4 Steps to Navigate Your Quarter-Life Crisis

Many young professionals – especially public servants in times of significant transition – experience a “quarter life crisis” – “a period of intense soul searching and stress occurring in your mid 20s to early 30s.” It is a time marked by anxiety and insecurity most often attributed to career uncertainty.

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. In fact, according to the Guardian, 86 percent of millennials report being bogged down by insecurities, disappointments, loneliness and depression.

LinkedIn recently studied thousands of professionals around the world who identified with having a quarter-life crisis. According to their findings, 61 percent of respondents said that realizing a job or career they’re passionate about is the number one cause of anxiety. Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents said another top reason for quarter-life anxiety was comparing themselves to their more successful friends.

LinkedIn’s big tip to overcome the anxiety of the quarter-life crisis is to “remember that everyone is at a different stage in their professional journey. Think about what makes you happy in your career and beyond and establish goals that help you work towards your definition of success.”

This is great advice, but it’s not always easy to simply make yourself to stop worrying. What tangible steps can you take to navigate the anxiety-inducing quarter-life crisis? First 5 has put some tips together to help you get started:

1. Get real with yourself. Some call it a crisis, some “coming to Jesus” and others a simple “coming to grips with reality.” Whatever you call it, conducting an honest appraisal of where you are in your professional journey and where you’re going is critical to living a life of purpose.

Be honest with yourself. Where do you want to see yourself in the next year, five years or even 10? Once you’ve outlined a vision, determine what’s standing in your way. Is it fear of failure? Career stagnation? Or maybe lack of passion? Start identifying those obstacles so you can better confront and, eventually, overcome them.

2. Define what success means to you. Don’t let your degree define you. You might feel stuck in a certain career path because of your college major, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Consider taking a class at the local community college or going on informational interviews with someone who has your dream job.

At the end of the day, your success should be less about your achievements and more about your personal fulfillment and happiness. Sure, your friend may be making big bucks as an attorney at a famous law firm, but maybe that friend never has time for a social life. Would you be fulfilled by that lack of work-life balance?

The point is you don’t know what others – no matter how seemingly successful –  are going through. So worrying about how far along they seem compared to you is a waste of time. Focus on your own goals instead.

3. Uncover your passion by trying new things. Now is a better time than ever to start that blog series you always dreamed of writing or planning a business you always wanted to open. If you see a need in your community, don’t wait for someone else to address it. Step up and do it.

Try something that scares you. Take a language class or go skydiving. Challenge yourself by seeking the anxiety-provoking, limit-stretching opportunities. While you may feel vulnerable at the time, the experience you once thought would be terrifying may inspire you to pursue the thing you absolutely love doing.

4. Seek support. Talk to others about the issues you’re having. Seek their advice on your career so they can help you rationalize your choices and help you come up with solutions. Friends and family can help, but it’s better to get some unbiased points of view, especially from someone who has experience in your desired industry.

While it may feel intimidating at first – especially if sharing you have no idea what you want to do in life –  seeking the wisdom and insights from others is one of the most mature things you can do. Some mentors or older peers may even be able to tell you how they navigated their own quarter-life crises.

While these steps are no silver bullet to overcoming your quarter-life crisis, they will help you navigate this difficult time. Embrace the uncertainty and know that this period is only temporary. Keep in mind that you are not alone and you will come out of it a more weathered, experienced and insightful professional.


To read more about millennials, check out our First 5 series.

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Steph Drahozal

“86 percent of millennials report being bogged down by insecurities, disappointments, loneliness and depression.” – that is a crazy stat! But good to know we are not alone!