To my fellow Millennials,
I know it’s difficult entering into adulthood amidst constant political bickering, fluctuating demographics, economic uncertainty, and increased globalization. Here’s some quick tips for surviving it all.
1. Lose your ego. You don’t deserve to have one…yet.
We all read that GYPSY article that obliterated our perceived sense of self worth. Well it’s true…unless you’re a 20 year old super genius, you are not that special. To employers and admissions counselors, you are just another 20something with an overpriced degree. You might’ve studied in France for a semester, was a model UN delegate, or did a government internship… but so did a million other people.
As a 20something in 2014, you deserve NOTHING. You must work for EVERYTHING. At least at this stage of the game. Eventually, you’ll earn your boss status. But that takes more time and recognition than being student body president.
2. It’s never too early to get your life together.
Our culture coddles the child. It’s not until our third year in high school that we begin to vet colleges. At 18, we are cajoled into believing that it’s perfectly normal to not know what we want to study or what we want to be. This is the crux of the millennial detriment.
Upon entrance to university, have some idea about your professional and academic interests. Of course these interests can (and should) fluctuate, but to have absolutely no clue about your future puts you in the back of the pack. During your undergraduate studies (and in high school, really) investigate career paths. Build your resume. Develop bonds with professors. Take classes that inspire thinking.
3. Look at your student loans. Cry a little. Then get over it.
Student loans suck. But they’ll be with you for a longlonglong time. Might as well live with it. Instead of complaining to your FB friends about them, research programs that can alleviate some of the burden.
4. Develop close ties to your colleges’ job placement office.
These folks get the first scoop about available jobs. It’ll definitely help if they remember your face when that super awesome startup comes to your campus searching for the next Zuckerberg.
5. If you’re unemployed with a degree, your FIRST order of business is to get employed.
Yeah. That expensive degree won’t pay for itself.
6. If you’re unemployed with no degree, your FIRST order of business is to get a degree.
Whether it be an Associates, a Bachelors, or a Certificate of Completion…you need some educational paperwork. Unless you’re that super genius I talked about earlier.
7. Be appropriately picky about your job prospects.
The job market is hard, and bills need to be paid. But if you spent four years at Vanderbilt studying chemical engineering, don’t settle for your local Starbucks. Just saying.
8. Remember–the job market is changing.
If you have a degree, you’re basically qualified for most entry level positions. This means that employers are now looking for the right “fit” for their businesses. They gain this sense of you from your social media and your interview. So twerk to your heart’s desire… just don’t put it online.
9. If you are employed, appreciate that basic fact…no matter how much you hate your work.
Be grateful that you even secured employment in this current economy. There are millions of unemployed millennials struggling. Be glad you’re not one of them.
10. Have a side hustle.
A euphemism for “hustle” is project. Make sure that once you leave your 9 to 5, there is something beneficial to you that occupies your time. It doesn’t have to be the “NEXT BIG THING!!!!” like Facebook or Snapchat, but it should be something that you are passionate about. For me, it’s community organizing and writing. But that’s just me.
11. Read a book. Seriously. Read a book.
I need not list the benefits that come from reading books. If you don’t know what those benefits are, then the school system has severely failed you.
12. Learn how to converse. With a person, not a screen.
We’re all guilty of scrolling through our mobile devices while in the company of others. But enough is enough. Knowing how to actually TALK to people will get you much farther in life than how quickly you can like 30 Instagram photos.
13. The glass is always half full. Unless you have nothing in your glass…then that’s a problem.
Take a moment to realize your privileges and accomplishments instead of fretting over those goals you have not yet achieved. Unless you have no goals. Then get some. Quickly.
14. Limit your stupidity.
We’re exposed to a bunch of idiotic things; from reality TV to Twitter beefs, it’s easy to get distracted by the absurd. Sometimes, we use these outlets as stress relievers–and that’s okay. So long as there’s a limit. If you find yourself actively pursuing and internalizing such vices, then it’s time for some deep personal reflection.
15. STOP PROCRASTINATING.
16. Surround yourself with go-getters.
There’s truth to the saying “birds of a feather, flock together.” You’re bound to attract those with similar personality traits. Take a look at your closest friends… you’ll learn something about yourself.
17. Cut ties with people who do nothing for you.
You’re only as strong as your weakest link. If there is someone in your circle who is holding you back, then let them go. All too often, we cling to detrimental relationships that inspire no productive growth nor offer any intellectual insight. The desire to have friends should not trump the desire to succeed.
18. Plan ahead.
Draft a recurring 5-year plan that includes your professional, academic, and financial goals. Of course, this plan will change, but there should be some general core that you relentlessly build upon.
19. Engage with the world around you.
The world is globalizing rapidly. Place your foothold in the global interconnectedness that is truly unique to this time period. Learning another language is a good place to start.
20. Keep up with current events.
Know what’s going on. Know the names of your elected officials. Learn how government and business works. Read up on financial news and foreign policy. You don’t need to know everything about everything, but you do need to know enough about enough.
21. Appreciate your alone time.
It’s okay to have a night to yourself, reflecting on your personhood. These moments are invaluable to your personal development. People can be unnecessary distractions, inundating you with their issues. It’s super beneficial to take a step back from that. Turn off your phone, log out of our social media accounts, and enjoy your own company.
I originally published this piece on Thought Catalog.