There's a new phenomenon plaguing my peers. It's being called "The Quarter Life Crisis." You've seen it - Buzzfeed and Life Hacker articles about the period of life during which a person starts to doubt the trajectory of their adulthood. Yes, there is a widely accepted phenomenon to describe the level of doubt most of us have when figuring out what we want to do in life. And this doubt is so bad that we've dubbed it a "crisis." Quick question: when did asking yourself questions about where you are and what you want become a crisis? In my opinion, we're all better off because we are demanding more from life than a traditional career path that leads to unfulfilled promise and a lack of inspiration. I love to learn, and to me questions (especially about my life goals) are an indication that I want to learn.
Okay, you caught me. If I seem a bit defensive, its because I went through a "Quarter Life Crisis" of my own just six months ago. I was at a good job with great coworkers and I felt stuck. I started to question every single aspect of my life: What do I want do long term? Is my current position setting me up for success? Should I go back to school? Ugh, do I really want to be back in school? Isn't a college degree less valuable these days? Oh boy, I have to take the GRE. I hate standardized testing. How many years before I qualify for those Executive Business Degrees? Nah, that's not gonna work. Okay I'll just stay put. The monologues cycled through my mind on a weekly basis. I have to admit, all of those murmurings in my head felt like torture. And you know what, I did feel like I was in a crisis. A few months, a life coach, and a lot of journaling later I ended up here in a career change. And guess what? I've never been happier. When most of us leave college, we feel bound to the path we chose on the first day post graduation. If we veer off course, we stay within the bounds of whats expected of us. As someone who just made a huge career change, I have a word of advice: start with where you are. I didn't originally leave Operations for programming. I left Operations for me. And in learning more about me, I found my way to coding iOS.
If you've experienced or are experiencing a "quarter life crisis," stop, take several deep breaths and consider where you are. Here are five reasons you should take a pause and consider a career change.
1) You live for the weekends
One of the most common symptoms of a quarter life crisis is that you live for the weekend. You work 40+ hour weeks and you wait for 5pm on a Friday to do the thing you love most. And if you're anything like me, eventually you stop living all together, even on the weekends. Before you know it, glorified Netflix marathons become your weekend routine. At some point in my experience, I had to pause and realize, I’m not living. I’m just moving through life day-to-day, waiting for the next experience to find me. I had to open my eyes and realize, life happens every day, not just on the weekend. If the best part of your week is Friday at 5pm, it's time to evaluate your 40 hours and figure out if its giving you what you need to feel alive.
2) You don’t feel excited about your career trajectory.
Some people feel frustrated by the lack of career pathing in front of them, others like me may have felt frustrated because you know the incredible opportunity in front of you doesn’t make you excited! If you look at the role at the top of your career trajectory and you DON’T want that job, it’s time to reconsider where you are. Traditional careers are not the sole way to reach success these days. And if your current role plays no part in where you want take your career, it may not worth your time. Maybe the company is the right company, but the role is wrong. Grab some post its on the weekend and start writing down the vision for your life in 10 years. Back track all the way to today and ask, "am I positioning myself to build the life I want?"
3) You aren’t doing your best.
I almost didn’t include this one for fear of how it comes off, but this. is. truth. Sometimes you are doing work, phenomenal work but you know it’s not your best work. You can meet your deadlines, supersede your goals and still know there’s more of you left to give. When you realize you’ve stopped doing your best, you have to pause and ask why. There’s a huge difference between slacking off and being unmotivated. Sometimes we do just enough because that's what's expected of us. If you are at the point where you know you could give more, stop and figure out what needs to change. It could be your attitude, it could be your role, it could be your job or it could be your career. For me, I wasn't being challenged enough. Managing crises and building systems was fine, but I needed to take a leap on my creativity. That's where the challenge was. If you've stopped doing your best, figure out what needs to change ASAP because there's nothing worse than unmotivated and uninspired employees.
4) You feel safe.
This is a big one. I'm a firm believer that anything worth doing is going to be both hard and (a little) scary. I'm not talking imposter syndrome scary, I'm talking I'm-capable-but-the-odds-are-against-me scary. When I decided to go into programming, one of the reasons I knew it was the right challenge for me was because of that tiny bit of fear in my stomach. This wasn't going to be easy! Success wasn't guaranteed. I wasn't safe anymore. And its been totally worth it! The cliches are cliches for a reason: no one ever reached their full potential in their comfort zone. If you feel safe, especially because what you're doing is "easy" or guarantees your success, it may be time for you to evaluate if you are even willing to do and be your best. If you need a kick in the butt, watch this video. (Warning: language is not appropriate for children)
5) You just know.
If there’s anything the past year has taught me it is to TRUST YOUR GUT. You may not be spiritual, but all of us have intuition. If you cry on your way to work or get a drop in your stomach on Sunday night, you got some thinkin' to do. I was nowhere near tears (in fact, I worked with some of my closest friends), but my intuition was SCREAMING at me when it was time to make a change. It was evident through the four symptoms above. Sometimes, you just know. Something isn’t right, and you deserve to investigate what it is. Never ever ignore that quiet voice that tells you that you deserve better...from yourself.
I didn't get to the place of even wanting to evaluate my life without resources. I had people, books, and activities that helped center me and get me to be honest with where I was. I couldn't tell anyone my next career move because I couldn't tell anyone what my gifts were. I mean, I had the interview answers, but I couldn't genuinely and easily tell someone what I was good at or what I truly wanted out of life. If any of that resonates with you, I encourage you to take a Saturday morning, grab post its and get start the process (because trust me, this is a process) of learning about you.