When people ask me why I’ve lived in 7 cities, 5 states and 3 countries in the last 10 years, I typically make some joke about having a quarter life crisis. If a quarter life crisis is about reevaluating your priorities and changing your direction, then I’ve been having a quarter life crisis since I graduated from college 7 years ago.
I used to think that career switching and moving cross-country meant I was unfocused, easily bored and unsatisfied. But now as I look back on all my experiences, I can see that they prepared me perfectly to be where I am today.
We still have this idea, drilled into us by older generations, school and advisors that’s leftover from the industrial age. The idea is that you should commit to a job and work hard and stick with it for life. Be a good employee. Climb the corporate ranks. Work hard and you’ll succeed.
The formula I learned went something like this:
Work hard and study to get good grades so you can get into a good college.
Work hard in college to get good grades so you can get a good job.
Work hard in your job to get good reviews so you can climb the corporate ladder.
Work hard and you’ll succeed.
1. The recession hit and it didn’t matter if you had good grades, you couldn’t land that good job. Or maybe you had a good job and worked hard, but were laid off in spite of your good performance.
2. Climbing the corporate ladder doesn’t resonate with Gen Y like it did with our parents’ generation. We realize that climbing the corporate ladder means more work and more money, but no free time. And we said, “no thanks”.
3. We’re willing to work hard, but we’re not willing to wait until we’re retired to enjoy life.
In two words: keep searching.
Don’t settle for a job you hate. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Don’t be afraid to move and dabble and experiment. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to think creatively. Don’t be afraid to pursue an unconventional path.
Trying new things in new places isn’t a bad thing. It’s a way to figure out what works for you, what lifestyle you want, what city you love, what career path you enjoy.
The old formula told us that we needed to pick a path and never stray from it.
But the new formula is trial by error. “Learning doesn’t happen from failure itself but rather from analyzing the failure, making a change, and then trying again.”
My last QLF in January 2011 finally made me realize that the corporate world wasn’t for me. I had been following “the formula” for too long. It was like trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. I learned by trial and error until I finally took a risk and started my own business. Self-employment requires quite a bit of trial by error, too. My QLFs prepared me well.
Life is a continual process of figuring out what works and what doesn’t. The worst thing we can do is pick one path and blindly follow it without paying attention to the ways we’ve changed, the ways our interests have changed, the ways our circumstances have changed.
If you’re struggling with where you are, try something new. You don’t have to quit your job to experiment, but don’t settle and keep exploring until you find activities, jobs and paths that are perfectly suited for you.
Lindsay is a Boomerang Kid who moved back in with her parents to start her own business. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter to learn how to break free from your corporate shackles and start your own business.
If you are interested in contributing to the Quarterlife Crisis series feel free to contact me.