Millennial Career – The Quarter Life Crisis

Millennial Career – Dream or Nightmare?

Millennial Carers: Take the leap of faith

Millennial Career: Take the leap of faith

It’s every millennial’s worst nightmare – the dreaded question “So, what are you planning to do after graduation?” It’s been five years since I graduated, and I think I’ve finally figured it out.

It’s not the question itself, but what’s implied by the question, that we dread. Why? Because the real question is “What are you going to do with the rest of your life?”  It sends us millennials into an existential terror every time we hear it.

The thing is, a millennial career is not just a way to make money and gain prestige. Like marriage, career expectations have evolved. We expect our careers to make us happy and fulfill us. If the emotional connection isn’t there, we quit. We look for something bigger, better. But many of us don’t know how to find bigger and better. We don’t know if we will ever find it. This sets the stage for the quarter life millennial career crisis. But there are ways to get through it with your mental health intact.

Millennials, Have Courage

Your millennial career should not cause nightmares. Don’t take jobs that you have no interest in pursuing because the longer you’re in a job, the harder it is to get out. Have the courage to hold out for jobs that you are actually considering as a possible career. Many millennials ask themselves “Why am I doing this?” A little self doubt is healthy, but a lot is not. You, and only you, will know when it’s time to quit and re-route.

There is a huge difference between challenging vs. drudgery, stress vs. misery. Every job is stressful now and then. Every job has challenges, but if those things have veered to drudgery/misery, it’s time to leave. Do not settle when it comes to figuring out your career. You pour money, energy, and decades of your life into your millennial career, so go for that awesome reward.

Millennials, Get Advice

Lastly, talk to people. Consider getting a coach or finding a mentor. There’s nothing more powerful than having someone listen and reflect back nuggets of truth about you. Ask people about their millennial careers. Ask people from other generations to tell you their career stories. Listen. Another person’s powerful story can help you figure out how you want your own story to play out. Here’ my personal story.

I was one of the few who actually had a specific plan after graduation. I got into an early acceptance program for medical school. So, in my mind my life was pretty much set. I had averted my millennial career quarter life crisis before it even began.  Until…..I actually started medical school, and absolutely hated it. After two and a half years, the quarter life crisis reared its ugly head, and I was forced to do some self reflection. I realized that I didn’t want to be a doctor. Terrified, I decided to drop out and just hope that everything would work out somehow. And wouldn’t you know, it did.

I emailed my friends and mentors about my situation. Through this process I found a job at my former college, in the Dean’s Office. I loved it. I realized I wanted to pursue a career in higher education administration. This fall I will be attending graduate school to do just that. When it comes to finding the career that is right for us, there is a certain leap of faith each of us and our millennial career, must take. It’s a pretty sure bet we will land well, and in a good place.


Career, Mentoring, Personal & Professional Development, Stages of Life
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Gabriela Maya Bernadett is from Oakland, California, and graduated from Yale University in 2008, majoring in the History of Science/History of Medicine. Her passions are writing and building Native communities, and she is excited to attend the University of Arizona this fall for a Master’s degree in American Indian Studies.

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