Why are millennials whining about quarter life career crisis?  

Picture for representational purposes only

Among the many things an urban Yuppie likes to do is TALK – talk, converse, discuss, and even argue over a cup of coffee, a drink, or a smoke. The topics vary from the latest twist in Game of Thrones to existential questions about life and its perils. Speaking of perils, quarter-life career crisis is something that takes up a huge fraction of the urban professional’s mind. Little wonder the Generation Y hops jobs and invests their time, energy and savings in their personal or business endeavours of interest. This population however, has ostensibly witnessed their predecessor generation stick to one job till they happily retire at the age of sixty.

According to a survey published by LinkedIn, 75% of millennials aged 25 to 33 say they have experienced a quarter-life crisis, often because of their careers. This could be more serious than the typical mid-career crisis you often heard people facing in their late 40s and 50s, when they had the financial cushion to take a break and figure things out.

Employee retention has become such a huge challenge that a few years ago many multinational companies introduced programmes to recognise duration-related milestones at work – milestones that went as low as five years.

So, what is this that makes millennials feel asphyxiated barely half way into the career path?

Take the case of Jahnavi Ghosh, 30, Graphic Designer. Her reasons to jilt her current employer are pretty standard – an insecure and ‘nosy’ manager who is high on micro management and low on recognition, clients with unreasonable expectations, and daily three hours of commute through heavy traffic. Unless you are Dwight Schrute from The Office, you wouldn’t want to hang around in that office for too long. It is anything but natural to religiously update the resume and look for a ‘better’ job.

There is also the classic case of passion vs rent. Ranjana Sinha, 32, Product Manager at a Fortune 500 company is in a bit of a Sophie’s Choice type situation. By her own admission, she enjoys the work and perks that come with her profile. She travels around the world and commands respect at her workplace. The hours are flexible, and the paygrade is viable. Yet, that is not enough. Why? One would wonder. Ranjana happens to be talented singer with a few singles and covers up her sleeve. Her wish is to commit to music completely, but bills hold her back.

Meanwhile, Abraham Varghese (name changed), 28, Professor of Biotechnology gave us a whole new perspective altogether. When the question of job satisfaction was raised, his response was prompt. “I teach some of the brightest minds in Bengaluru. My students come from some of the best colleges and universities in Bengaluru, and I enjoy interacting with them. I have studied science for a purpose and I feel I have fulfilled it,” he said. Asked if he wanted to continue doing what he does, he promptly replied, “I studied science for a reason, to understand the world and explain it to others. But I feel have already done that. It’s about time, I do something else… something more.”

While Baby Boomers stayed attached to a single employer for decades, their subsequent generations arguably changed the game. So, what drives this generation to seek change so often and so strongly (at times desperately)? We drew some parallels and got a little clarity about this changing trend.

  • The purpose of a job or career for the older generation was to settle down and grow roots; while millennials are determined to fly high.
  • Opportunities and information are easily available, which arms the millennial with the right tools to venture out on their own if and when they choose to.
  • Previous generations worked for stability, while millennials are driven by the dire need to create their own identity.
  • And to be fair, sometimes the employee doesn’t leave the company by choice. Loyalty is a two-way street, and having witnessed how most companies resort to downsizing during financial crises, millennials prefer to keep their options open.

The millennial’s need for change and challenges has actually paved way for positive sea changes at the work place. Options such as internal mobility, learning and development programmes, and leadership development programmes not only keep employees interested, but help in carving their career path.

Yet, the monkey mind rules young hearts. Monotony has no place in the millennial’s dictionary and career decisions are taken much more impulsively. The restlessness and frustration that clouds young professionals is disconcerting; but the good news is, this could be a blessing in disguise. Since employee retention became a concern, employers have consciously invested in developing career route maps and giving employees a better sense of direction. As for those born to be wild, the smart ones are channelising their restlessness towards becoming creators and innovators.


  1. Excellent article ! Our (the older guys) struggles (for money, recognition etc) kept us grounded and we didn’t have the luxuries to think about ‘the higher purpose’ till we reached late thirties or fourtees . Now it’s happenning much earlier. You will see a lot more in the coming years. For instance teenagers don’t have the drive and ambition we had at our age. It’s a case of getting too much, too soon. Which may or may not be a bad thing. Thought provoking! Keep it up !