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How to deal with the ‘quarter-life crisis’

A quarter-life crisis occurs when young adults who have just entered the workforce face the reality that their lives are not what they imagined. It’s an emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence. For the first time, they feel like they’re not in tune with their true selves, but at the same time, they’re not quite sure who they’re supposed to be.

The generation currently going through this quarter-life crisis represents the talent pool from which companies will select their future leaders and employees. Leading and retaining these young adults is a real challenge for managers and HR professionals.

However, a crisis, while difficult and challenging at the moment, is an opportunity for both these adults and businesses to reconsider their practices and behaviors and make more conscious choices.

Managers and HR professionals in companies are already implementing many initiatives to give these young adults peace of mind and live up to their values ​​and expectations, such as:

  • Promoting employability by providing a variety of learning paths and career opportunities that motivate young adults;

  • reconfiguration of management practices around horizontality rather than verticality;

  • Implementing a framework to help managers give meaning to, stimulate, support and unite these young adults;

  • Creating the conditions for a healthy and positive work environment where everyone can do their best;

  • Provide flexibility and autonomy for increased motivation and productivity; and

  • Create spaces to promote creativity and dissolve rigid processes.

Here are a few tips that I think managers and HR professionals can use to prevent or even better manage this quarter-life crisis in young adults. In the context of the Quarterlife Crisis, I believe these global initiatives need to be complemented with a more individualized, case-by-case approach to better understand and capture the dynamics of this crisis for each individual.

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Be an attentive listener

Since these young adults perceive the company as a vehicle for social connections and interactions, they value the working atmosphere and the exchange with colleagues even more than the interest in a job. Therefore, first of all, it is crucial to be interested and caring for them by being empathetic and a responsible listener. An annual performance review is no longer sufficient. These young adults need regular feedback on their skills and performance throughout the year, but also being able to provide transparent feedback to their managers in order to grow personally and progress in their responsibilities.

Understand who they are

In the Quarterlife Crisis, listening isn’t enough. It is important to go deeper to get to know people and their motivation. I suggest using the same methodology I’ve personally used in my coaching: start by organizing a one-on-one interview to find out what’s really important to you in a professional career and why it’s important to you. The challenge in this step is to maintain the role of mediator and not give in to the temptation to influence the person with our own values ​​and beliefs.

Take advantage of their strengths

Once the information is gathered about what is really important to them and why, to go further and validate what really and deeply drives them, try to take a strengths-based approach.

So why like that? Using our strengths at work led us into a state of flow. We feel more engaged in our work as time seems to pass. In addition, we have often done our best work in this state.

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Therefore, when their strengths and their underlying motivating factors are uncovered, it is important to help them connect them to their organization’s goals, more specifically to the missions that bring them into a state of flow and lead to the achievement of those goals.

In this way, it’s a win-win strategy for both the organization in terms of productivity and its members, as each individual will find personal satisfaction, happiness, and meaning in their work, which actually keeps the Quarterlife Crisis Bay!

Elizabeth Toucas is an international executive coach

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