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 this stress and crisis are career related.
For most, it’s one windy road of trial and error, job applications, dead-end jobs, career changes, overpriced graduate school, balancing a side hustle, failed business plans etc. Because society puts so much importance on appearing like you have it all together, it causes a lot of emotional and psychological stress on millennials. It’s often a brazen experience to admit that you haven’t figured it out, especially if you’re in your later twenties to early thirties. But admitting this takes maturity and emotional intelligence and it’s the first step towards figuring it out.
Our generation (millennials) has been proven to value passion and a sense of fulfillment over a large paycheck (yay us!). The juggernaut startup community or 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. A side hustle is a realistic way to continue getting paid while you figure things out.
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’. While doing this will give you a great sense of purpose and drive, passion ain’t gonna pay the rent. 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.
Does this mean you shouldn’t chase your dreams? No. I believe in finding a balance. There are ways you can still pursue your passion and fulfill your creative hunger while still keeping your day job – till you’re fully ready to go full-time on your own.
Start A Passion/Side Project
A passion project, side hustle, weekend gig, call it whatever you want. A side hustle is a realistic way to continue getting paid while you figure things out. So what if you’re one of those people who feel stuck and unfulfilled in your day job? I’m not here to tell you to quit your job right away and follow your dreams, that’s too extreme and more often than not unrealistic. With a side project, you can test your abilities and grow your reach in that field before you’re ready to go full 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 you will need 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 this site alongside my freelance jobs.
Dream big but stay grounded till you can actually fly…
This is a summary of the above rant pretty much. 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 only source of income with no concrete backup plan. There are people who have done that and succeeded but they are the exception. Most success stories never give you all the detail.
Find a creative source of Income or Hobby
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 volunteer to teach dance at your community center.
Don’t let your degree define you
Perhaps you hate your degree or you’re not passionate about 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 in the university 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 instead of feeling overwhelmed by it just 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 or talk about what you’re passionate about. Yes, 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 those who criticize you rarely know what they are talking about.