SLICE OF LIFE: Overcoming my ‘quarter-life’ crisis

As 2016 came close to an end and people started popping champagne bottles to usher in 2017 with happy smiles, I came to a very stark realisation. I was terrified of what lay ahead. I had reached a point where I could no longer hide behind the title of student to explain why I wasn’t employed in a job that was taking me places.

I couldn’t excuse the fact that I was still not financially independent after four-and-a-half years of university study (preceded by three gap years). Worst of all, I could no longer continue in the miserable pattern of waking up, going to work, going home, trying to do something valuable before going to bed in the hopes of achieving some change, falling asleep and struggling to wake up the next morning to repeat the pattern again.

Truth be told, I didn’t regret any of the choices I had made until that point. I valued all my experiences and I was grateful for every opportunity life had presented. I had been an ambitious, daring go-getter but my then situation was not sitting well with me. I had fallen into what I came to regard as a “quarter-life” crisis. I didn’t know where my life was going career wise.

The more I spoke to friends and acquaintances in more or less the same post-university stage in life, the more I realised this crisis was a real and common thing. Talking about these struggles and comparing mine to other people’s stories helped me to feel normal. Once you realise you’re not alone, that there are other people feeling exactly the same way, you gather some courage to carry on fighting.

So, on New Year’s Eve, 2016, having mulled this over and gathering the courage to climb out from behind the bottle of champagne, I made a decision to make two changes. I wanted to apply for bursaries to further my studies overseas and I wanted to find a new job.

It took the whole of 2017 to make any sort of progress on these resolutions. It was a difficult, pick-yourself-up-again, time-after-time, kind of year – applying, being rejected and feeling nothing I had to give was good enough. By the end of the year I could hardly find the strength to get up and go to work in the mornings. I loved life but I just didn’t feel as if it loved me back.

It was at this point that I decided I needed to make a drastic change. I stopped looking overseas and set my sights on studying closer to home.

In the process, I had discovered that I wanted to pursue a career in journalism.

As 2017 drew to a close, I had applied, been for an interview, and had been accepted for study towards an honours degree in journalism at Wits. It was a step I nearly didn’t take – not because I didn’t want to, but because it was logistically very hard for me to go back to full-time studying. Despite the hurdles, I decided to be that ambitious, daring go-getter again and, in my experience, life has a way of rewarding that. Things fall into place like they should precisely when they should when you refuse to give up.

I’m not there yet and I can’t say I’ve made it but, if I survive this year, I can face the end of 2018 full of hope in my heart, happy to be popping a champagne bottle or two in the face of 2019 and the start of a new chapter in my life.


SLICE OF LIFE: Watch me dive into the talent pool


Palesa Radebe

Palesa Radebe

If you are like me, you are probably nervous about every new experience and change that occurs in your life. Having recently graduated, I’m about to start an internship and am anxious about what lies ahead.

[pullquote align=”right”]Change would always occur – with or without your participation. So if you aren’t enjoying some aspect of your situation, you should actively work to change it.[/pullquote]

I recently read an O magazine article which made a lot of sense. Basically, the point was that it didn’t matter whether you embraced change or ran in the opposite direction. Change would always occur – with or without your participation. So if you aren’t enjoying some aspect of your situation, you should actively work to change it.

It turns out, even if you make no changes to your lousy job or your painful relationship, all those things will eventually change anyway.

This new phase of my life has been a bit difficult to embrace. I constantly hear my friends and former classmates talk about how interns are hated in the workplace and how their lack of experience makes them a liability.

I personally do not believe this to be true. You do have valuable skills and you need to remind yourself of that fact through the job hunting process. Companies spend large amounts on graduate recruitment and training programmes, not because they pity us, but because they need us! Yes, I said it.

The problem is that our attitudes hurt our chances of getting a job. To an employer, this lack of confidence comes over as a lack of initiative, a lack of drive. To them it’s unprofessional – a sign that you’re not competent. An indication that they’re going to have to walk you through every little stage and task. They will, but you don’t have to remind them of this. Fake it till you make it.

[pullquote]We need to learn how to appreciate the skills we possess and sell these as valuable assets.[/pullquote]

After four years of frequent visits to the career counsellor, there is one thing I have learned. Spend time learning how to sell yourself. Learn how to make your skills seem essential. Be ready to always give the best answer to this recruitment question: Why are you the best person for the job?

We need to learn how to appreciate the skills we possess and sell these as valuable assets. You might not have the experience, but remember, you have spent three or four years at university. You have learned to write essays and reports, worked in teams, made presentations and, most of all, committed to tasks. Think positively, remember your strengths and approach it like this: “I’m good. I would be an asset to this company because …”

As I venture into a new phase of life, I can’t help but feel excited about this new growth experience.

I’ll walk into my new organisation with the confidence of knowing I can make a meaningful contribution and be open to learning.