There comes a point during your early to late twenties when you feel stuck. Not stuck in a traffic jam or being behind an apocalypse prep person at the grocery store. You’re in a rut where your sense of identity is thrown out the window and you don’t know what to do. The millennial quarter-life crisis is alive and real for lots of people.
Society loves to focus on formulaic and simple progression. You go to high school, get good grades, participate in extracurriculars, then go to university, do some internships, then start a job and climb the corporate ladder. We like to see a clear path to follow. When the clear path becomes blurry and full of uncertainty, anxiousness and doubt sets in.
Quarter-life crises don’t arise in the typical way people might expect: divorce, job loss, health issues, or death of a loved one. Most of them arise through a feeling of not being content. You don’t like the job you’re in but don’t know what new type of job you want. You don’t know what your values are in life. Staying in one place is unappealing, yet you still crave stability.
Understanding your purpose in life, the big sweeping thing that guides you constantly shifts. Maybe you’re underemployed, working a few part-time jobs to make ends meet, seeking the all-encompassing lustrous full-time job. Or maybe you work a full-time job you are disengaged with.
Regardless of the exact circumstances, you don’t think you fully know yourself and what it is you want.
Transitions are awkward. There isn’t a nicely laid out guidebook for you to fill out to be on your way. Some vague Google searches are usually the starting point.
It’s easy to stay stuck in the pit of uncertainty. If you watch any movie depicting twenty-somethings, the characters are usually working in jobs they don’t like and figuring out how to navigate the world.
Social media and mainstream media often make a note of the world conditions millennials face. There’s stagnant wages, low salaries, an ever rising unaffordable housing market, and student debt. It can be easy to drop into the mindset of always feeling like a victim unable to do anything.
Now, obviously, the system needs some changing. There is no doubt about that. I’m not going to preach about “work harder” as the be all end all. However, mindset really does have a huge role in your personal and professional development. It would be beneficial to cultivate a positive abundant mindset rather than a constant negative one.
When you feel lost and uncertain about your life and career, start by making a “not” list: a list of things you for sure do not want to do. Transitioning into a more fulfilling job and understanding your unique values is usually the main thing people want more clarity on in their millennial quarter-life crisis.
Write down things you don’t like about your job, things you do like, and so forth. Research different career paths you may be interested in. Start a blog about a topic you feel passionate about. Take some personality quizzes, some of which can be found here and here.
A great resource I used was a work personality assessment, by Disc Profile, which examined my areas of strength and weakness in the workplace. The assessment comes at a hefty price of $59, but I found the assessment to be valuable in helping me learn more about how I function in the workplace. [Include link to my assessment so people can take a peak?]
Start talking with other people about this period of confusion. Often times you find other people are going through the same thing. Reach out past your immediate friend group.
On the different token, spent more time alone. Haha, yeah, I know, you’re probably like “Whaa? You said start talking with other people? Yes, that’s important. Do that, but don’t forget about giving yourself some time to yourself. Think about it, how okay are you with being with yourself and processing your thoughts? Most of us crave interaction. When we are alone, we fill up the time with things like watching TV or scrolling social media. Two things that won’t exactly help you to understand yourself better.
TV and social media aren’t bad by themselves. However, when you’re using them out of boredom or avoidance of other things, they become an issue. Spent some time journaling or doing a hobby. It’s beneficial for your own good.
Small actions lead to big results
As you start to spend more time alone, figuring out the things you don’t want and talking with others, begin to contemplate what sort of things you want to really have consistent in your life. Things that get you out of bed in the morning when you would rather sleep in. Stuff that excites you. This could be in the form of bettering relationships with those around you. A hobby you could do in your downtime. Setting aside time for writing every day. Reading. Almost anything. Keep a little checklist to make sure you’re working on those things consistently. It doesn’t have to be every day, just consistently.
When you’re figuring things out with your life, money shouldn’t be a constant sort of stress, it’s important to live as simple as possible. When I graduated university, I started working at a job. After getting the job, everyone kept asking me when I would “upgrade” my crappy car with a new car. A lot of recent graduates get their first big person paycheck and spend it: they buy nice cars, nice apartments, new clothes, the whole shebang. I resisted doing this as I worked that first post-grad job because I found I didn’t really enjoy the job all that much.
It was a whole heck of a lot easier to leave that job because all I had were my student loans. Granted, I did still have thousands in student loan debt at the time, but I didn’t have a car payment or credit card debt or lots of expenses. Navigating the transition was a lot easier because I intentionally kept my expenses low.
Even though there is no magic blueprint for navigating the transition, not all is lost. Find things to work on. Things that can be a constant amidst a sea of change. Work on them consistently. Be small. Don’t balloon your expenses. Keep your “not-list” handy.
Together, they will pull you through each day. Ready to move forward.