I turn 30 this year. I know I’m getting pretty old huh (cue the eye roll). On a serious note though, I have been reflecting on my past and what I have accomplished in life so far.
I know I am not truly “old” and by any means I am not trying to convey life-long wisdom, but I think as you reach certain ages and milestones, that it is good to reflect on your past so you can plan and look forward to the future. I do not have any regrets, but I think there is some advice I would share with my stubborn 22-year old self who has just graduated from college.
1. Have Direction and Take Direction
When you first graduate, it brings anxiety and excitement. You’re excited for the next step in your life and there seems to be endless opportunities. And with that comes anxiety to look for a job, make money, and find your place in the world. My advice is to connect and talk to as many people as possible. As a recent grad with “no real-world experience” you need to be able to sell yourself and your strengths to hiring managers.
Do not expect to have anything given to you. You will set yourself up for failure if you do not have realistic expectations around your search. It’s a nice thought and a realistic long-term goal, but unfortunately the $150k salary is not going to happen in your first year. Figure out what you like and what interests you and pursue that. Be flexible and see what’s out there. Talk to people who are in the profession that you are interested in. Ask them about their day-to-day, the good and the bad, if they enjoy the career, and anything that concerns you.
If you’re interested in a certain company, be willing to get in on the ground floor with the ability to move upward and onward. This is a time for you to test the waters and figure out what you like…and what you don’t like. You don’t need to have it all figured out right now, but have a starting point and some direction. No success story was made over night.
2. Work Like Someone is Trying to Take it Away From You
This is important. Your 20s are a great time to really enjoy life. You are making some money, traveling, hanging out with friends, and maybe even still living at home and not paying a mortgage yet. Enjoy this time. Have great experiences and memories. Life is meant to be enjoyed.
Have goals, and more importantly have perspective. You control your future, and can make it what you want. Be willing to work for it. If you want to be the top sales rep in your office, buy a house, or go on a vacation, be ready to make it real. Come in early, stay late, and work like someone is trying to take it all away from you. Life doesn’t have to be work and work doesn’t have to be life, but no one in history has ever regretted being successful. This time in your life gives you just that…the luxury of time. This is the greatest foundation for your future. Don’t leave it to chance. Don’t be afraid to fail but don’t let fear of failure stop you from achieving your goals.
3. Have a Budget…and Stick to It
This is a tough one, still today, and probably in the future. Money may come and go throughout life and is by no means an indicator of happiness, but it will enable you to do the things that add to your happiness. The best advice I have received myself is to “live below your means.” This way you won’t find yourself spending more than you can afford. I know that debt is no fun and can feel like a hole that keeps getting deeper and deeper.
And when I say budget, I don’t mean don’t spend money or do the things that make you happy, but rather have money set aside to do those things. If you want to buy a house or a boat, save accordingly. You want to go on two vacations every year, put money away each week. You want to pay off college debt, pay as much of it as you can each month.
Time and money seem to be some of the biggest motivators and stressors in life, mainly because they can appear inconsistent. Choose how you want to perceive them. You by no means have to be Scrooge and sit on your fortunes, but rather use both your time and money in a way that you have no regrets.
With all that being said, most of this advice isn’t just self-taught, but has been imparted on me by others. Maybe my 22-yeard old self has already heard all of this advice, but never really listened, but luckily he has learned it along the way by surrounding himself with hard working and motivated people in his life.