After things slow down and the initial shock of entering the professional word subsides, there comes a point in time when we all ask ourselves, "why?" It's natural to question your purpose -- and, you're not alone. Many have gone through the same struggle of searching for meaning in their career.
In fact, LinkedIn found that finding a job you're passionate about is the number one cause of career anxiety in 25-33 year-olds. The study also revealed that:
- 59 percent are unsure what to do next in their careers or life.
- 54 percent are frustrated about their career options.
- 49 percent feel they aren't earning enough.
- 44 percent feel like that are stuck in a rut.
I have experienced all of these at some point. Each one is terrifying in its own right. The ironic part is that you know enough to recognize something is off, but you don't have enough experience to fix it.
My master plan was to use my sales degree and land a job in pharmaceutical or medical device sales. As fate would have it, I graduated into one of the worst recessions we'd ever seen, and my entire plan changed immediately.
After three job changes and two career shifts (and multiple quarter-life crises), I am now on a path where I feel a sense of purpose and meaning. The process wasn't easy. If you would have told me I'd be in Human Resources when I was an undergrad, I wouldn't have believed you.
Looking back, there are a couple of things that pulled me through the crisis.
1. Focus on the type of work that you love, not the title.
When I started my career, I was focused on the wrong things. By that, I mean the superficial. Aspects like the lifestyle, earning potential, and how the position was perceived by others -- aka, was it a sexy title. Not the best move.
When I finally removed outside influences and thought about what I loved doing, there weren't many things that I actually liked about sales -- high pressure, extremely competitive, and high amounts of travel.
Instead of starting with an "outer" definition of success, like the title or earning potential, challenge yourself to come up with a list of things you love doing. Think about your "inner" definition of success. For me, it was the growth and development of others, a feeling of community, the ability to teach and work creatively, and challenging work.
Once you have a list, start to narrow in on potential careers from there. Focusing on "titles" alone will not provide us with the lasting sense of fulfillment we're all looking for.
If we can start with ourselves and define our own version of success, then the outward facing accomplishments will follow.
2. Find someone to confide in.
Everyone, at some point, experiences seasons of career doubt. There's a good chance that your mentor, friend, spouse, etc., has been through the same thing. Although there isn't one simple solution to getting over a quarter-life crisis, confiding in others can help you hone in on key themes and provide guidance to help you move forward.
If you can get past the feeling of vulnerability, opening up to others can be transformational. Every time I've put myself out there, I've received a piece of feedback that I would have normally never considered.
A quarter-life crisis can be scary. But, it doesn't necessarily mean that you made the wrong choice, need to quit your job, or should plan a sabbatical. Going through the process of aligning priorities and getting advice from others can help you get back on track towards a fulfilling career.