Image courtesy of #WOCInTech Chat.
There's a new phenomenon plaguing my peers. It's been coined the quarter-life crisis. You've seen it – BuzzFeed and LifeHacker articles about the period of life when a young person starts to doubt the trajectory of their adulthood. It is a widely accepted phenomenon that describes the level of doubt most of us experience when figuring out what we want to do in life. And this doubt is so severe that we've dubbed it a "crisis."
Quick question: When did asking yourself thoughtful questions about where you are and what you want to be become a "crisis"? Our generation is better off because we are demanding more from life than a traditional career path that leads to unfulfilled promises and a lack of inspiration. I love to learn, and to me, asking questions (especially about my life goals) is an indication that I want to learn and continue to grow.
If I seem a bit defensive, it’s because I went through a quarter-life crisis of my own. I had a good job with great coworkers, but I felt stuck. I started to question every single aspect of my life: What do I want to do long-term? Is my current position setting me up for success? Should I go back to school? Do I really want to be back in school? These inner monologues cycled through my mind on a weekly basis. And you know what? I did feel like I was in crisis.
A few months, one life coach, and a lot of journaling later, I ended up in a training program at General Assembly preparing for a career change. Now on the other side of a 12-week coding bootcamp, I’ve never been happier.
A word of advice: We often stay within the bounds of what we feel is expected of us by peers, family members, and even ourselves. Don’t. Instead, embrace your quarter-life crisis and listen to yourself. I didn't originally leave my career in operations for programming. I left operations for me, and, in actually taking the time to learn more about myself, I found my way to iOS programming.
If you too are experiencing a quarter-life crisis, stop, take several deep breaths, and evaluate where you are. Here are five signs that it could be time for you to consider a career change.
One of the most common symptoms of a quarter-life crisis is that you live for the weekend. You work 40-plus hour weeks and you wait for 5pm on a Friday to do the things you love most. That was my reality. Until, at some point, I paused and realized that I wasn’t truly living. It’s important to remember that life happens every day, not just on Saturday and Sunday. If the best part of your week begins on Friday at 5pm, it's time to evaluate your 40 hours and figure out if it’s giving you what you need to feel alive.
Some people feel frustrated by the lack of career opportunities in front of them, while others are frustrated because the incredible opportunities in front of them don’t feel exciting. If you look at the roles at the top of your career trajectory and realize you don’t eventually want any of those jobs, it’s time to reconsider where you are. Grab some Post-its over the weekend and start writing down the vision you have for your life in 10 years. Backtrack all the way to today and ask yourself, "Am I positioning myself to build the life I want?" If your current role plays no part in where you want to take your career, it may not be worth your time.
Sometimes you are doing enough – or even way more than enough – to get by but you know it’s not your best work. You meet your deadlines, supersede your goals, and still know there’s more of you left to give. When you realize you’ve stopped doing your best, pause and ask yourself why. What needs to change? It could be your attitude, your role, your job, or your career. For me, I wasn't being challenged enough at work. Managing crises and building systems was fine, but I needed to take a leap of creativity. If you've stopped doing your best work, figure out what needs to change ASAP. Unmotivated, uninspired employees aren’t good for anybody.
When it comes to your professional growth, anything worth doing will likely be some combination of hard, exciting, and scary. I'm not talking imposter-syndrome-level scary; I'm talking I'm-capable-but-this-feels-new-and-uncomfortable scary. When I decided to go into programming, I knew it was the right challenge for me because of that tiny knot of fear in my stomach. This wasn't going to be easy. Success wasn't guaranteed, and in that sense, I wasn't safe anymore. But there’s truth to the cliché that no one ever reaches her full potential in her comfort zone. If you feel safe, especially because what you're doing is easy or guarantees your success, it may be time to evaluate if you are even willing to do the hard work it takes to grow and be your best. If you need a kick in the butt, watch this video. (Warning: language is not appropriate for children.)
If there’s anything the past year has taught me, it’s trust your gut. You may not be spiritual, but all of us have intuition. If you get a drop in your stomach every Sunday night, you have some thinking to do. I was nowhere near tears over my job (in fact, I worked with some of my closest friends), but my intuition was screaming at me that it was time to make a change. I experienced all of the symptoms above and it took some serious self-reflection for me to be able to listen and react. Never ignore that quiet voice telling you that you can go create the opportunities you deserve in the world.
I should also mention that I didn't get these insights on my own. I had incredible people, inspiring books, and constructive activities that helped center me and get me to be honest with where I was. I went from being unable to articulate my talents during interviews, to leaving my job and making a drastic career change. I’m so much happier for it. If this resonates with you, I encourage you to carve out a Saturday morning to grab those Post-its and start the process (because, trust me, this is a process) of learning about you.
Images courtesy of Lami Olatunji