What I'm Reading: ‘The Quarter-Life Breakthrough’

Jana A. Hirsch
January 22, 2017

Adam Smiley Poswolsky’s The Quarter-Life Breakthrough: Invent Your Own Path, Find Meaningful Work, and Build a Life That Matters (TarcherPerigee, 2016) smashes the age-old question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" by asking readers to assess their gifts, purpose, desired impact, and supportive community.

The world, both within and beyond academe, is shifting. Many of today’s students will be employed in jobs that don’t exist yet. It is daunting to teach within this setting — to facilitate students’ flexibility, creativity, and goals. Mr. Poswolsky’s book, which is filled with stories about individuals’ paths and dotted with practical exercises, is a welcome way to approach and discuss meaningful work with your students and mentees.

As hard as it may be for us to guide students through the various graduate-school, faculty-search, and academic paths that are now behind us, it is harder to help them navigate, climb, explore, and stumble along a route we’ve never seen. Despite (or maybe because of) these challenges, we have a responsibility to encourage students to find meaningful work on any path — even one we didn’t build.

Jana A. Hirsch is an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina at Columbia.