The Quarter Life Crisis


What is a Quarter Life Crisis?

Watch this short video of me explaining the Quarter-Life Crisis and then read on.

At its heart, a quarter-life crisis is an identity struggle which usually happens to those in their 20s or early 30s, often triggered by particular life events such as leaving University, the end of a relationship, changing job/careers, or the big one...turning 30.

During our 20s and 30s, we struggle to figure out who we are, what we like and dislike and what we want to do with our lives. We want to establish our own unique identity but the current climate frustrates this process by hindering our ability to become truly independent as debts mount, the property market is untouchable, jobs are few and far between and potential partners are few and far between.

We are fully aware that society, our parents and friends expect us to be settled down, be married, have children, a good career and a house by the age of 30. We get anxious and worried when we are nowhere near achieving these goals by that age. It is no surprise that we aren’t though. Our generation is like no other before. It is taking us longer to become independent and ‘grown up’ because we are staying in education much longer than ever before due to a competitive job market and the array of post-graduate courses now available, and as mentioned above, we don’t have the finances to start leading ‘grown up’ lives, which would include buying a house and having a family, until well into our middle to late 30s.

Yet, social media exposes us to friends, acquaintances and celebrities who appear to have it all already, throwing us into further panic as we constantly compare ourselves to others, resulting in us feeling inadequate and like a failure.

We are desperate to commit to one particular career path, mainly because this is what generations before us did. However, we want one which will be varied, meaningful and rewarding, but we can’t decide which one is for us because our options are simply endless and we’ve never really given ourselves the time and space to think about what we actually want.

As a result, we’re left feeling confused and uncertain about what to do. We end up feeling like a rabbit in headlights, stuck where we are, not knowing where to start. It is this emotionally difficult period that is known as the Quarter Life Crisis.

How can coaching help?

In 2011, Alice conducted a piece of academic research on the Quarter Life Crisis (published in the International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching & Mentoring), which examined the experience itself and sought to clarify what it was about coaching that supported clients through this difficult transition. According to the clients interviewed for this study, coaching is effective in the following ways when experiencing a Quarter Life Crisis:

  • Sessions offer you direction and focus. Goal-setting and action planning exercises help you feel less confused and overwhelmed by your options. You are able to clearly plan what to do next, how and by when.

  • You learn new skills. Instead of spending years wondering how to do things, performance and skills training sessions develop the skills you need to implement your action plans. For example, clients benefit from exercises designed to develop their assertiveness skills, ability to prioritise, reflect, and view situations from alternative point of views.

  • You develop more confidence. Coaching sessions allow you to discover what it is you really want to do, what your passions are, what careers might suit you and which ones might not. You learn more about yourself through self-awareness and reflection exercises, which allow you to feel more confident and happy in yourself. This in turn makes you feel more certain that the path you end up choosing is suited to you.

​The main thing to realise is that you are not alone if you identify with the above. Having previously experienced a mini Quarter Life Crisis myself, I have an appreciation for how confusing this time can be. Knowing how it feels inspired me to focus my coaching on supporting those going through similar anxieties. The trick is to address how you feel right now and not bury your doubts for one more minute. When you are 50, living a meaningful and inspiring life, you will be so glad you did something about it now rather than waiting till then and having a Mid Life Crisis instead!

If you identify with any of the above, please contact Alice to discuss how coaching might be able to help support you through this difficult transition period.

Alice Stapleton

About Alice

Alice coaches those who want to change career but don’t know what they want to do instead. She offers Career Coaching designed to help graduates, early to mid-level career-changers, and parents returning to work gain a clear vision of what career is right for them, and how to achieve it. She is also an accredited Coach Supervisor, and host of The Career Change Diaries podcast.