Let's Talk About The Quarter-Life Career Crisis
A quarter-life crisis can be the hardest thing to talk about, for anyone in their mid-20s. Many are going through one but not fully aware what really it is, and many are in denial. However, I intend to speak or write about issues that matter to me, things I have experienced first-hand. I am not going to shy away from admitting I am going through a mid-20s existential crisis. And the title of the blog has the word "career" in it because mine is majorly fuelled by my career.
Don't get me wrong there - I went to a great college and have a nice job, earning enough to go on holidays often and buy few expensive things for myself, every once in a while. As a single working woman, I have all I need. And if you are on the outside, you might even want to have my life.
Then why am I not satisfied? Despite having everything the 16-YO-me ever wanted, why do I feel I do not have my life together, especially career-wise?
The crisis generally, starts towards the end of our college years. Until college, we know what needs to be done. Get good grades, join lots of extra-curricular clubs and build a strong CV. Once all of these are accomplished, ideally we should have landed our dream jobs. But thanks to the competition in the job market, most of us are disappointed on the very first days of our careers. It is like we have reached the destination only to discover, this success is not all sweet.
The transition from college to a cubicle, from professors to bosses can already be tough. But pursuing the perfect career is a whole new ballgame, altogether.
As a proof of argument, this is what I read recently:
"Experts say that the crisis hits folks in their 20s, because after years of learning the system of how to succeed in school, college grads are thrown into the world of work with no real understanding of how to succeed in it. Others blame the way pop culture has portrayed work, giving younger workers unrealistic expectations."
On top of everything, we have too many career options these days, leading to confusion and the pressure to make the right decisions. We feel overwhelmed with the plethora of options available to us, unlike our parents, who had more clear-cut career paths. The more we look around, the more lost we are. If you have joined an entry-level job, you realize you will have to work hard everyday of the year to become, let's say, a manager. And if you do not enjoy the 9-to-5 routine, you can either start your own business or study further. You can change the sector/field you are working in or even drop everything and just travel the world. Studies have shown that millennials are working shorter tenures at multiple employers.
We are hopping from office to office, hoping this one might have a better pay, culture and a nicer boss.
There are many factors that attribute to the quarter-life crisis and some of them only worsen the career bit of it. For example - marriage. If you are an Indian like me, societal norms demand you to be married by the 30s. And hence, it becomes imperative to have a stable job and start saving up. Marriage is like a deadline - get successful and settle down. As we get closer to it, we can no longer explore career options or take our chances.
As I mentioned earlier, I am happy with how things have turned out for me. But I do worry about few things and I know most of my friends do as well. I am afraid that my moment of greatness is fleeting away in front of my eyes. How do I get to having the perfect career. When will my breakthrough happen or when will a "million-dollar idea" come to me. What if I never make it to that "stage of success" to give that speech I have prepared all my life.
I am no therapist or an expert on psychology to give a solution or advice on the quarter-life career crisis. Today's world of social media does make it seem like everybody else is getting rich and are very happy, but from the conversations I have had with people in my social circle, I can assure you, most of them are in it with you, including myself. True to the definition of success, we have achieved the career goals we had set up for ourselves so far. But mid-20s are particularly difficult because we are unsure about what the next goals are. And that's okay. As long as we are striving and putting in the efforts, we will figure it out.