What (not) to do during a career crisis

Ash @ Dreami
4 min readJan 8, 2023

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt stuck in your job.

Keep your hand up if you’ve felt alone while navigating your career.

Now, keep your hand up if you’ve sent out dozens of LinkedIn requests asking potential mentors for advice, but never got a single response.

More likely than not, your hand is still up (ok, you can put it down now). Look, feeling stuck or alone or helpless in your career is not an anomaly. These are shared experiences many of us face as soon as we step into the working world.

Let’s take me, for example. For the sake of proving my point, I am opening up my life to be metaphorically dissected.

Vulnerability at its finest.

My Career Crisis

I started off my career as an engineer only because it was the “right thing to do” and I would be comfortable financially. So I moved to the middle of California and started off my career as a young engineer. Life was great, I travelled the world and was challenged intellectually.

Fast forward 3 years later, and I was having a panic attack at my brother’s graduation because of the overwhelming anxiety and self-doubt I was experiencing.

This breakdown is called a modern day “career crisis”. All of a sudden, the sheen of my first job out of college wore off, and the crushing realization that I didn’t have a “life plan” absolutely annihilated my semi type-A personality. My brain suddenly became a whirlpool of self-doubt, confusion and self-deprecation, which are ugly feelings to experience on a daily basis.

What I didn’t realize at the time was my conscience was trying to convey to me that I was not happy.

The Breaking Point

And so, I did what one typically does during a life crisis: I wallowed. I wallowed hard. I was too scared to question why I wasn’t happy, because I knew the answer would mean I would need to make a change. I told myself that if I just ignore it, maybe this feeling will go away. Obviously, I was wrong. This whirlpool of negative thoughts got stronger until it was the only thing I could think.

I’ll keep it short and sweet on what happened next: I broke down.

Your mind and body can only handle so much self-deprecation until they both break down simultaneously.

The Step Forward

I realized that I was in a downward spiral and what usually works for me is to get away. Sometimes a change of scenery provides you the space and time to clear out the “head trash” and actually make a plan to move forward.

As cliche as this sounds, I escaped to the mountains. I booked a trip to Banff and spent 3 days scrambling through the Canadian Rockies.

Getting away from my problems helped me gain the clarity I needed. I got the space to reassess my life, understand what truly makes me happy, and devise the actionable steps I had to take to achieve that happiness.

Sometimes, all you need is a change in your environment to inspire a change in your life. That in itself builds the momentum you need to move forward and not remain stagnant in indecision.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Here’s what I didn’t do much of that I wish I did — talk to sponsors and mentors. I made a lot of my “5 year plan” on my own and now looking back at it, it was a mess. I clearly was confused and had no idea which paths were right for me.

I didn’t feel like I had an extensive network to reach out to and simply understand what should next for me and this is my biggest regret and gap. So if there is one thing you learn from this lengthy anecdote, it is this: please take the time to talk to people and ask for help.

There is power in seeking out support.

Let’s put it this way — the companies you admire most likely have a Board of Directors to guide the company’s leadership in the right direction.

Why don’t we, as individuals with ambitious goals, have our own Personal Board of Directors to guide us?

How I plan to pay it forward

I realize that I am not alone when it comes to these moments of confusion or stagnation in a career. Whether you are thinking of pivoting your career, becoming a leader, starting off your first role, getting a promotion, starting your own venture, applying to grad school or MBA, you need the right mentors, sponsors and coaches to guide you.

That’s why I started Dreami —a welcoming environment to foster mentorship relationships at scale.

My goal in starting Dreami is to truly see everyone exceed their limitless potential.

In fact, I believe that together, we are limitless.

This was the case when Dreami was a passion project back in 2020, and is still the case as we enter 2023.

The future of work is rapidly changing. Gone are the days where we need to map out our career trajectories in silos. The future of work is powered by community.

And it’s time to build yours.

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Ash @ Dreami

Avid outdoorswoman, engineer and founder of Dreami. On a mission to make mentorship accessible for all.