Top 6 signs of a Quarterlife Crisis

Mark Siegenbeek van Heukelom · 6 minutes · 09.02.2016

Ever been asked “what do you do for a living?” or “how is your career going?” and you were able to give a wonderful response that was totally cool on paper, but while answering you deep down felt unsatisfied, disengaged and maybe even unhappy? This is but one of many symptoms of a possible Quarterlife Crisis. It’s a big and scary term for something that we would rather not talk about too much and hope it just goes away by itself. But the hard truth is that it doesn’t if you don’t give it the right attention.


More and more young people are feeling disengaged in work, unclear where they’re headed and what they’re doing it all for and are at risk of ending up drained and energy less from burn-out or bore-out. The Midlife Crisis is becoming old fashioned and has moved forward in the development of humans. Nowadays we already get into this existential turmoil between 25 and 35 and that age is only growing younger.


Want to know if you’re headed there? Here are the top 6 symptoms of a Quarterlife Crisis taken from a list that is much longer.

  1. You’re in a job you expected more from …

Chances are that ‘on paper’ your job is actually quite great, but like they say with soccer: unfortunately, you do not play the game on paper but on grass. It is the same for work. You do it in an office, a hospital, a shop or wherever and that physical setting is sadly often rather depressing with its office cubicles, jaded colleagues and uninspiring managers than the fresh and vibrant setting that you had envisioned when you graduated. Still, at Friday afternoon drinks you can tell others (and yourself) the perfect story, because on paper it sounds fantastic.

  1. … and deep down you know this isn’t it …

If you’re a bit in touch with your feelings, then you’ve probably been realizing for quite a bit longer that you’re not on the right track. If you’re a more rational type, you will first wants an explanation as to why you feel this way and it’s probably hard for you to accept that your compliance with the societal image is less satisfying than you were hoping for. ‘Compliance is not fulfilment’ is a harsh conclusion.

  1. … but you feel frozen.

Because after all, you also wouldn’t know what other job would be satisfying. You probably think of yourself as a spoiled whiner, because if this isn’t it, then what is? Or maybe you’ve had trouble getting a job in the first place and you would never want to take the risk of making a switch. “What if I get to sit at home? How will I pay the bills? And how do I convince people to hire me when I feel like I do right now?” Yup, plenty of excuses to stay put where you are.

  1. Your dreams go all over the place …

Have your own startup, make a trip around the world, leave everything behind and take up residence in a Buddhist monastery, go to Africa to work for an NGO, write a book, go back to uni and finally study what you actually wanted (Medicine, Architecture, Photography), go live in a better climate and build a new life, end your relationship that’s been in a complete rut for too long and throw yourself into at bachelor lifestyle, be a part-time yoga instructor, still get that PhD, stop the excruciating process of getting your PhD and find a normal job, learn Spanish and live in South America, train your ass off for a marathon or an Iron Man, go do ‘something with your hands’ instead of this life draining office job, etc.

  1. … and you’re confronted with people who do take action …

At one point you thought you were cool because you had more than 500 friends on Facebook, but the blessing has become a curse. Even if your friends have but one life event per year, then you still get confronted one and a half times per day with the successes others are booking in their lives. Unknowingly you’re comparing yourself with them and you actually think this helps you to get more clarity in what you want with your life, but nothing could be farther from the truth: gradually you are becoming more dissatisfied and maybe even a little bit unhappy.

  1. … and you remain firmer in your place than ever before.

You’ve already told so many others that your life is wonderful and now you’ve started to believe in your own story. And if that’s not the case than at least you’re socially stuck, because how could you share with the world that you’re secretly unhappy and want something different when you’ve always said everything was ‘great’? Your strategy numero uno is ostrich politics: if you stick your head in the sand concerning your situation, your situation won’t see you as well. You will feel better in time, you think.


Sadly this isn’t the case for most people. It’s a huge cliché, but a crisis is an opportunity. If you let the crisis slide over, its power will diminish in time, but so will yours. If you take a proactive stance and do something about it, you will find you can create a much better life, for yourself and for others.


If you want to take a first step in this process, feel welcome at the Quarterlife Deep Dive ‘Zürich Edition’ on March 12. During a single day I will hand you the most important insights and life tools to navigate yourself through the Quarterlife Phase in the best way possible. Of course it’s up to you how you proceed in life after our day together, but I will make sure that I won’t let you go until you’re in action mode!


Mark is the founder of Quarterlife Deep Dive and helps highly educated young professionals between 25 and 35, working in the Randstad, who want to get everything out of life and who want to invest in themselves.

Mark Siegenbeek van Heukelom, Coaching at Quarterlife Deep Dive (NL)

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