My 20’s – evokes memories of fun, excitement, many firsts such as the first real job, getting engaged, first home and many others. A time full of hope and ambition and at times directionless decision making! The time when I followed the herd and made career decisions based on what other’s were doing and what was ‘expected’ of me rather than what truly made sense to me!
In hindsight, I’ve learnt the hard way and wish I had known the following in my 20’s!
1. Stability And Guaranteed Income May Matter, It Pales In Comparison To Finding Professional Fulfillment
At the time and place I grew in, it was a given that we youngsters would choose either an engineering or a medical profession. The focus was more on long term stability and guaranteed income as provided by these professions. Therefore by default, the majority of us chose our educational degrees to align to those careers.
What I’ve now learnt is, as much as stability and guaranteed income may matter, it pales in comparison to finding professional fulfillment. More than 70% of the workforce today is burnt out and unhappy with their jobs. As a career coach, I get the opportunity to talk to a lot of unhappy people. In most cases, it turns out that their unhappiness is due to misaligned priorities. We spend a significant amount of our waking time at work. Therefore, the focus should be on feeling happy and fulfilled at work and not on chasing fancy titles and the money. Luckily enough, when our priorities are right, those fancy titles and monetary benefits do fall in place too!!
2. When We Are Interested In Something, We Do A Much Better Job At It Than When We Are Not
In our 20’s some of us sideline our interests. We believe that our interests in art or music or anything else is just an interest and should be pursued as a hobby. And we need to get a real job to sustain ourselves.
What I’ve learnt is that our interests are our portal to finding fulfilling work. When we are interested in something, we do a much better job at it than when we are not. We put our best foot forward. We feel good about doing something that interests us. The key is not to be married to the idea of sustaining ourselves through our exact interest. So for example: if you are keenly interested in music and are a decent singer as well, becoming a sought-after singer is not your ONLY choice! Instead you have various other career choices in the music industry! Most people often forget this and completely give up on their area of interest and then find themselves in unfulfilling jobs.
3. I Thought My Career Would Progress Naturally
When I picked an engineering degree to pursue and landed my first job as an IT professional, the assumed path was to progress through the traditional ladder – analyst, manager, Sr.manager, director, VP and so on. I never spoke to anyone at those levels or for that matter even to anyone at the entry level position I had landed in! I had no plan or goal as such and assumed my career would progress naturally.
What I’ve learnt is – it is important to plan our careers. Having something to strive towards, helps us seek guidance and direction and create a path for us to tread on. Of course, our plans may never materialize at times or we may change our direction as we gain more clarity. That is perfectly fine and expected. When you reach that juncture in your journey, change your destination and create a new plan to get your there!
4. Never Settle In Bad Workplaces And Bad Bosses. Take A Leap Of Faith And Move Out Of There.
In my 20’s I accepted situations without questioning it. If I was subject to unfair treatment at work, I felt bad about it but never questioned it. When my boss remarked that I was taking a half-day when I left work at 5.30 PM having arrived at 8 AM, I accepted it. When an earlier job required me to travel extensively to unsafe locations, I accepted it. I convinced myself those are my best options and that there is nothing better out there for me. I ignored those warning signs at first, that told me to RUN from those places and bosses. But once I did it, I realized the umpteen options that were out there!
What I’ve learnt now is to never settle in bad workplaces and bad bosses. Take a leap of faith and move out of there. To put it simply, it is just not worth your time! and progression does not necessarily happen in these situations.
5. Complacency Is Our Worst Enemy
In my 20’s, I did not meet many game-changers or people who had broken societal norms and created their own paths. In my myopic view of the world, I happily accepted that you get a job in a standard industry and stayed there forever. I assumed that complacency is the way to go as was evident all around me.
What I’ve learnt is to be a rule-breaker! Always challenge yourself and seek out game-changers, if you believe you are not one. Learn from them and see how they challenge the status quo in their careers. Complacency is our worst enemy.