Shortly after I turned 25, I quit my job, packed my bags, and moved to L.A. to pursue a career in comedy. I was clearly in full blown quarter-life crisis mode. I didn't know the first thing about the entertainment industry -- don't tell anyone -- so I had to start at the bottom.
If you're in your early 20s and your beginning to realize the career you chose is not the one for you; CONGRATULATIONS! You're about to get knee-deep into your quarter-life crisis. I'm at the tail-end of it, so feel free to steal some of the lessons I've learned along the way.
1. Make a 2-year plan
I believe in making detailed plans but I don't believe in sticking to them. Things change, life happens, and you shouldn't feel bad if you stray from the plan you initially laid out for yourself. This should just be an outline to give yourself some direction. Here are my plans from two years ago, as a sample:
- Get a raise/promotion at work
- Save up to a year's salary, or $30,000
- Update resume to fit comedy career
- Take sketch/script writing classes ($400/each)
- Figure out specific dream job
- Start freelancing, get published in larger publications
- Move to Los Angeles ($2,000)
- Buy a car ($6,000)
As you can see, I've added price values to the goals I know I'll need money for. This is important because it will help you get your finances in order.
2. Save $30,000
As you may have noticed in my two-year plan, I suggest you save at least $30,000 before leaving your job. This may sound impossible, but it's doable; I did it! Here's how:
- Get a weekend job: freelancing, babysitting, being a mover, server -- there are plenty of opportunities to make some on the side. If you get a job where you can make $100 extra dollars a week and keep it for two years, you'll have $10,400 of the $30,000 I suggest you have. It's also best if these jobs coincide with your interests.
- Learn to cook. I do not like cooking for myself, but it saves a lot of money.
- Put away $200 of each pay check.
- Move to a cheaper apartment, get more roommates.
If you are serious about switching careers, going back to school or changing your life, then you should be able to make these big adjustments without any problems.
3. Figure out the job you want
This step is important. If you're unhappy with your current job, you must know which job you want. Even if it's something completely unrelated to where you are now, it's important to know where you want to be for the next step.
4. Get experience in the field
Chances are no one's going to want to pay you when you have no idea what you're doing. That's why it's best to get experience when you're still employed. That way you're still making money, but you're also volunteering in the field you want to be in. Get creative!
One of my friends is a marketing manager at a sandwich chain but she really wants to be an interior decorator. She has no experience in interior decoration, but she has a good eye and is extremely ambitious. She can offer to decorate homes for friends and family, and get some experience shadowing a professional interior designer to gain experience in the field.
5. Make personal business cards
I've always had business cards for the corporate jobs I've had, but I've also made sure to have personal ones. You never know when you're going to meet someone, and it's a nice touch to have on hand. It's okay if they're non-specific, I once met someone who's business card said "expert" on it. I thought it was cute and funny.
My personal business cards say "Writer. Comedian. Waitress." They're not too specific, a little funny (or at least I like to think they are) and are always in my purse. I like to use Moo.com for my business cards. The site is easy to navigate and the prices aren't too bad!
6. Learn the basics of social media and web design
I know this sounds very career-specific but it's not. Almost every business wants someone who knows what they're doing behind the keyboard. Before I left my past job, I created a personal website using Squarespace.com.
I am horrible with technology, but this site made it easy to design and create your own personal website. It helped me get freelance opportunities and show off the work I've done so far. I have everything on there from videos I've shot and edited to writing to photography. Regardless of which field you ultimately go into, it's always impressive to have a website to show off your multidimensional skill set.
7. Go to networking events
There are networking events for almost every field. It's not easy to go to these things alone so I always suggest taking a friend. Even if your friend is not in the same career you are, you're more likely to approach strangers if you have someone supportive on your side. Don't forget to bring your business cards!
8. Educate yourself
I am a big fan of continuing education. As a writer and comedian, I am always looking for books, classes and panels that will teach more about the industry. Although classes are expensive, I think you always get something valuable, even if it's just a personal connection to the teacher. Whether you are saving up money to switch careers, move to a different country or make a huge change in your life I think you should always keep education in mind. You should always be learning more about the future life you want to have.
That's about all I have for you. If you have any good quarter-life crisis stories, I'd love to hear about it!