I think sometimes when you get so caught up in your own life with stresses and commitments and deadlines and responsibilities it is so easy to forget all the good you have going on and just how far you’ve come.
The other month I wrote my first career-oriented post. Compiling it and reading it (and re-reading it!) left me feeling inspired and really empowered by all these awesome people that have come into my life because of both work and school. Composing it felt really nice. Really rewarding. So I wanted to keep that feeling going!
I know many of you are in college or have just graduated and are wondering “what’s next?” or “is this all there is?” And even I , at 30 years old, am still attempting to navigate what it is that would help me seek more balance and feel more fulfilled but I know how much I have learned in my last decade since I was 20 years old worried about entering the workforce, getting an apartment, making an impressions…and so much more!
So today I’m excited to share some moving and powerful lessons from some of the best gals I know. I asked them simply “What advice would you give your 20 year old self?”
And here’s what they revealed…
Julia Dzafic | Nourish Snacks Marketing Director
I would tell my 20-year old self to be patient and strategic. Instead of taking the first job offer that comes my way, I would wait to find something in the industry I’m interested in with a job that makes me excited to go to work every day. My second piece of advice would be to work as hard as possible while you’re still young. Entry-level jobs are not going to be glamorous or necessarily exciting but if you’re in the right place and you hustle, you’ll move up before you know it. It might feel annoying to have to stay at the office until 8pm while your friends are out drinking but, at the end of the day, the people who put in the effort from day one, are the ones who get noticed. My last piece of advice is despite your hard work, keep a work/life balance. Try to really leave work drama at the office and spend time dating, hanging out with friends, and doing what makes you happy on your off hours. Your early 20s are some of the most exciting years of your life, don’t let them slip by without a little fun!
Jessie Artigue | Lifestyle Expert and Style + Pepper Author
Any time you feel shoved into a creative corner or stuck in a job you don’t love, remember that those are the seasons you can spend learning as much as possible about what you would really LOVE to do. Looking back on my own journey, I can see that the soul-sucking moments taught me so much about patience, and many of those positions taught me practical things that I now use in my day-to-day work — I might not have learned them otherwise, and I probably would not be able to relate quite as well to the young women that I mentor through my Pepperologie approach!
Erin Kunse | YouTube Business Development Manager
Take a year to travel or do some volunteering! Figure out things that you love to do and things that you don’t! You have the rest of your life to work! I currently love what I do, but there will always be a part of me that wishes that I took a year off between graduating college and finding a job.
Christine White | NARS Global Communications Director
Have a presence, a strong dose of common sense and do every task with a smile. You want people to notice you – for all the right reasons. Poise, confidence, and a strong sense of your environment are key to really flourishing in your industry. Common sense. I cannot stress this enough. You don’t have to have all the answers, employers know you won’t. But knowing how to be resourceful will get you where you want to go faster than having a long list of fancy internships where all you did was get coffee. (Even though, that can also be an inadvertent learning experience as well.) Millennials have a notorious bad rap for being overzealous and entitled. While there may be some truth to that statement, it is because this generation does have the unique advantage of choice and opportunity that many of their predecessors did not. However, I will say that every task you are handed will teach you something – whether you realize it in the moment or not. I spent many years sitting on the floor packing press mailings and it taught me a lot about organization, attention to detail and presence. A positive attitude is truly, truly such a breath of fresh air in an often jaded workplace.
Julienne Shaw | Bonobos General Manager
I would tell myself to slow down, stop comparing myself to others, and just focus on the present. Take every opportunity to build relationships and never burn bridges. The people you meet and work with in your 20s may be the most important people who can help you in your career many years down the road. Oh and wear SPF every day, too!
Jordan Crary | Box Executive Innovation Center Specialist
You don’t have to have it all figured out in a perfectly minted, five year plan. Embrace the unexpected.
Enjoy the ride and understand your work experience will lead you to new companies, people, ideas and work styles that will influence your career. Find ways to destress and know you’re doing the best you can. Remember that experience in any job helps you narrow down what you like and don’t like to do. From there you can keep refining and find a role that you feel best suited for. It took me a long time to realize I liked being in a more supporting role or enabling others to be successful than being the one leading the charge, and that it was ok! I’ve realized taking time to think about your goals, prioritizing brainstorming for big ideas and making it a point to think more deeply about your job and what you like to do is important.
Kiley Stenberg | Miansai Account Executive & Blogger
I’d tell myself to not worry and not overthink. Big worries during that time in your life often include grades, school stress, internships, jobs, etc, but as I’ve learned over the past 10 years, those things don’t always make or break your future. Doing well in school is important but it’s a mix of things together that really set you up for success and happiness down the line – following your heart and trusting your gut with exploring the things you are interested in, not worrying about what others think or try to influence you to do, dabbling in a variety of interests and activities to expose yourself to new things, ideas, and people. It’s so cliche, but follow your heart and gut – they so rarely lead you in a wrong direction. Finally – enjoy those fun years that let you dabble around, exploring the things you love! It’s a special, really cool time in your life that passes way too fast.
Megan Raimondi-Musser | Licensed Social Worker/Advocate, Rape Crisis Center
Do a little more research before jumping into a job or field! Network, ask questions, shadow, explore the possibilities of work within an area before committing to that area.
In social work, a lot of people told me that I had to go to graduate school before I would be able to find a job, so after a year of volunteering abroad, I did just that. I didn’t know what area of social work I wanted to do, I just knew I wanted to accompany others and work to make life a little better for people in hard times. I thought graduate school would help me figure it all out. But graduate school is expensive and takes up two years of your life. And while I learned a lot in graduate school, not having a more narrow focus of work within my education caused me to flounder a bit. But I know now it’s not just my education that makes me good at my job- it’s my experience, empathy, and love for others- which I learned (and am still learning) in life, not in a classroom. Additionally, when offered a job, ASK QUESTIONS. Make sure that you are a good fit for the job AND that the job is a good fit for you. Let them interview you, but remember that you should be interviewing them, too. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and make sure you end up somewhere you want to be. Figure that out, as much as you can, before you accept. You and the agency and the people with whom you work will be better for it.
(I’d also tell myself to read more, stress less about school, trust myself, say “YES!” to more adventures, thank my parents more often, be more grateful, and hug my roommates all the time- I miss that special community now that life and adulthood has taken me to marriage and different homes around the country!).
Katherine Lacy | Undertone Senior Client Services Manager
Be resourceful! I graduated college in 2009, at a time when it felt like no one was hiring. After a month or so I had to get creative with my job search and hesitantly I turned to Twitter. I ended up finding someone who was looking for an intern, they hired me full time, and six years later I’m still here. Just because something isn’t the “standard process” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t test it out! Also, take time to think about what you love to do in your free time. I always loved design/arts & crafts when I was a kid (still do!), but there wasn’t a college course for me to take. That’s OK! If there’s a class that teaches you something you are passionate about, all the better. If not, find an activity you can participate in. I look back and wish I’d gotten involved in set design, layout team for the school paper, or the recruitment design team in my sorority. When it comes time for interviewing, the passion and experiences you have will shine through!
Grace Atwood | The Stripe Founder & Editor
Learn everything possible in the role you are in now. Five years from now you will probably be doing something totally different, but the skills you learn today will still come in handy! Also, just work hard and be nice. That’s really the key to everything!
[Image via The Everygirl]