Inspiration · Quarter Life Crisis · Underemployment

The Quarter-Life Crisis: On Criticism

Here’s one of my dream workplaces – unfortunately, freshwater biology is not really a go at the moment.

This is for those of you who have tried, and continue, to search for employment in your field – or who have made a significant choice that differs from those around you – or are trying your hardest to take that next step into adulthood. You’ll know what I mean when I say that criticism, no matter how well-intended, can hurt. It’s often the most difficult thing to stand-by and take-in.

Our self-worth is tied up in our choices. When you make a choice that’s not immediately profitable your self-doubt is already brewing. When the other voices in our lives decide to add in their say – well that’s when things just become overwhelming. And I’m not just speaking for myself here. I see it over and over in young adults. We’re trying so hard to make our way, yet being met with disappointment and impatience.

Is it possible to detach from the sting of criticism? I like to believe that it is, to some extent. For me, it’s all about reminding myself of the following:

  • The person speaking doesn’t necessarily have the right background to understand the complex decisions that have been made and the position that you’re in. So either inform them, or stand by and let them speak of things they don’t understand.
  • When an individual sees you using your computer or preparing for a job interview, it doesn’t necessarily occur to them that you’re working on something. Since many people use the computer exclusively for Facebook and the occasional email, it’s hard for them to imagine that you’re not doing that too.
  • Some people just need to speak their opinion. Remember it’s only an opinion!
  • Things have changed, whether we want to believe it or not. Contract jobs are becoming the new full-time permanent, and unpaid internships are practically a necessity if you intend to break into many fields. Rather than whine about the changes, accept them and be ready to explain how this is just one more step towards your goal.
  • Consider asking the criticizer for a contact – if they are in fact knowledgeable about your sector – and see if you can put your networking skills to use.
  • Ask them for advice instead of straight criticism. I’m not saying that you have to (or should even consider) take their advice, but at least it’s not criticism.

This is by no means an exclusive list, but provides a starting point. You’re always going to be met with criticism somewhere, so learning to take it in stride early on will help you in many situations to come.

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One thought on “The Quarter-Life Crisis: On Criticism

  1. Have you ever gotten criticism on your personality disguised as advice from someone in your field? I wasn’t sure how to answer them. I’ve mostly shrugged it off because I figured that I’ve already spent 25 years trying to be someone else and it made me miserable. Would you change who you are for a job you think you want?

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