From the early twenties on, right after college and up until your thirties, most of life involves figuring out a career path. The term Quarter-life Crisis can be defined as “a period of intense soul-searching and stress occurring in your mid-20s to early 30s.” A lot of times, this stress and “crisis” are induced by career-related uncertainties.
Many young people go through a windy road of trial and error, countless job applications, dead-end jobs, career changes, overpriced graduate school, failed businesses, etc. Society places so much importance on appearing like you have it all together and this leads to emotional and psychological stress for those who don’t have it all together —which is most of us. It’s often a brazen act to admit that you haven’t figured it out, especially if you’re in your late twenties to early thirties. But admitting this takes maturity and emotional intelligence and it’s the first step towards actually figuring it out.
The millennial and Genz generation tend to value passion and a sense of fulfillment over a large paycheck (yay us!). The juggernaut startup industry and the booming influencer culture is a testament to that. So while it’s ok to hold a healthy skepticism towards a conventional career path, keep in mind that the stern dichotomy between having a “stable job” and doing something creative is slowly dissolving. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one or the other, at least not right away.
Entrepreneurship or working for yourself brings a lot of fulfillment but the idea of it is often romanticized when in reality, it’s no walk in the park. You’ve probably heard the saying: Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week for themselves, to avoid working 40 hours a week for someone else. Often when you start out you’ll be earning less than what you earned in your 9-5 that’s if you are lucky to earn anything right away.
Starting a side hustle is a realistic way to figure out your passion and how to monetize it while you still work your full-time job. There are ways you can start a side hustle while working full-time. This doesn’t mean you’re not passionate enough, it doesn’t mean you’re not brave. It means you are being intentionally preparing and planning for your next stage.
Start a passion project
A passion project, side hustle, weekend gig, call it whatever you want, is a realistic way to test out your skills and check the pulse of things. A lot of things look and feel different when you’re actually immersed in them. For example, if you might think playing the cello is your dream. Start taking lessons on weekends. Don’t quit your job to go play Cello only to find out that you hate carrying it around and then you eventually lose interest. When you start as a side project, you can test your abilities and grow your reach in that field before you’re ready to go full time. Start working on it bit by bit while you bid your time.
You can still grow and learn where you are
While you’re at that job you hate don’t dwell on the negativity. Learn from what you’re currently doing and gather the skillset that’ll help you when you stand on your own someday. Furthermore, being present and mindful of your job even though you hate it builds character and prepares you for when you’ll be your own boss. In my last job, I learned how to create a personal information database and learned how to use this database and other tools to track my productivity. Learning those skills have gone a long way in helping me organize and run my own business.
Take inventory of your finances and skills
You have to learn to walk, then jog, before you can start to take off and then fly. It’s not realistic to quit your job/only source of income, with no concrete backup plan. Most success stories never give you all the detail. They don’t tell you that their parents paid their rent for a year, or that their first client was a family friend who wanted to help them out. Yes, Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of school to start Facebook but keep in mind he dropped out of Harvard. He already had good training, and advanced skills (skills he used to build the software in his dorm room). What skills and training do you have to help you when you stand on your own? Take stock of it and build on it before you pull the plug.
Find an easy way to monetize your passion
Your passion could be entrepreneurship, the arts, music, or some other creative adventure. In the past couple of decades, there has been a continued rise in short-term work and millennials have found more and more ways to redefine their career paths and pursue fulfillment in jobs without having to give a long-term commitment. Find a job or volunteering opportunity that somehow lets you explore your creative side. For example, if your passion is to be a dancer but you’re an accountant for now, on weekends you can teach dance classes or offer your services to friends and family while you slowly build.
Don’t let your degree define you
Perhaps you’re not passionate about what studied in college or hate the industry you’re in. Don’t let that discourage you. A lot of times, the status-quo is so embedded in us that we stick to it subconsciously. Just because you studied a particular degree, doesn’t mean you have to pursue a career in that field. You can branch out, learn a new skill, get into a different industry, and grow from there. Try new things
Create what you want to see in the world
Finding your purpose is a very important, multi-layered journey you have to take and it takes a lot of people years to figure it out. So even though you might feel overwhelmed, start somewhere. If you have a desire to be creative, a desire to build something, or a desire to let your voice be heard, then start there. Andy J. Miller of Creative Pep Talk said he wished there was a resource that catered to creative entrepreneurs when he started out because that’s what he needed, and so he created one. What’s something good you wish was out there? Do it, create it, build it. That could be a healthy step towards finding your true purpose.
Stop focusing on what other people think or will think
People will always have opinions, I mean have you met people?! Worrying about what people will say or think if you did this or that is a sure way to remain stuck. Start your side project, show off your creations, and share it on social media. I know it’s hard to put yourself out there especially when it’s something that’s really dear to you but keep in mind that your true friends will support you and celebrate you.
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