Our twenties are for experimenting, exploring different jobs, and discovering what fulfills us. My professor warned against graduate school, asserting, “you’re not fully formed yet. You don’t know if it’s what you really want to do with your life because you haven’t tried enough things…And if you rush into something you’re unsure about, you might awake midlife with a crisis on your hands.”
~Straight Up and Dirty by Stephanie Klein
This year marks a decade since I graduated college. Some college kids have their whole lives mapped out and already know what they want to do and have secured internships that will get them well on their way. Not me. I had just had a baby, then decided to move halfway across the country. I had to find a place to live, then a job, stat. I started with just a job, not a career. I didn’t launch into a career right away. The truth is, I didn’t know what it is I wanted to do yet. I had a degree in English, which is notorious for not helping you land a career. I had passions, but none of them fell into the “paying gig” category.
So I took the first job I could get, back in a restaurant, which is what I had been doing during college. I just did restaurants for the first four months in Nebraska. Then, my friend said he could get me an interview at the place he worked. I decided it was time to get a real resume put together, so I interviewed and took the job. It wasn’t glamorous – it was selling oversize truck permits over the phone. While working there, that friend of mine proposed to me and we got married. We decided to move so he could work at a job more in line with what he wanted to do.
So I was just applying for anything in the area. I applied and interviewed everywhere from a construction office for a clerical job to a country club. In the end, I took a job in customer service for dental insurance. No, it certainly wasn’t a passion of mine. But in the year we were there, I did decide it was time I found a career. It wasn’t that cute anymore to be aimless. I was a married woman and should have some ground underneath my feet. At the call center, I thought about if there was any kind of job there I would like. There were only two: training and human resources.
After Steve’s one-year contract was up, we decided to move back to Omaha. So I found myself searching for a job again. This time, I focused my job search just on what was listed under Human Resources. Surprisingly, I had already completed a phone interview and had an in-person interview scheduled before we even made it back to Omaha. It was for a staffing agency, which is entry-level HR. I had no experience, sure, and the owner made it very clear to me in the interview that she felt sure she was wasting her time even meeting with me. But I fought. I told her why I would be a good hire and that despite my lack of experience, I would excel. I told her when I try at something, I go all in. She did hire me. I got my start there at the staffing agency where I put in my “pound of flesh” and learned a lot in a little period of time. And I learned I liked it enough to stay in the field. If I hadn’t, I would have tried something else.
I think there is a lot of pressure on 22-year-old college graduates to have their whole lives planned out already. I also think it is ridiculous to expect that of any 22-year-old. Don’t you remember being 22? The worrying was about beer and rent money and dating – not about 401K and health insurance yet. If you’re 22 and you’re reading this, I say think about a job you might like. Get into an entry-level version of that. It’s not as easy as it sounds, I know. You have to fight for it. There is plenty of competition out there. Set yourself apart. Ask people you know about jobs like that they might know. Get someone with a good resume to look over and tweak your resume. Post it on resume sharing sites (ie: The Ladders). Go to interviews. Take the interviews seriously and don’t act like any job is beneath you. The fact is, if a job you take in your twenties ends you up one day in the career you’ve always dreamed of, the unglamorous job duties will all be worth it. If you find you don’t like what you’ve gotten yourself into, start over. Think of another job you might like. Try that one. Repeat if necessary. It’s OK to try things while you’re discovering what it is you do and don’t like. But don’t let that turn into a lifestyle, because being aimless isn’t cute anymore in your thirties.