We’ve all been there before — it’s the start of your “career.” You sit there lost because you really don’t know what to do with your life. There’s an inner conflict waging: do you follow your dreams, or go down the less exciting but “smart” and “stable” route? On your shoulders, you feel the pressure to decide what you want to do with your life, right now.

Many people choose the conventional, “safer” career path, and even manage to convince themselves that it was the right decision… until they end up colliding with a quarter-life crisis, after realizing that they hate their job and are left wondering what might have been.

You can avoid this, by carefully choosing between one of two types of jobs. The choice you make will depend on whether you want to scale the corporate ladder or forge your own path. 

Dodge the Quarter-Life Crisis: The 2 Job Paths for Career Starters

Dodge the Quarter-Life Crisis: The 2 Job Paths for Career Starters

The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.

– Steve Jobs (more quotes)

Path 1: The growth ladder

Too many people are in jobs where the work they’re doing isn’t fulfilling —  where it doesn’t challenge them or teach them anything new, and where they feel like they’re stagnating. A job like this means you will find it extremely difficult to progress up the corporate ladder.

For example, a buddy of mine’s dream job was to be in a management position within a top company. While at university she was offered a role at a top financial company with a large compensation package, but rejected it due to the lack of opportunities for career advancement. Instead, she decided to take a role at a consultancy company with a much lower pay package. Why? Because the job offered constant training, the opportunity to work on different projects, and the ability to grow her network significantly compared to the other role. And a network is the best way to progress up the corporate ladder or even to land your dream job.

Long story short, while she was employed at this consultancy firm, she got to work on a project with her dream company. She made connections with top people within the firm, and was soon offered a position as a head of a division within the company.

The moral of the story: always choose a job that provides you with the opportunity to grow as a person, and most importantly, to grow your network. Take a lower pay if you have to, it’s a small sacrifice for future gain.

The growth path up the corporate ladder

Path 2: The smart route to freedom

If you’re like me, you know that the corporate world isn’t for you. The best thing you can do is take a job that pays you well enough to fund what you really want to do in the future. That may be starting your own business or even touring the world in a travelling circus. Whatever floats your boat.

The key is to find a job that gives you enough money and allows enough time for you to work on your project on the side. “Oh, but shouldn’t I just take the job with the highest pay and then use the money to start after I quit,” you ask? No. Take it from me that it’s extremely difficult to stay in a job which you hate, working long hours in a role which you know is leading nowhere. The time spent slaving away at someone else’s company is time that could be spent working on your own passion and dreams.

I’ve seen too many people leave their jobs and then start from zero; things become hard and they end up giving up early or regretting leaving the comfort of their old jobs. Do not leave your job without having a solid foundation first unless there is literally no way to do the job and also work on your project. Give yourself the solid platform to land into when you leave the corporate ladder.

Above all, remember your end goal

Finally, remember kids, don’t fall for the trap — the corporate life can be addictive. You chose this path to fund your dreams but got hooked on the private healthcare, large salary and after-work drinks with colleagues. 

Don’t forget the end goal. Just like in chess, knowing your end game dictates how you play the game. Whether you want to climb up the corporate ladder or leave to do your own thing, you always need to keep the goal posts squarely in your sights.

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