Monday, July 29, 2013

Breaking Through A Quarter Life Crisis

“I can’t do anything with this history degree except teach, and I am tired of teaching.”

So said Nan at about age 25. This prompted her to change direction and pursue an M.A. in educational psychology and eventually marriage and family counseling. (My journey was all over the map and didn’t include the typical education track.) 

There are quite a few variations on the definition of a “quarter life crisis”. But all of them seem to agree that it affects many 25-35 year-olds after they have finished school. It is a time of confusion, wanting to get on with life but unable to get started. They probably have ended up back at their parent’s house, can’t find a job and may regret the choice of college degree that they have attained. The result is anxiety and depression and feeling stuck.

How do you break through this ‘crisis’?

The universal answer seems to be a familiar one. It’s time to break denial and face reality. You are overeducated yet unprepared for many of the jobs that are available. Or you have been trained in a field that has few opportunities and little or no commercial value. This is a harsh reality. You also may have been fed the lie that if you pursue your passion, the money will follow. Tell that to most music majors. They will probably have a different story.

What is helpful?

  • Grieve the loss of the life that you imagined would result from your university degree. It’s simply more difficult these days to transition from college to a ready and waiting job in the field that you have chosen. You will probably have to cast a much wider net. You may even have to choose a completely different field and train for that. 

  • Don’t look backwards, it will only encourage depression. Life at college was simple, if not easy. You knew what was expected, and as a result you could proceed with relative confidence. Not so much now. Looking forward may cause you to feel anxious, but it’s the only direction you have to go. Embrace it. 

  • Surround yourself with optimistic people. Ask yourself what is possible and realistic. Try stuff. If you spend time regretting the guidance you didn’t get or the bad advice you did get it will only make it worse. Get some direction from people in the real world who can help you now. 

  • Don’t compare yourself to your parents or other friends who are ahead of you in the game. Your parents likely had it very different when they started out. They may have had less education, but were more employable – and the job market was less stringent. Your friends may have chosen a more practical degree, such as math/computer/science/healthcare. 

  • Ask yourself what would make you valuable to a prospective employer. What would make you stand out from the other applicants? If you really don’t know, talk to employers that you or your parents know. They can be found everywhere. Their expectations and perspectives may be vastly different from yours.    

  • Don’t give up! Know that you will break free at some point if you just keep trying. 35 years old is the upper limit because most people will be established in something by then. 

I’m encouraging Nan to post on skills for getting a job. Maybe you have some suggestions. How about posting in the comment box and share your thoughts.

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