Across the world, there is a struggle by young people to seamlessly step out of adolescence into adulthood through self-sustenance and secure employment. Unfortunately in Zimbabwe young people are at the receiving end of the dire economic environment and their lives are engulfed in a state of entrapment and career stagnation.
Gone are the years of economic stability when there was a relatively low cost of living, easy property ownership and swift career advancement. The emerging adult who could assume family responsibility and carry the family burdens has disappeared, despair and uncertainty rule the roost due to unemployment and low wages. This has consequently led to a trend whereby young people live with parents for longer periods than previous generations.
High school and college life have also become delusional sugarcoated with great expectations of a happily ever after life experience yet the reality on the ground is signified by disgruntlement and unfulfilment.
In a book titled Emerging Adulthood, Early Adulthood & Quarter-Life Crisis, psychologist Oliver Robinson articulates that the period between adolescence and full adulthood is regarded as one of the most stressful in human experience as it involves instability across all facets of life. In Zimbabwe this period has become very stressful and full of depression as young adults face unexpected life experiences which lead to a quarter life crisis.
A quarter-life crisis is defined as a period of life ranging from twenties to thirties in which a person begins to feel doubtful about their own lives, brought on by the stress of becoming an adult and entering the real world.
This phase involves intense soul searching and despair as a result of feelings that one have not yet become successful or has lagged behind in the race to success.
Unemployment has been pinpointed by research to be the leading cause of a quarter life crisis also exacerbated by the difficulties of choosing a career path. Due to a few employment opportunities in the formal sector, most young people in Zimbabwe are unemployed and available jobs do not specifically suit envisaged career paths. Moreover salaries are not in sync with the poverty datum line due to a distressed economy and low production across industries.
This has ultimately led to a myriad of youthful broken souls whose ambitions lie in a state of limbo. Leading life coach Alice Stapleton articulates that during a quarter-life crises young people endure overwhelming instability, too many choices and a panicked sense of helplessness, desolation, inadequacy and self-doubt.
A study of millennials post-graduation by the Guardian in the UK found out that the quarter-life crisis affects 86% of millennials, who report being troubled by insecurities and disappointments. This explains the inevitability of a quarter life crisis and the high probability of its exposure to young people.
So what can millennials do when they fall into a quarter-life crisis? Below is a list of avenues to explore:
Pursue areas of passion
Education should never act as a stumbling block to your God-given gifts. Personally I have been inspired by former college mates who pursued music and photography instead of sticking to their degrees. Our greatest undoing is religiously holding to our education as our single source of emancipation.
Stop peer life comparison
Due to peer life comparison, there is likelihood to see friends getting hired easily and starting families while you are struggling. Instead believe in yourself, write and reflect more on what makes you happy. Hang around people that believe in your potential and that inspire you to be different.
Speak out or ask for assistance
Be it in church, be it to your former classmates, there is need to seek help. Depression and anxiety are often big symptoms of quarter-life issues, and in order to be able to face them there is need for a sympathetic ear to talk to. Just make sure whoever you talk to won’t worsen your situation.
Never mind your area of study
Allow your career choices to vanish because your area of study definitely confines you to certain jobs that you are deemed qualified. Be open to other job positions and explore different areas where you can apply yourself. What is needed is the ability to showcase your potential and openness to continuous learning and improvement.
Think of a start-up, and pursue those crazy money making ideas
Come up with an idea and take risks in the name of the idea, spend time strategizing on how you can make money. Think of business ideas that need less capital and start small by offering a product, process or service for sale or hire. Using your real life experiences or area of study, you can come up with ideas that provide solutions on the daily problems people have in their lives or challenges organizations face.
Network with professionals
Networking with professionals assists you to unearth the hidden job market. Not all jobs are advertised in the main stream media, some are through word of mouth and referrals. Networking whether through a pre-planned meeting or an impromptu conversation will likely help you find a business partner, your first or next job which is crucial for personal growth.
Lastly, suffering a quarter life crisis is unescapable for young people and when experiencing a quarter life crisis, there is a choice to make, its either you choose to succumb deeper to the depression or to leverage the pressure as a force for change.
Article co-authored by Freemen Pasurai (BSc Hons HRM and Dip in HRM) and Ezekiel Nyoni (B Eng, M Eng and PHD Mech Eng candidate at the University of Johannesburg). For contact email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com