A mid-life crisis is most commonly associated with those in their 40s, but in recent years the clickbait term of ‘The Quarter-life Crisis’ has been gaining popularity, as Millenials and Gen X’ers seek to re-brand the concept of stepping off the – sometimes thankless – career treadmill.
The Quarter-life crisis is described as “involving anxiety over the direction and quality of one’s life” which frequently affects those in their twenties, commonly occurring once they get out into the real world. Yet, with the world in the current state it’s in, from political unrest to societal pressures, who could be blamed for wanting to take 365 duvet days rather than face up to what’s outside the front door? It doesn’t have to be all negative though, as we can rebrand a quarter-life crisis as an opportunity to indulge in a ‘quarter-life sabbatical, where one takes the necessary time out after University or after landing your first industry job to protect their overall mental health, re-inspire yourself or find a new life outlook.
So if the opportunity of a quarter-life sabbatical is calling, whether through choice or circumstances out of your control, here are 3 ways in which you can negotiate what could possibly be the best decision for your personal and professional development.
You’ve just spent the best part of 3 years in lectures, pulling all-nighters, and hopefully living your best life, whilst deep-diving into a subject you are passionate about. So, now that you’ve graduated, walked across that stage and taken the iconic picture with your scroll firmly placed in both hands – now what ehh?
Well, if the thought of jumping straight into another regimented routine breaks you out in a cold sweat, why not pause before taking those first tentative steps onto the career ladder? A ladder that you are likely to be climbing for the next 40 years, because if there is any time in your life when you could just ‘Do you!’, believe me – your early twenties is it.
Make it work:
- If you were savvy with your student loan and stacked your change, you should still have some money left in the bank. This is likely to be one of the best loans you will get in your life, so why not treat yourself with what’s left.
- You will also need to convince the folks that this is the right thing to do, and one of the ways to do that is to remind them that there will be a million other grads, just like you, entering the market at the same time. So it makes sense to go out into the world and get a different kind of ‘life experience’ that will mature you, develop your world view and set you apart from the rest.
- Remember you don’t have to go it alone. If you’re still thinking about the time when you and your girls were talking about doing that trek around Peru over spicy noodles in your student flat, then now’s the time to say “Let’s do this” and pack your bags.
WHEN YOU’VE GONE THROUGH A REDUNDANCY
I won’t lie or try to sugar-coat it, the fashion industry is in a state of constant flux, with the ‘strong’ companies crumbling one-by-one, BHS to Barneys New York. Brands are having to re-think their business strategies and become more agile. This, unfortunately, means the axe has been falling on hundreds of jobs – from Design Assistants to CEOs. It seems no one is safe, but as someone who has faced redundancy in every one of the companies I have worked for, I can honestly say rather than panic, think strategically. (Okay, who am I kidding! There was a week of tears and tantrums where I was considering selling off all my worldly goods, just so I could stack some change and avoid homelessness). The threat of not having a job allowed me to pause and think “OMG, I could actually be free of the 9-5!!!” Albeit after completing my notice period, because despite wanting to immediately bounce out the door, I am conscious of how small the industry is and the importance of always maintaining good ties.
The mere prospect of reclaiming my time sent me straight into ‘personal productive mode’, where I was able to make a list of the things I had been putting off because I was too busy with ‘work’. I actually did a little Carlton-dance (c’mon you know the one). There was nothing I could do about the threat of redundancy, but I could say F**K IT and start focusing on what I wanted to do with my life going forward.
How to navigate this situation:
- First, speak with your employee/HR rep and find out if there are any roles available that you can apply for. They may not be in the field you are trained in but it will give you some time to work out your next steps, whilst still receiving a paycheck.
- If the above is not an option, don’t worry, as you will be still entitled to be paid for your notice period – anything from 4 weeks to 3 months – and you may even have the option of garden leave. Factor in redundancy pay, which is typically one week pay for every year you have worked with the company, and it could all add up to a nice lump sum, so as soon as you have that figure you can get to planning.
- Take the fear out of the equation and allow yourself the freedom to INVEST (in that fashion concierge app idea you’ve been working on for the last year), or ESCAPE (by booking that dream solo getaway to get some headspace).
TO AVOID A MENTAL BREAKDOWN
Mental health has always been a topic that I have advocated for as an industry-wide priority and it has risen high on fashion’s agenda in recent years, with buzzwords like ‘self-care’ becoming mainstream and the subject being considered as a module to be taught within schools . Consider then, that the start of your career will be some of the most testing years you are likely to experience, with feelings of inadequacy and aimlessness causing you to suffer from anxiety or even burn-out. This has lead to many turning their backs on the industry altogether, which is why taking a quarter-life sabbatical to protect your mental health is probably one of the most important reasons to do so.
Where to start:
- Taking some time out and completely remove yourself from a toxic work environment, can be the best thing to help you get back to an optimum state of mental health. Yet still, even in 2019, where this option may not always be widely available to those that need it, it’s not all doom and gloom, as some of, the most progressive companies for mental health, from Sweaty Betty to Unilever have realised the importance of taking care of their employees and as such, offer everything from in-house counselling to free gym memberships. If you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious at work get in touch with the Retail Trust, which is an industry-specific charity that offers support from entry-level through to retirement.
- If you find yourself seriously dreading the work commute the night before (to the point of a near panic attack), it’s time for a change and you will find that once you have made that decision a weight will be lifted off your life. Just remember though, this doesn’t have to mean a permanent career change, just think about taking your foot off the gas and pivoting into a less-demanding/non-related role that will cover your bills and reduce your anxiety levels for a short period, before you decide whether or not you want to jump back in; albeit stronger than you were before.
- The battle to keep your mental health at an even balance will be a lifelong one, sorry to be the bearer of bad news with that fact. It doesn’t have to be all negative though, because as you navigate your way through your career, the direction isn’t always up, or even in a straight line. Think about taking a sideways move, dipping your toes into alternative industries, or even choose to start a family. Whatever will bring you the most joy is what you should focus on, whether that means taking a temporary or permanent break and choosing YOU over everything else.
So, as you can see taking a quarter-life sabbatical can actually be a good thing, whether it’s about gaining life experience or practising a little self-care. The key is to put a plan in place that will ensure you have a soft, rather than crash, landing when you come back down to reality. This should include saving a set amount before you travel or looking into seasonal work whilst you’re away, negotiating with your company to take some time out if you can – as it always helps to have something to come back too – and lastly to always remember the sky’s the limit, your career path won’t ever unfold in a straight line, so take those unexpected turns early on in life.
Words by Angela Baidoo