1. Give up the idea of a career path. Maybe 50 years ago, more people treated college like trade school and graduated expecting to work in the same field forever. Now, a hypothetical career “path” might look like this: study philosophy, become a consultant, start a business, sell it, go to law school, clerk for a judge, work for a law firm, and work for a nonprofit, all while teaching yoga on the side. If there’s one thing you love so much you can’t imagine doing anything else, hey, you’re one of the lucky ones. But if not, don’t worry – there are endless ways to combine all your interests.
2. Be honest with yourself. You’ve probably gone through enough job interviews to get in the habit of crafting a linear narrative of your path (see above) when in reality it may look like a road with a bunch of forks and you’re jumping between prongs. In conversations about your career development, give up that narrative. There’s a place for your pitches about why X industry is the next big thing and X job is really great amalgamation of your skills – job and school applications require us to explain our backgrounds in a way that makes sense – but sometimes these pitches become so rehearsed you forget you ever considered other possibilities. Maybe you studied creative writing in college and have worked in publishing since but have always wondered what it would be like to be a software engineer. While you probably wouldn’t tell this to a prospective employer for an editorial job, allowing yourself to feel that curiosity may lead you to explore options you otherwise would have overlooked.
3. Ask for help. Reach out to literally everyone you know in fields you’re considering. I vastly underestimated the number of people who were willing to meet or Skype with me to answer career-related questions. This is also an excellent way to keep in touch with potential mentors, employers, or recommendation-writers.
4. Don’t let your job define you. If you’re lucky enough to have a 9-5, the post-5pm world can be as much a part of your identity as your workday. You can take a class, join a Meetup group, attend a workshop, take a night job or freelance position, or work on a side project. It’s up to you whether you consider yourself, say, a project manager who writes poetry or a spoken word poet with a day job.
5. Remember your fifth-life crisis. And your tenth-life crisis. Because people who are vulnerable to quarter-life crises are generally vulnerable to other crises as well. When I look back on my early crises, I think, what was I so worried about? I mean, I was a *kid.* I had plenty of time to figure things out. In a few years, that’s probably how we’ll all look back at this period.
Good luck, and know you’re not alone.