Are you switching jobs every two years? Are you draining your savings to start companies with no business plan? Are you hiring a headhunter to find you a spouse? These are things you should be doing to find the success you’re looking for in the new workplace. Sure, they create instability, but what else are you going to do? Work for IBM until you get a gold watch?
The most important thing in your life is the people you love, so you need to figure out how to create a work life that will accommodate that. Do you love your dad? Tell your new boss that before you even start working, you need a week off for your dad’s birthday cruise. If your boss says no then thank goodness you learned ahead of time that you don’t want to work there. Do you love your girlfriend? Pack your sleeping bag and follow her to Costa Rica to save a village. You can get a job saving the rain forest, or, better yet, spend the six months making a plan for how you two are going to do shared-care parenting.
The best way to make sure you will have time and money to create the life you want is to have what I am going to start calling a braided career. Intertwine the needs of the people you love, with the work you are doing, and the work you are planning to do, when it’s time for a switch. This way, when you run out of money you can get a corporate job for a year. If life as a stay-at-home mom is unfulfilling, you can start a side business from the cafe on the corner. If your COBRA runs out, you can get a hard-core job that involves a lot of travel, pick up the free miles and the international experience and once you’ve earned the ability to do COBRA again, take a trip around the world with a backpack and sleeping bag. And don’t forget to use those upgrade miles. Who says you can’t store a sleeping bag in the first-class cabin?
Does this sound unstable to you? It’s not. The voice inside your head that’s screaming about instability is your mom’s. She’s saying, “I lived through the feminist movement so you can quit your job to follow your boyfriend? I didn’t raise you to do that.” The voice inside your head is your dad’s saying, “You want to have fun? You have one minute’s worth of experience. Who’s going to pay you to have fun?” And, unfortunately, the voices might also be at your dinner table, because you might also be living with your mom and dad.
But tune them out. Because you’re on the right track. And really, it’s a track. It feels like you’re all over the place, it feels like you have no plan, it feels like you’re always about to spend your last cent. But you are learning to create stability through transition. You can become a master of transition and you are achieve the thing you want most: A work life that supports the values you hold dear – time, family, friends, community, passion, and fun.
So look, this is what you need to do. You need to stop thinking that the transitions are going to end as soon as you grow up. This is not reality talking, this is your uncle talking — to your dad to console him that you just quit grad school. What is going to end is the bad feeling about transitions. You’re going to get great at them because you are not the first person to have a quarterlife crisis. You’re not the first person to quit a traveling sales job so you’ll be home to have sex when you’re ovulating. You’re not the first person to run out of money and have to take a 70-hour a week corporate job – for awhile, just to catch up on bills. Lots of people are making these sorts of decisions, and they’re great decisions, in the context of good transition skills, and a good understanding of the new, braided career.