Career satisfaction and the quarter life crisis

I have had an influx of new clients over the past few weeks who are seeking coaching to assist them gain more clarity and direction around their career.

What I find interesting with these clients, is they share some common characteristics: they are young, driven, professional and successful in their given fields; they have spent their twenties and early thirties climbing up the corporate ladder, completing Masters degrees and working long hours in the office. They have impressive job titles, are paid extremely well and are on track to further progressing their career as high-potentials and emerging leaders. 

So the last few weeks got me thinking, why is it that these professionals (who seem to have it all when it comes to their career), experience what I call a quarter life crisis?

What is a quarter life crisis?

People who experience a quarter life crisis often feel ‘lost, lonely or confused’ about what steps to take in order to transition properly into adulthood.

I will never forget a 32 year old coaching client of mine, who, when asked what would he like to get out of coaching, responded “I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up”.

Whilst this got us both laughing in the session, in my mind, it was a quote of poignant interest that I have not stopped thinking about.

So what do you want to do when you grow up? 

I love this question, and I believe we should never stop trying to answer it!

I find it staggering that most of us feel we should know the answer to this question at the end of year 12 when we are selecting our university degrees, or even earlier, when we choose our year 11 electives or start an apprenticeship.

The truth is, we will never really know if we are passionate about a role or a career until we spend time in it. That means doing the exciting tasks, as well as the boring ones.

When pondering the question, ‘what do I want to do when I grow up’, ask yourself:

    •    When I was younger, what did I want to do with my life and why?

    •    What is really important to me right now?

    •    What are my core values – what drives me in my career/life?

    •    If I knew I couldn’t fail what would I do?

What else do you do with your life? 

The other commonality my young, professional clients tend to have is a very distant memory of what they like to do, for the pure enjoyment of doing it – that is – they don’t have a hobby.

It seems that, for some, the quest for career progression has slowly eradicated the time available, or interest in activities that bring pleasure and enjoyment. When this happens, we tend to place a lot more pressure on our jobs or career to provide us with meaning, purpose and happiness.

I often challenge my clients to discover a new interest (or rediscover an old interest) that provides them with enjoyment outside of their work environment.

I re-discovered horse riding recently and it wasn’t until I started having lessons that I realised just how much I had missed it. Some of my clients have started reading novels (something they only did when on holidays) or attended cooking lessons (to meet new people).

I know we spend a lot of time at work, and for some, the limited down time involves family commitments, but I challenge you to start incorporating at least one activity a week into your schedule, to rekindle some passion, pleasure and enjoyment.

Final thoughts

Our journey to finding the career we love can sometimes be a difficult, challenging, and often long term quest, so start doing things today to make that journey a more pleasurable one!