Generation Y is the one faced with a unique set of challenges upon entering the real world. A college degree (or, two) doesn’t carry the weight that it once did, and it does not guarantee a high-paying job. We enter college as eager and enthusiastic 18-year-olds with every intention of emerging on the other side of a four-year degree with an offer for our dream job and a quick path to the American Dream. Instead, we complete our education with debt farther than the eye can see and a realization that we’ve acquired no major skills to help us navigate the dark and scary road ahead. We were under the impression that we spent the last 4 to 5 years preparing for this very moment, yet we couldn’t possibly feel less apt to handle the real world. This is a survival guide to make your transformation into an adult a little bit more manageable and a little less daunting.
The first, and perhaps the most important, step is to move on with your life. You’re not in college, anymore.
Deal with it
Life is no longer about body paint at football games and beer bongs at frat parties. College is a blast, but it’s over. It’s an enjoyable time in everyone’s life and is full of memories you’ll cherish forever and ones that you would like to forget. The worse thing that you can do is revel in the past. If you continue to act like a wild and drunken 20-something, you will not get taken seriously. You can still have fun. You can still party. You just have to appear intellectual, classy, and responsible while doing so.
Monitor your social media presence.
Your social media image is everything. In your younger years, posting pictures of yourself doing keg stands or dressing up as a slutty Life Saver for Halloween is acceptable and, in fact, encouraged. In the real world, simply posting a picture of yourself holding a red solo cup is grounds to get fired.
Clean up your Facebook page.
Edit your tweets.
The content on one of these mediums could be the difference between you getting a great job offer or getting slipped to the bottom of the stack of applicants. Make sure that your various profiles demonstrate a working professional and not a professional partier. Keep in mind that future and current employers inspect these pages to determine whether you have what it takes.
This also goes for potential boyfriends and girlfriends. One of the first things we do when we meet someone new is check out their Facebook page to get a feel for who they are. If someone is seeking a person that is focused, driven, and career-minded they may be turned off by photos or statuses suggesting that the person is not quite ready to grow up.
Budget your money and monitor your finances.
If you are one of the lucky ones that land a decent paying job in your 20s, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of having an inflow of a significant amount of cash for the first time in your life. There is something invigorating about making your own money. This invigoration can often lead to excessive and illogical spending. As soon as you acquire a consistent salary, start planning ahead and begin saving.
Open a savings account.
Get a credit card.
Getting a credit card helps you begin building credit, something that will pay off down the road when you’re ready to purchase a car or a home. Start putting money away each month in a savings account. It is always good to have a sum of money on reserve for any emergencies that may arise. You are also at a point in your life when you need to start building a good financial base. Always spend less than you are making and avoid taking on more debt.
Work your ass off.
It is unlikely that your first job offer will be your dream job of all dream jobs. You arrive at the career you desire most by making a name for yourself and creating connections along the way. Build your reputation on your work ethic and devotion to the job.
Do the grunt work.
The people that you work for and work with will be the ones in charge of writing references and recommendations for promotions or new positions. Work hard now so that you can get where you want to be and do the things that you want do, later. Do the jobs that nobody else wants to do. Volunteer to take on extra assignments. Build a reputation for being the hardest worker. Hard work trumps natural ability. Be willing to start at the bottom and work your way to the top.
Give yourself time to discover exactly who you are and precisely what you want out of life. Let these discoveries guide your decisions.
Find your passion.
Previous generations faced the pressures set by social expectations. Women were expected to get married, have children and take on the role of full time caregiver. Men were expected to find a wife and get a job that allowed them to provide for their family. Over the last several decades, things have greatly shifted. This shift resulted in a generation with choices. People are staying in school longer and getting married later. Take your time. Find out what your passion is and seek a career in something that you love. Loving what you do every day creates an environment where you are most likely to be successful, happy, and fulfilled.
Don’t be in a rush to figure everything out. You don’t have to have all of the answers, right now. In fact, you may never have all of the answers. Give yourself time to discover exactly who you are and precisely what you want out of life. Let these discoveries guide your decisions. Be patient. Wait. Wait until you land your dream job to stop looking. Wait until you feel at home before you stop moving. Wait until the perfect partner sweeps you off your feet before you settle down. There is no deadline for figuring out all of these things. The timeline is different for everyone. Let yours play out the way in which it was meant.
Growing up is not easy. Increased responsibilities, commitments, and expectations can overwhelm even the most prepared individual. This is a list of things that every young person in their 20s should be told before setting out to find themselves. It is up to you to find your own way, but this is a road map that will help you get there.