The quarter-life crisis

When I was 25, everything fell apart: my prestigious employer for the alumni program told me things were not really going well, and suggested that maybe it was time to look elsewhere, and mumble something about ‘square guys round pegs’. In retrospect, this relationship was decisive from the beginning, but in my final year at university I knew I had to plan some sort of program, and without my own ideas, I found myself doing what everyone, and my parents, think was the right thing to do.

Completely paved by my boss’ post, I took my P45 and left the building. I moved back in with my parents and signed up for unemployment benefits. My social life did not exist, as all my friends, it seems, lived the dream in London and I had no money, so I could not keep up. Oh and I broke up with my boyfriend. At the time I felt I was alone a disgraceful failure and it really did its part from my mental health and my self-esteem. But in retrospect, it was clearly a quarter of a lifetime crisis, a very common experience for those in their mid-late twenties, and chances are a number of my friends went through something very similar at the time. If only I knew!

We improve in decision making

We have long been aware that the stage of our lives and age has an impact on our career choices. As we travel in life, our priorities evolve, personal demands on us change, and we understand ourselves better. We also improve in decision making.

The choices we make when we are young are not always good.

We do not really know ourselves well, and we still did not have much life experience, so it is difficult for us to predict well and even our own brain is not developed until the mid-20s of our lives. Particularly difficult are the career decisions our young people have to make so early.

Career decisions are challenging, multi-faceted decisions

Career decisions are a good example of what academics call multifaceted decisions – those in which multiple options need to be compared based on multiple criteria. Decisions of this kind are known to be particularly difficult, and the challenge is compounded, in the field of careers, by the rapid pace of change in the labor market, the limited information available and the uncertainty of the results.

It seems that our current education system (UK) is making everything especially trying for young people. The league tables in schools, and the nature of the deal that comes from the tuition of our university system, mean that there is a huge, disproportionate, no doubt, emphasis on exam scores – often at the expense of everything else.

This has led to a dramatic drop in the proportion of young people who have a part-time job or have the opportunity to volunteer.

Without such experiences, it is especially difficult for young people to know what work is, what they like at work and what the employer may like about them.

University students sometimes have very narrow ideas about the type of work they “need” to do, and alongside the peak levels of their anxiety and limited self-awareness, students may hesitate to visit their university career service until the last minute. Without real time to make these meaningful choices, students often fall for what they know, or for what is easy, and end up pursuing a career that their parents, school, department, or friends think makes sense.

Clarity and comparisons

Fast forward a few years, and our young people, in their mid-twenties, are becoming much clearer about what they want, who they are and what kind of work does or does not suit their skills and values. And they often see that their current employers are not meeting their needs. Alongside this process of re-evaluation, they also make comparisons. They compare themselves to others – or at least with how they think the lives of others are, and they compare their current selves with the expectations they had of themselves younger than them for their future. They imagine that all their peers are happy, satisfied and working for a good and meaningful salary. And they may remember their youthful aspirations for economic security, romantic fulfillment, and tireless social life, which may seem far removed from their current Spartan existence. All of this can come at a price from their self-esteem.

For some, this quarter-life crisis can lead to anxiety and depression, insecurity, confusion and isolation.

What can young people do?

Studies tell us that young people in the midst of a quarter of their life crisis can best resolve things by giving time for thought, by identifying their values ​​and what they want out of life, and they find the whole process easier if they feel supported – by friends and family , And others who have gone through something similar. Understanding that this is a common and normal life experience is also helpful.

What can organizations do to help?

  • Help candidates understand you. As much as it sounds counterintuitive, it may be worth your while to help candidates decide if your organization is right for them, even before they start working. The application process is usually a process where both parties put their best foot forward, when you try to convince the candidates that you are the most exciting place to work, and the candidates try to convince you that they totally fit your values. Of course organizations want to sell themselves to attract the best talent, but alongside promotional videos and attractive events, you may be able to offer a secret career training, to help candidates really think about whether it is the right job, or the right organization for them. .
  • Create jump points. Once new recruits have started, you can consider creating some springboards for those at the beginning of their careers – a chance after six months, a year or two, for trainees to leave, with no shame or embarrassment on either side. You can then create and nurture your own adult networks of former employees, whose careers take all sorts of paths, but who may end up being clients, clients, or mentors of their old employer.
  • Encourage job creation. This is the process of making changes at work inch by inch to make it more satisfying – taking on more of the tasks you enjoy, working with more of the people you love, and spending less time on projects that are not so enjoyable. Forming a job is something we all do, informally, in our jobs, but it can also be something that your organization supports more formally. This has been shown to be a great way to help employees feel more satisfied and involved, and reduce turnover. New recruiters can be encouraged to think about which aspects of their work they would like to increase, and which they would prefer to reduce, and then you can work with them to make the changes. In this way, they can adapt their work to satisfy their emerging identity.
  • Offers advice. Easy access to stigma-free counseling can work wonders – not just for those who resign, but for all employees, each of whom may need help except a hand.

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