We hear a lot about the “mid life crisis” and more recently, as people my age are having a harder time finding work, the “quarter life crisis.”
Older generations might scoff at the idea of this “quarter life crisis.” After all, they say, what do young people like me have to worry about?
The truth is: a lot.
I would argue that people who are 25 like me (or slightly younger or older) have quite a bit to be concerned about these days.
Not only does this age group encompass recent college graduates, but they also include people who want to get married soon or are newlyweds. It includes people who, just a few years ago, were dependent on parents but who are now trying hard to be independent. Many of us are putting off getting married until our careers are secure. We are putting off having children until we are “really sure” we can actually afford them. We don’t know when we will be laid off. Or, worse, we don’t know when we’ll ever get a job. We’ve had to move back in with parents, and we’ve had to pay back astounding amounts of student debt.
Then, to make it worse, the world stereotypes our generation. They call us lazy, unfocused, and materialistic.
The truth is, the world has changed dramatically in the past few years. No longer do the normal “rules” apply. Our generation is creative, resourceful, and more determined than ever to fight our way through troubling times. We might do things differently both at home and in the workplace. Yet, we also have good ideas, and we are striving to be heard.
I would like to encourage people my age to see this not as a quarter life crisis but a quater life opportunity. Here is what I think would make us, as a generation, stronger:
1. Work hard, harder than you ever thought possible. Take on side gigs. Make extra money. Fight the recession by finding unique ways to support yourself. Think outside the box. Don’t feel constricted by the traditional 9-5 job. It’s not the only way to attain success.
2. Along that same line, don’t be lazy. Don’t let the stereotypes be true. Use technology but understand that technology doesn’t necessarily have all the answers. When you don’t know something, look it up with a reliable source. Realize the world is not like buying things online. Sometimes, results don’t happen quickly or the way we want them to. Expecting instant gratification both in work and in your personal life will lead to unhappiness. Nothing worthwhile comes easy.
3. Take the time to understand your strengths. You can do this by being introspective but also by taking quick assessments like the Strengths Finder, a book my friend and colleague Andrea of the BrandKit company recently sent me. This particular assessment tells you your five greatest areas of strength and ensures that you don’t waste time pursuing careers or goals to which you are not naturally suited. It also places the emphasis on what you are good at, as opposed to you (or anyone else) pointing out your flaws. If you’re interested, my top five after taking the assessment are Achiever, Learner, Responsibility, Relator, and Intellection. Essentially, I have a strong desire to learn, and I can work longer than the average person without feeling tired. I have a strong sense of responsibility and accountability. I like to do what is right. Yet, I excel at my very best alone, without distraction. These are things, of course, that I have been aware of for quite some time, yet it’s always good to get affirmation.
4. Do the things that you want to do. Don’t go into a particular profession because your coach, your parents, or your friends think it will be respectable. Seek out the advice of others, sure, but ultimately the decision is yours. Be prepared for others not to support you at first and recognize they might not initially understand your vision.
5. Lastly, can we get over the materialism already? It is so exhausting to try to keep up with everyone else, and it’s no fun to feel like you are being crushed under a mountain of debt. Let’s focus on what matters. Don’t go extreme and wear pajamas every day or anything, but let’s try to make the world a better place instead of trying to buy things we can’t afford. Set up a budget. Stick to it as best you can, recognize you might make mistakes, and plan for the unexpected.
I truly believe that if we follow the above, this generation – our generation – can be what dreams are made of.
Remember, if anyone can it figure out, it’s us.