In your 20s? Read on … “How to Avoid the Quarter-Life Crisis”

Quarter Life Crisis

I was recently approached by a University of Wollongong Journalism student reporter from UOWTV. She was compiling a story on the rise of the ‘Quarter-Life Crisis’. Note: this is not the ‘Mid-Life Crisis’; commonly occurring during the ages of 40-50 years. This period of crisis occurs in the 20s!

 According to the classification sent to me: “It describes a time of instability, self-doubt and uncertainty, which can make this period a difficult time for a lot of people.  The essence of a Quarter-Life Crisis is feeling you should be having, doing or being more.”

 From the point of view of a Careers Counsellor, I was asked to comment on three questions:

 A. “From your experience, do you think school leavers and tertiary graduates have unrealistic career/life expectations?”

 1. Yes: In my opinion, generally they do have unrealistic career/life expectations.

2. Technology: We are living in an age where technology has given us ‘instant gratification’:

  • For responses to any of our questions, research and concerns, all we have to do is go to the Internet.
  • If we want our adrenalin spiked and an adventure high replacing normalcy, we can turn to a computer game.
  • Instant communication with our friends (and feedback about our selection of evening attire) is readily available via mobile phone, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Instagram, etc.

3. Affluence & Credit: We’re also living in an era where affluence is more prevalent and the majority of our needs … and wants … are fulfilled.

  • Let’s add to that an age where the use of credit is normal. If we haven’t saved for an item, we can instantly receive it by purchasing it on credit.
  • Previous generations were not able to afford some of the luxuries in life and felt contented by having a job (any job), food to eat, clothes to wear and a house to live in.
  • These earlier generations were taught not to live beyond their means, i.e., to save for something or put it on lay-by.

4. New Stimulus/Response ‘wiring’: Neurologists have suggested that hearing the high-pitched shrill alerting us to the arrival of an email/Facebook post/Twitter feed is like the ‘high’ received from a Poker Machine win.

  • Seemingly, the ‘stimulus/response’ mechanism in our system is being wired so much differently in this present generation.
  • Whereby, if there is anything less than the new stimulus norm, it seems weird or foreign.

5. Illusion: Thus, the illusion that fulfilling one’s careers aspirations will be instantaneous, e.g., a graduate will only need one job application (at the max two) to acquire a new job. However, reality could clash with the present generations ‘idealism of what life should really be about’ if they don’t succeed after one try (or two). After all … shouldn’t everything be instant!?

  • FYI: Reality is approximately 10-20 job applications = 1 interview

B. “Have you noticed a rise in young adults seeking career advice? If yes, what are their most common concerns?”

  1. Those who are keen, hungry and motivated: I’ve noticed an increase in certain young adults seeking careers advice, but they are a minority.
    • They are the ones who have come to the realization that there is something missing in their “Life’s Résumé”.
    • They seek input about how to more finely-tune their Résumé (CV), add substance to their Cover Letter, or how to be more considerate and respectful of their Interviewing Panel.
    • Some are seeking advice about which life-based (not instantaneous) options could enhance their opportunities of acquiring employment.
  2. Those who are not keen: Unfortunately, the majority of young adults who recognize that they have a ‘reality matrix’ seem to think that it will all get sorted out somehow, and life’s blessings will just land in their lap!
  • Therefore, I don’t see many of them for careers advice!
  • However, when they come to their senses, and realize that they desperately need help, I am available to offer assistance.

C. “What advice do you have for young adults/graduates struggling with the transition into the ‘real world’?”

1. A set of stairs: For the first part of my answer, I will be using the analogy of a set of stairs.

  • Realize that when you walk up a set of stairs you usually take one at a time. Thus, in reality, you usually need to be prepared to start at the bottom and slowly work your way up.
  • Even though taking ten steps at a time would be quicker, it’s usually a lot more strenuous, very impractical and unrealistic. In the majority of work environments, you learn and grow at each level and, if your performance warrants it, only then will you progress to the next level.
  • Be humble and teachable. Be content at each level, realizing that there is much to learn and your senior workers have a lot of information and wisdom to offer; even though you’ve just graduated from university.

2.  Wisdom: is something that is learnt in life, through experiences and from those wiser than us.

  • Seek mentors, to whom you are accountable.
  • They can give you short-cuts, advice and connections; i.e., if you’re open to hear it, and willing to apply it.

3. You are Unique: Sometimes it is an erroneous cultural pressure that one must live a fulfilled life every minute, encounter highs every day and partake of every possible life experience every week/month/year. Instead:

  • Annually take time-out to set vision, specific goals and direction for your life. [Recommend: spirit, soul and body categories – see my Vision Blog]
  • Write them down. If possible, have pictures of them in your home. Review them at least monthly, preferably weekly.
  • Find out what are the specific activities you enjoy, places you like to hang out, people you wish to be with, experiences in which you want to participate. Allocate time for these activities.
  • By doing this you will not feel pressured to feel as though you’re missing out, because you’ll be doing what recharges you, makes you feel content, and ultimately fulfilled.

4. Experience: If you do not have current employment, seek opportunities for Work Experience and Internships in your area of expertise.

5. Employ-ability Skills: Realize that there are many Employ-ability Skills that you haven’t thought about, that you could place on your Résumé. 

  • This is one area which young adults will definitely benefit from an eCareers Academy Careers Counsellor, helping them discover their Employ-ability Skills.
  • See Blog on ‘Employ-ability Skills’.

6. Persistence and Resilience: It is an Australian tradition to dig deep when times are tough, or situations aren’t working out as you had anticipated. This allows you to tap into your inner resources and discover that you have more potential than you realized. Success does not happen overnight; and artificial highs aren’t necessarily the remedy to your woes!

7. Gratitude and Contribution: Every time something is done for you, or given to you, sincerely appreciate it. Never take things for granted, because one day they might not be there! Because you’ve been blessed, be a blessing to others; with your time, resources and finances.

I empathize with young adults going through their ‘Quarter-Life Crisis’. It seems to be an identifiable stage with the present generation. With some attitudinal changes and adjustments to approaching the work environment, those teachable and humble young adults will acquire better employment outcomes than those who don’t.

 I commend UOWTV for researching this important topic, one which definitely impacts this present generation.    


Pleasant Dreams,


Brian Horan


Brian Horan is a Careers Counsellor/Coach, a published author and international speaker. He is also the Managing Director at eCareers Academy, a Career Counselling service. You can find out more about his services by visiting the website , giving him a call on 1300 396 929 or sending an email,    

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 © Brian Horan at eCareers Academy; April, 2015


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