There’s a lot of things we 20-somethings hear all the time. Mostly, they’re questions. “What are you doing once you graduate?” “When are you getting married?” “Don’t you think you’re a little young to be having kids?” “Well, don’t you want to ‘play the field’ before settling down?” “You really don’t know what you’re doing after graduation?”
20’s are awkward. It was just a little bit ago that we were teenagers and being told certain things are for “adults”. Suddenly, adulthood is here! It comes running into our lives and we have absolutely no idea what to do with it. For a few years, it’s that awkward friend that follows you everywhere, until you realize that it’s not leaving any time soon. Then, panic sets in. You feel like you’re doing nothing with your life. You have plans, but you’re not sure how to make them happen or if they’re going to work or what you’re going to do if they don’t. You feel like everyone’s eyes are on you, waiting for the slip so they can give you patronizing, unsolicited advice.
I’m here to tell you, it’s going to be okay. Take a breather for a couple minutes and allow this piece to sink in. Here are 5 things that 20-somethings need to hear:
1. You don’t need to have it “figured out”. Anybody who says they do are big, fat liars.
For some reason, we jump out of college years expecting everything to be one straight and easy road. We expect at least a mid-range salary and to conquer tax season like a pro. However, when this isn’t the case, we feel like utter failures and complete losers. It looks like everyone else has it together, so why don’t you? This is a lie. While it may look like everyone else knows what direction they’re heading, they don’t. They may be heading a direction, but aren’t sure if that’s the one they want to go. Here’s the deal: you’re young. Pick a path. If you discover it’s not for you, make a U-turn. Even people in the 40s and 50s may not have it all figured out. Guesswork is part of life.
2. You’re going to fail a lot. Get used to it.
Being in your 20’s is a lot like learning to ice skate. You’re going to fall on your ass and it’s going to hurt. Not to mention, it will probably be in front of people. That’s fine. Eventually, you’ll get so used to slipping that it becomes humorous instead of another tragedy. We have it in our heads that we’re not supposed to fall. Falling means we’ll never get back up and we just let everybody down. I want you to look at something before deciding that this failure is fatal: look up what some of the great leaders of our time were doing in their 20s. Most of them were broke, unsure, and trying to get a grip on life. This is not the end. Get back up.
3. Your age is not a limitation to your abilities.
Millennials face a lot of cynicism from other generations. While some of their critiques may be warranted, we have to remember that when they were our age, the generation before them said the same things: entitled, lazy, etc. It’s not new. When you go out onto the job market as a fresh grad, most people are probably going to assume that you’re stupid and have no idea what you’re doing. This is typical. It’s not an actual reflection of your capabilities, but you have to realize that you’re not as credible of a source as someone who has 20 more years of experience than you do. These things take time. During this time, focus on honing your skill set and knocking your goals out of the park, not whether or not you can get a corner office instead of coffee for your boss.
4. More school is not the answer. Get out there and work.
If you want to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a teacher, by all means, go to the grad schools. However, getting a PhD in Communications or an MBA because you need to stall so you can figure out your career path is a very bad idea. Not only are you throwing away money, you’re also throwing away 1-5 years time that you can use to get experience on the field instead. A prestigious degree and no experience doesn’t stand a chance against another candidate who has the experience sans degree. Be smart. Ditch the debt and get to work.
5. Stop taking yourself so seriously.
There seems to be a lot of pressure to be on top of your competition the second you graduate. Not only that, there’s pressure to get married, have a career, and get your kids in check all before 30. Nobody is holding a gun to your head saying, “If you don’t put a down payment on this house before 28, you’ve failed your entire family”. Your 20s are meant to be fun! You have many years ahead of you. Yes, “hustling” is important, but so is building up your health and memories. Work hard, play hard, my friend.