A Guide to Conquering Your Quarter-life Career Crisis

Desk flat lay with plant, cup of tea, open diary, iPhone, pens and avocado on toast, looking for jobs

A couple of months ago, I began reassessing my life, as you do at the humble age of twenty-four. I was having what felt like a mid-life crisis, despite my existence amounting to a measly two and half decades (so let’s call it a quarter-life crisis). 

I was having an over-dramatic, female meltdown because ‘I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.’ Those feelings of uncertainty and discontent certainly gave my tear ducts a workout. I’m not going to lie, it was an exhausting and unpleasant process, but it paved a significant part of my journey.

Though I was only 10 months into my first full-time position at a digital agency, I was already starting to question whether or not this industry and I were a match made in heaven or an extended summer fling. Having witnessed many of my Gen Y counterparts embrace the nomadic career-style, I was adamant that I would not fall into this category. That, of course, was until I began toying with the idea of quitting.

In spite of receiving a rather generous pay rise – a delicious slice of validation and recognition – the full-time position I had previously craved was quickly losing its flavour. The truth of the matter was that a salary increase wasn’t going to erase the inexplicable cloud of uncertainty that was wearing me down.

Before making any rash decisions, it’s essential that you dig a little deeper regardless of how headache-inducing it may be, and uncover the root cause of your dissatisfaction. Is a specific co-worker dampening your confidence? Is there a lack of recognition in the workplace? Are you tired of completing mundane tasks? Or does it run a little deeper and stem from a lack of fulfilment? Identifying the cause will enable you to take appropriate action, whether that means speaking to your boss about other opportunities within the company or quietly scoping out the job market. There are plenty of ways to conquer your career crisis and often, it’s a matter of trial and error to determine what works best for you. If you’re running dry on inspiration, we’ve put together a few ideas to get you started.

Take some time off

Naturally, the prospect of quitting will creep into your subconscious when you’re consistently exceeding your stress threshold. It’s impossible to fairly assess the situation and gain perspective when you’re overcome with negative feelings. Take some time off to discover your passions and establish a set of goals. This will enable you to evaluate your options and decide the best course of action moving forward.

Set realistic goals

Perhaps, your state of discontent has evolved from unrealistic expectations. The human brain is built to resist change and setting unrealistic goals only fuels this resistance. As a result, it may detract from your motivation and discourage you from making progress. You need to find the optimal balance between ambition and realism. Setting realistic goals will ultimately provide you with clarity, direction, and focus.

Start a side project

Side projects are an excellent way to reignite your passion and restore the balance in your life, particularly if work has been seeping into your subconscious. When your mind is occupied with work 24/7, you’re bound to fall into a rut and start resenting your job. Whether it’s starting a blog or learning a new language, the idea is to focus your energy on something that takes you back to your happy place and triggers that pulse of excitement that jolts you awake each morning. It’s better than coffee, I swear.

Learn a new skill

Learning a new skill can reinstate your confidence and improve your employment opportunities in what is becoming an increasingly competitive job market. Expanding your skill set and making regular deposits into the knowledge bank offers a multitude of benefits, from offering a renewed sense of purpose to helping you reach your full potential. Whether you choose to undertake a short course or dedicate your spare time to educating yourself, the set of skills you decide to develop or refine should take into account your interests, career goals as well as the nature of your industry. You’ll find that some skills are quickly becoming obsolete while others remain highly sought after.

Explore opportunities within the company

If it’s not the organisation that is contributing to your discontent, but rather the position that you are currently undertaking, speak to your manager about other opportunities within the company that you could potentially move into. Constructive conversations about career progression and career goals are pivotal when shaping your career path.

Scope out the field

It doesn’t hurt to see what else is out there. Scroll through the job listing feed, apply for positions that appeal to you and say yes to interviews. You don’t need to commit to anything, you’re simply scoping out the field to see if the grass is greener on the other side. You might decide to take the plunge or you might realise that you’ve already hit the jackpot of all jobs. It just took a career crisis and a few horrible job interviews to make you realise.

Whether you decide to focus on personal development, explore opportunities within your company or begin a new chapter elsewhere, successfully conquering your career crisis requires you to firstly trace the problem back to its root and develop an appropriate plan of action. Remember – living out the rest of your days harbouring envy of those who actually enjoy their jobs is not an option.

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