A reported 86% of millennials experience a "quarter-life crisis." Most young professionals who are just getting their careers off the ground adhere to the notion that you must attend a traditional four-year university and work in a career that precisely reflects your college degree for the rest of your life. As a result, young professionals find themselves under pressure from both society and their profession, which pushes the belief that they are off track if they aren’t doing what they should be doing according to their diploma.
The reality is that career paths and opportunities in today’s economy are much more robust than they once were, giving professionals the advantage of being able to transcend industries while still advancing in their careers by capitalizing on their unique professional experience.
My quarter-life crisis
By the time I turned 23, I was the youngest employee at Wells Fargo to manage a $100 million asset portfolio. I was recognized as one of the company's top brokers in my region, as well as throughout the country, eventually earning the titles of financial advisor and vice president. By all accounts, I was experiencing great success in the banking industry. I was young, successful and had a bright future.
And that's when I quit.
Finding your passion isn’t instantaneous. In 2018, 8 out of 10 workers were either actively looking for a new job or open to finding one, largely due to a lack of workplace satisfaction. Lack of workplace satisfaction translates to a lack of productivity and, ultimately, lack of success. Too often, dissatisfied employees fall into a monotonous pattern of going to work, putting in the hours from 9-to-5 and going home only to come back and do the same thing the next day.
Still, leaving a stable job is a difficult decision, particularly if it provides you with financial autonomy. But if you find yourself getting into bed each night not being proud of the work you're devoting a significant amount of your life to, you should consider a career change. While it won't be an easy feat, making strides to find and pursue a career you are passionate about can positively impact not only your financial well-being in the long run – as you will be more inclined to rise within your career – but it will also positively impact your overall mental wellness and quality of life by simply making you happier.
The following steps helped me figure out when I was ready to leap into a new career to find my true passion. If you find yourself in a similar position, use the following steps to find clarity.
1. Map out your interests.
For me, business ownership has always been in my blood. I started my own friendship bracelet business and sold baseball trading cards in elementary school. Today, I'm running an award-winning sandwich franchise. I’ve held many interests throughout my lifetime, which made it that much harder to figure out what I was truly passionate about. You will need structure to channel your passion to make your ambitions a reality.
Before I left the banking industry, I outlined what lights a fire inside of me to prevent myself from losing my mind trying to find a career I was passionate about. Having a flexible outline of what you'd like to get involved with will help guide you through those introspective periods when you feel like you're being pulled in a hundred different directions. Whenever you start to doubt yourself and your career path, think back to this outline and use it as a resource to guide you to your next move.
2. Try jobs in different areas.
Gaining experience across different industries will allow you the opportunity to learn about yourself, your preferences and how you work best. Dip your toes in areas outside of your comfort zone and you may find something incredible. On top of my friendship bracelet, baseball card and T-shirt sales ventures when I was young, I dabbled in the restaurant and food-service space throughout high school. I worked in various dining establishments, ranging from cafeterias to full-service and fine dining, before transitioning to finance. If I hadn't explored my options before landing a job in banking, I would not have found my love for restaurants.
3. Find what makes you happy and run with it.
Since nothing was keeping me at Wells Fargo, I decided to search for something that would be more fulfilling and would make me excited to wake up and go to work each day. I knew I wasn't doing myself or Wells Fargo any good by staying as my passion and drive were dwindling. So, I followed my heart – and my stomach – and found exactly what I was looking for, which was Capriotti's Sandwich Shop. What started with love at first bite has resulted in owning an entire sandwich shop franchise system. Don't turn away opportunities that bring fulfillment just because they seem far-fetched. If it makes you happy, invest your time into it and see where it takes you.
4. Lean on family and friends for guidance.
Throughout my life, I was fortunate to have a strong support system behind me. Growing up, my father and grandfather always encouraged me to pursue sales, something I loved to do with my baseball cards and friendship bracelets. While they wanted me to continue in sales, I decided to try finance. Nonetheless, they continued supporting me and again throughout my transition from finance to franchising. My best friend Jason, now president of Capriotti's, was also one of my biggest supporters, encouraging me to follow my dreams. In fact, it was Jason who suggested joining forces in investing our time and capital into Capriotti’s in the first place. A strong support system is really what helped me find my passion and pushed me to do my best.
5. Recognize you have time.
It's OK to spend a few years unsure about your future, as long as you are gaining valuable experience in the process. I felt the pressure from my family members to pursue a career in sales, but decided to try finance. But even after a few years of great experience, I decided to switch gears to restaurants, something I knew I was passionate about. At 18 years old, students feel the intense pressure to choose a major and earn a diploma that they will use to land a job in the real world. In reality, professionals – both young and old – should realize that it is perfectly OK to slow down and take time to figure out what you love, even if it doesn't align with what's on your diploma. Doing so will help you make the right career moves.
The notion that you have to stick with a specific career path all your life is outdated and unrealistic. The process of self-reflection at different stages of your life is healthy and critical for authentic self-improvement. My quarter-life crisis drove me to take stock of my life, discover what I’m truly passionate about and push myself to achieve highly ambitious goals. I challenge those who are questioning their path to take a chance and step into the unknown. Only there will you find what sparks the fire inside you.