I don’t know about you, but I’m f*cking tired.
I used to wake up in the morning and instantly hit the laptop to start pitching clients or working on content for hours and hours. No amount of clients ever satisfied me. I was always putting in work on various social media platforms to network and grow my personal brand.
Content marketing was my love and passion.
But as I hit my 11th year in the industry, I’m not going to lie – the relationship has gone stale.
It made me ask some people I know who have also been in their industry for roughly the same time, and more people than I thought could relate to how I was feeling. My very small and very unofficial survey made me feel like the issue of millennial burnout is something worth digging into. Why are we burning out just a decade or so into our careers when society expects us to stay in the same industry for 40+ years?
My hypothesis is that we are not going through an early midlife crisis, as this NYT article suggests, but rather a quarter-career crisis.
Sounds a little reachy, right? Hear me out.
Millennials were the first generation to come of age and progress through young adulthood in the age of the Internet as we know it today.
The Internet becoming mainstream accelerated the change rate of so many facets of society, including nearly every professional industry.
It literally birthed the industries some of us work in. So while the typical “crisis” in which we take a truly introspective look at where we have gone and where we are headed used to hit during midlife, I think it now happens to us earlier and more often.
We have to change more to adapt to how fast the societal value hierarchy of labor roles changes.
For a large majority of us, I think it is realistic to asses what we currently do and think – will this role even exist or hold the same value to the labor market for the next 30 years? Or the next 20? 10? 5? 3?
I know it sounds crazy to think your career could be irrelevant in 3 years, but if you work in tech or tech-adjacent, you know 3 years might as well be 30.
Fix it or Ditch it
It really bummed me out when I started to fall out of love with something I used to love doing so much. Like with any relationship, I had reached the point where it was time to decide if I was going to fix it or ditch it.
I decided to fix it.
That was a relatively recent decision. Part of the reason I am writing this article is to force myself to look at these emotions with an observational mindset. I needed to be both the subject and the scientist.
Map Career Peaks and Valleys in a Journal
I journaled out a rough map of the peaks and valleys of my career and took note of what was going on at both my highest and lowest.
At my best, I was in full-freelance mode. I had a handful of clients who paid me what was decent money for me at the time, but it wasn’t the money that made me happy – it was the control.
I did two stints over the last few years at boutique marketing agencies, and in both scenarios, the way to progress towards more money was to phase out of writing and into either managing teams or client relations.
Both stints were more money and stability than I had made as a freelancer, but they didn’t make me happy. Having to chat with both current and prospective clients all day was a mentally exhausting task for an introvert like me. So was the idea of managing a team of admins and SEOs in different countries.
Looking back at these peaks and valleys gave me 2 key insights:
1 – I needed to work for myself full-time if I wanted sustained career happiness
2 – Writing and the writing process was the work I truly enjoyed and I needed to believe in myself more to stop accepting clients below the market rate for my experience.
I suggest giving this a try if you are currently feeling burnt out. It most certainly won’t fix everything overnight, but it will at least hopefully make you aware of the beacon of light you must follow to get out of the fog.
Figure Out Your Path Forward
That sounds a hell of a lot easier than it is, obviously, but we have to start somewhere.
For me, I decided September 1st I would commit to publishing articles regularly on my Medium again, and rejoin Twitter after an 18-month absence to get back to connecting with people who are passionate about creating great content.
It was a tiny first step towards my 30-month goal of transitioning into the bulk of my income coming from monetizing my writing directly rather than from ghostwriting and content writing for service-based small businesses.
As I am just beginning to follow my own path forward, I don’t really have any advice to give that you can follow with any assurance that it’s good.
Get introspective, use those insights to map out a pivot, and take that tiny first step. That’s all I got.
I don’t know where I’ll end up but I do know I feel an energy towards my career that I haven’t felt in a long time, so it has been worth it already.
Brett is a Ghostwriter who works with CEOs, startup founders, and service-based entrepreneurs to build authoritative personal brands through long-form content. He loves golf, his cats, the Yankees, and Twitter. Subscribe to his free Newsletter “Why’d That Slap?” – Examining virality Tweet by Tweet to join his journey into the psychology behind why certain Tweets resonate with enough people to go viral. You can hear more about Brett on Twitter.