shame is the knowing that they are not achieving their full potential. This is when young adults stall to find a career that makes them feel fulfilled and settled.
A recent BBC 4 radio programme discussed the troubles of today’s twentysomethings who say they are facing tough life choices, such as taking non graduate jobs or claiming job seekers allowance because the careers they were promised by going on to higher education, simply do not exist. Listen to it at: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01pz599.
I feel a personal affinity to young adults who experience a Quarter-life Career Crisis because I was once in their shoes. Therefore, I have tailored my services around coaching teens and young adults through such a crisis. Based on my case studies, I’ve compiled a helpful list of 7 Tips for Managing a Quarter-life Career Crisis. These are based on case studies from those who are now reconnecting with what matters most to them.
Tip 1: Volunteer Overseas or at Home
Volunteering abroad is a great way to build knowledge and experience in an area of interest, whilst contributing to a specific need in a charity or NGO. Some of the agencies below provide careers advice and personal support to ensure your placement works towards your long-term career goals in a very direct way. Volunteering closer to home gives you insight into a career you are considering. Plus, it provides experience in that field for your CV, and there is a feel good factor of giving back to your community. Quickly find ways to help your community by typing your postcode into Do-It.org
Tip 2: Work Placement, Internship or Work Trial
Internships used to be mainly for college or university students, but the economic climate has meant they’re also for post-graduate adults seeking new career skills. Internships can provide opportunities to gain experience in your field, determine an interest in a particular career and create a network. Other ways are to speak to friends, family, old bosses to see what else is out there. Join The Hub Network or subscribe to The Hub newsletter to connect to social and ethical businesses looking for interns.
Tip 3: Develop Broad Personal and Professional Skills
Developing skills such as mentoring, public speaking, creative and business writing, negotiating, people management, creative thinking is extremely useful whilst exploring what it is you want to do. City Lit run affordable, part-time, short courses in topics such as digital media and photography.
Tip 4: Go Back to University
Many of us went to university aged 18, not really knowing what degree to do and just did one because we studied the subject at A-level and got a decent grade. Now that you know more about your interests and passions, why not go back to university and complete the degree you were meant to, or how about an MA in something you’re really passionate about like film studies, or even an MBA.
Tip 5: Network, Talks, Special Interest Groups, Events
There are many ways to discover your interests and passion. If you want to dip your toe in the water, organisations such as Alternatives hold regular talks and events where you can explore world spirituality and personal growth. Or to get more involved, for example you want to know more about making an impact to your local environment, you can look at the Transition Town movement.
If you’re someone who has many interests and a huge curiosity, try attending monthly Scanners events for creative people with multiple ideas. Whatever your interest, there is bound to be a group or a talk or an event happening that will suit you. And you’re certain to meet with like-minded people, make good contacts and generate new career ideas and possibilities.
Tip 6: Find a Part-Time Job
Take on a part-time job or part-time work to keep you going financially whilst keeping doors and options open. Look locally for jobs advertised in cafes, shops, ask friends if they need any part-time help, register with temping agencies, use your old career to support you knowing that you are a free agent and no longer tied down to it. Timewise is a job site specifically for part-time work.
Tip 7: Start an Enterprise
Have you always dreamed of running your own interior design business? Start off small and offer your services to friends and family for a reduced rate whilst you are starting out. Creating your own income feels very empowering. Many local libraries offer free start up workshops. The British Library runs events and workshops for entrepreneurs and inventors such as “Start Up Saturdays”.
To survive a QuarterLife Career Crises, you will need to move out of your comfort zone and take some risks. Career coaching is not just about you landing the right job, but is a journey of exploration, discovery, and helping you to appreciate the ride.