Being a young twenty-something in today’s world is tough. We glorify our college days – rich with irresponsibility and spur-of-the-moment fun. And then our late twenties – successful, trendy happy hours with friends and kudos at important meetings. But what happens to the time in between?
No one tells you – including your parents – that you might spend your first few years in the real world barely making rent, working 12-hour days or crying in the bathroom once a week. And that’s okay. It’s part of life.
Now that I’m closer to 30 than I am to 20, though, I look back on those years of my life with feelings of endearment. Sure, there were hard times. But there were also eye-opening experiences that became a big part of me coming into adulthood.
One of my favorite parts of my job is getting to mentor people younger than me. Whether they like it or not, I’m a fountain of advice — here are some of my favorites.
1. You’re not the boss. And you probably won’t be for awhile. I remember feeling so frustrated at 23 years old, because all I was ever told was what to do. I was bossed around by the girl above me, and then the woman above her, and the woman above her. Life can be frustrating when you’re at the bottom of the food chain, but I also quickly learned that it’s a great opportunity to shine.
The first 18 – 22 years of our lives are filled with instant gratification – report cards in school, tournaments in sports and even school elections like student council or homecoming court. The real world can be a tough adjustment when you realize it’ll be years until you get to the top (assuming you do.) But there’s a reason your boss has five, 10 or even 15 years of experience. There are probably things they’ve been through that you may never go through – fire drills, terrible bosses, maybe even a firing or layoff. Give yourself time to collect that experience, too.
2. Be resourceful, but also unafraid to ask questions. Today, it’s very trendy for executives to say they have an “open door policy.” What that really means is, if you’re going to come in my office and ask me a question, it better be something you couldn’t answer on your own.
The best skill you can acquire in your young years is being resourceful. The more you can anticipate questions or issues and address them on your own, the more your superiors will instantly see you as working above your level.
But with that said, when something does really baffle you, and when you’ve searched high and low but can’t find an answer, don’t be afraid to ask. It may be something someone forgot to tell you, or even a bigger question your superior may also want to uncover.
3. Sometimes you’re going to be just plain wrong. And that’s okay. Sure, you’ll make mistakes. They’re inevitable – even for the most buttoned up people. But other times, you’ll truly believe you’re doing something right, and it will still be wrong. Maybe it’ll be your fault, maybe it’ll be someone else’s. But the very worst thing you can do is get defensive. No one wants someone below them giving them a sassy response full of excuses – they want a solution.
This was super hard for me when I first started out. I tend to get defensive because I truly believe in everything I do. But the more you become unafraid to face mistakes or errors or people calling you out, and accept it and move on, the stronger and more empowered you’ll feel. I learned early on that I had to pick my battles – and I couldn’t win on everything.
And most of all? Don’t take life too seriously. Tomorrow is always another day, and another chance to kick ass.