This was never a secret, but now it is official: millennials are the most stressed age group out there.
Financial concerns are a viable reason to be stressed. High college loans and uncertainty regarding future employment, fear of taking mortgage to buy your own apartment, rising social gaps… There is no safe financial haven for the new generation. There has been no major shift in average wages recently, but even if you are a doctor there is no guarantee that you will be able to pay your loans 20 years from now.
The stress causes irritability, anxiety, and lack of motivation. This is especially frustrating in super-social, super-connected, and self-employed world, where self-assured optimistic and highly motivated approach is a door-opener for secure future. Stress makes people more likely to engage in unhealthy coping strategies, like drinking, surfing the internet, and smoking. This is not good for health, creativity and memory. In fact, this is an example of self-destructive behavior, which generates yet more stress and yet more self-destruction.
Learning is much more successful way of coping with uncertainty. A diversified skill-set. proven working and volunteering experience are your best line of defense. Any industry is cyclic – look for industries which prosper when your industry suffers. And I am not talking about oil vs transportation, I am talking about working as engineer vs teaching engineering when the work is scarce. Build new projects, share them with people to boost your brand, build yourself a diversified professional reputation, have fun creating things and playing with cool gadgets, instead of mindless drinking and web surfing.
Even successful people are unhappy. Increasingly demanding workload and increasingly complex business and technology structures keep us away from home and in partial darkness regarding what is happening around us. The movement for work-life balance is more a symptom of a problem than a viable solution. We are locked within organizational culture that comes with our profession. We can change cities and jobs, but this would not change what we are.
Some people say that there are no wrong career moves. Many people, especially young women, trade highly demanding management jobs for less demanding jobs that allow spending more time with loved ones. Others are moonlighting trying to build an alternative career – often to find out that the same cyclicity and trade-offs apply in the new career. Companies benefit from employees with diverse background and experience.
I do not hold the golden key out of the rat race. I work 5 days a week 12 hours a day developing new technologies, and then 1 day a week 12 hours I write. I barely have enough time to go to a gym, be a father, and ensure that our home does not disintegrate due to our negligence. Anna has 3 jobs and she is the main figure in our kids’ life. We are as stressed out about the present and the future as everybody else, maybe slightly better prepared to cope with the stress. We do have one advantage: this is the life we love, the life we have chosen to live, and we stand by our choice.
If you do what you love to do, if you have no regrets regarding your choices, if you diversify your skills and prepare for future uncertainty – this may well be the best strategy to live in 21st century.