Here’s How To Navigate A Quarter-Life Crisis, According To Experts
“There’s no better way of figuring out a passion than by getting a taste of something directly.”
They don’t call it a quarter-life crisis for nothing: Across the United States, millions of young people aging into the workforce are undergoing an existential struggle between what they feel like they should do with their lives and what they actually want to do. Of course, that’s if they’re lucky enough to even know what they want to do. So, what do you do if you don’t actually know what you want to do with your life? Here’s everything you need to know about finding satisfaction in your choices when it comes to your career, goals, and life path — even if you aren’t sure what they are.
“People aren’t coming straight out of high school, going into college, picking a major, and then going into the workforce,” Nikki Walton, licensed psychotherapist and author of the NAACP Image Award nominated book Better Than Good Hair, tells Elite Daily. “This life can’t just be going to work, paying bills, and then dying,” she adds. “There is more, and everyone’s goal now is trying to figure out what that ‘more’ is.” But what does “more'' mean for you? Is it finding a profession that fulfills you, or is it turning your hobby into a full-blown career? In many ways, that question is often a loaded one. Here’s what the experts say about figuring out your best path.
When you don’t know what to do with your life, here’s where you can start.
Ask yourself the important questions.
Before you even start thinking about the kind of career path you want to take, Walton says, it’s important to ask yourself one pressing question: “Who am I?” OK, while that may not seem like the most practical way to approach things, it could help you figure out what you actually want much more quickly. Walton herself didn’t start asking those questions until she joined the workforce. “When I got to my first job, I was only there for like a few months before I’m like, ‘This cannot be life,’” she says. She immediately started asking herself questions like “What is my purpose?” and “What am I passionate about?” “And then I turned my passion into a career.”
For Georgene Huang, CEO and co-founder of Fairygodboss.com, gaining some practical experience can also help you figure out your life path. “I would make a list of things you’re interested in and want to try doing. Then I would start working through them to actually get some experience in those areas,” Huang says. Sure, you may not be able to tackle everything on your list, but “you have a lifetime to have different jobs, and career changing is common,” she adds. So whether you’re trying to figure out who you are or what career you want to dive into, it’s better to start searching sooner rather than later.
The job market is always changing, and so are you.
“In our American culture, there can be the sense that your identity is largely defined by what you do professionally,” says Huang. “Therefore, there is a lot at stake regarding a career path, even though it’s nearly impossible for most people to plan something that covers the arc of multiple decades.” However, Huang notes how it’s important to refrain from letting your job define who you are. “There are some people who actively reject that how they make an income has to be a central part of their identity,” she says. “Attitudes are changing for younger generations.”
Huang says it’s difficult to predict how the work environment may change — and how the job market may change with it. “It’s impossible to plan because the world, technology, and economy changes so much over that period of time,” she says, adding how “many of the jobs that Gen Z will hold don’t yet exist today.” According to Career Addict, some of the current job market’s most in-demand professions as of 2021, like telemedicine physician, cloud architect, or TikTok marketer, didn’t exist 10 to 20 years ago. Now, there are millions of different career types all over the world, and for many young people entering the job market, that thought can be more overwhelming than comforting.
“It goes back to the accessibility and availability of information,” Walton says. She explains how, because people now share so much of their lives on the Internet through social media apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter, it’s easy for young people entering the workforce to see how many different ways there are to lead a happy life with a fulfilling career. To point, hashtags like #dreamjob, #bestjobever, and #dreamcareer have gathered well over 3 billion combined views on TikTok, while millions more provide their audiences with step-by-step instructions on how to monetize hobbies into an extra (or even primary) source of income. “It’s all out there,” Walton adds. “We don’t have to live [life] unhappily.”
Do what you have to do, so you can do what you want to do.
But while the idea of turning a beloved hobby into a full-blown career may seem like a dream, Huang emphasizes how reality may not always measure up to fantasy. “It’s natural to want to try to make a living from hobbies or things you love to do,” she explains. However, “sometimes those hobbies or passions may not generate enough income, and that’s a real factor to consider.” She also highlights how, once the reality of turning something you love into work sets in, “some of the sheen may come off of that set of activities.”
But instead of giving up on your goal to start that organic soap business or vegan smoothie shop, Walton suggests taking baby steps toward your dreams. “You have to do what you have to do, so you can do what you want to do,” she says. “So while you’re doing [that], you can be working toward what it is you want to do or what you’re inspired to do.” And while it may be “painful” to get up a little earlier to work toward your goals, it’s a small sacrifice toward achieving your dreams. “The same way we’re able to sacrifice and get up and do what we need to do to get bills paid, we have to do that for ourselves if we want to be living the life that we know is intended for us,” she says. “So until you can quit that job that’s helping you pay the bills, you do that work.”
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.
When it comes to words of wisdom for young people struggling to figure out what their passions and life paths are, Huang has some sage advice: Do what makes you happy, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. “The worst thing to do would be to continue to pursue something even [if] you were deeply unhappy,” Huang says. Nothing is ever too permanent — you can change your major as many times as you want, you can start a job and quit if it doesn’t work out, and you can pivot career paths whenever you feel like it. “I just don’t believe there’s such a thing as a career path set in stone,” she adds. “It’s going to be something you live, fumble, and experience your way into.”