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10 Invaluable Life Lessons For Every 20-Something

10 Invaluable Life Lessons For Every 20-Something

When you were a kid, you probably imagined what life would be like when you were finally done with school, living on your own, and earning your own money. Chances are you imagine it being a bit more fun than the reality — what’s with all of these bills that keep coming in, anyway?

The truth is, your 20s are often touted as the best time of your life, but quite a few people would take exception to that. Trying to figure out your career, money, relationships, and all of the other things that come with adulthood is enough to make you want to crawl back into your childhood bed and pull the covers over your head. The good news is that you will get through it, though, and if you keep a few pieces of advice in mind, your 20s actually can be the best time of your life. Really.

1. Take Your Career Seriously

“I’m keeping my options open.” How many times have you heard that? Or are you saying it yourself, as you bounce from job to job — or taking low-paying gigs — while you look for the next perfect opportunity? While on the one hand, your 20s is the time to try new things and figure out what you want to do when you “grow up,” it’s also when you’re building the foundation for your career going forward.

Author Meg Jay notes that your 20s are a defining period, since about 70 percent of wage growth happens in the first 10 years of your career. Now is the time to get serious and find the best job that you can. It also means putting in the time to expand your career options; for example, if you’ve decided on a career in nursing, now is the time to get that advanced degree to increase your earning power going forward and your attractiveness to employers.

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2. Your Relationships Will Change — And That’s Okay

Your life and priorities are changing — and so are your friends. People are focusing on their careers, getting married, and (gasp!) having babies. As you move through your 20s, relationships will change, and you’ll probably see your circle of friends shrink. The good news, though, is that the friends you stay closest to are usually really great friends.

Writer Katie Racine calls this the “natural exodus” of friendship in your 20s, and it happens to everyone. So keep in touch with your old friends, but be open to new relationships — ones that don’t revolve around late-night keg parties and final exams.

3. Your Health Is Important — Guard It

It’s easy to think you’re invincible when you’re in your 20s. Many of the health issues that plague older people haven’t taken hold yet — late nights out don’t require several days to recover. But what you do now can prevent serious issues down the road. Not to mention, now that you’re responsible for paying for your own health care, you want to keep those costs down. That means doing your best to eat a healthy diet, making exercise a part of your life, and getting to know your doctor.

The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that 20-somethings see a doctor to get baseline measurements of their health to both identify potential problems in the future, and build a relationship with him or her, so you can feel comfortable getting help when you need it later.

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4. Save for Retirement

When your salary isn’t that high, the idea of saving money for 50 years from now might feel low on the priority list. Even just 5 percent of your salary feels like a big chunk of change — one that could be spent on a better apartment or car. But consider this: Starting at age 23, even if you put as little as $60 per pay period into a 401(k), by the time you retire at age 65, you could have more than $350,000.

That’s not even considering an employer match, which is essentially free money. If you start putting money away from your first paycheck, you won’t miss it, so just do it. When you’re living a life of leisure when you are 70, you’ll thank your 23-year-old self.

5. Be Confident and Audacious

When everything seems to be changing, it’s easy to second-guess yourself. Yes, the decisions you make now are important — and some even form the foundation of the rest of your life. But very few mistakes you’ll make now can’t be undone, and as the saying goes, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.

So be confident, and even a little bit audacious, in your decisions and actions. If something doesn’t work out, or you’re criticized, it doesn’t mean the end of the world. Learn from the experience and move forward.

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6. Learn to Accept Rejection

Speaking of learning experiences, rejection sucks. Whether it’s the “thanks, but no thanks” from your dream job, or the “It’s not you, it’s me,” from a date, being rejected stings. It can shake your confidence and make you think, “What’s wrong with me?”

According to author Ellen Goodlett, though, rejection is a good thing. She believes that we should use rejection as a chance to learn — maybe that lost job opportunity is a sign to brush up on certain skills? — and as motivation to keep looking for the right fit. Rejection isn’t always entirely about you, and when you maintain your positive attitude and don’t dwell, you’ll bounce back.

7. Ask for Help When You Need It

Being confident is one thing — being arrogant is something else entirely. Know what you don’t know, and ask for help when you need it. This doesn’t mean hitting up mom and dad for cash every time you run a little low, but getting advice from people who have been in your shoes and who can help you make good decisions.

A financial advisor isn’t just for people with millions in the banks — a good one can help you establish a budget, pay off debt, and plan for retirement. Feeling overwhelmed or depressed? Use your hard-earned health benefits to see a therapist, who can help you feel better.

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8. Live Cheaply Now — You Can Upgrade Later

Now that you have a paycheck, it’s tempting to buy everything you want, but couldn’t afford before. Before you go on a spending spree, though, consider the words of entrepreneur Mark Cuban: “The more you stress over bills, the more difficult it is to focus on your goals. The cheaper you can live, the greater your options.”

If you spend your 20s getting your financial house in order — paying off student loans and credit cards from college, building your retirement fund, getting an emergency fund established — you’ll be in a better position to upgrade your lifestyle later on.

9. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Thanks to social media, it’s easy to think that your friends are all out leading fabulous lives. They all have perfectly lit, Instagrammed images of exotic vacations and gourmet meals, status updates about how #blessed they are, and tweets about great promotions. While you’re toiling away and barely making ends meet, seeing these things can feel discouraging — and lead you to make decisions that have lasting repercussions on your finances and future (see #7).

Studies show that social media can actually have a negative effect on our happiness, particularly because we’re comparing our lives to others and feeling “less than.” Remember that most people only share the best parts of themselves and the coolest things online, and that taking a vacation doesn’t mean their lives are great. Not to mention, there’s a good chance that others are comparing themselves to your great life — so run your own race and don’t let others steal your joy.

10. It’s Okay to Not Have It All Figured Out

Guess what? No one really expects you to have everything all figured out at this point — in fact, many people spend most of their lives working on themselves and trying to reach their goals. So if you don’t have the corner office by 25 and the perfect family Christmas card by 28, it’s okay. Enjoy the ride, try new things, and know that by the time there are 30 candles on your birthday cake, you’ll have a better grip on this thing called “adulthood.”

Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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