One of the hardest things for GenY is to grasp is how to actually sit down and choose a direction.
And so we waffle and jump from job to job. In my personal (and humble?) opinion, we should be spending more time interviewing people from various industries, reading career books and actually doing trying things, traveling the world, apprenticing, etc. Sitting around and whining that we don’t love our jobs isn’t enough.
Here are four things you can actually do right now to figure out the next step in your life:
I know, I know. It’s a bit of a stereotype, isn’t it? 20-something gets job post college. 20-something quits job after a few months. 20-something packs bags and goes somewhere like Thailand or Germany and fucks around for a year.
But I can’t emphasize enough the benefits of travel for figuring out what you want from life. I’ve lived in three countries in the past year-and-a-half, and during that time I’ve learned more about the world and myself and what I want to do long-term than I ever did at my plush Manhattan PR gig, while waiting for something to happen to me.
Travel opens your mind to possibilities. It takes you outside of your comfort zone, helps you appreciate what you have at home, or, on the flip side, helps you discover an alternative, expat lifestyle.
So what are you waiting for?
2. Work an internship
Not getting paid for work is a bit of a joke. Even if you’re making coffee or filing all day, just because it’s called an “internship” instead of “bitch work” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get paid.
HOWEVER. The beauty of internships is that they can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. There’s not a ton of commitment involved, and it allows you to try lots of new things without making a long-term investment with one company. Through internships, you can meet and talk to people honestly from various industries, pick up a few solid skills and learn whether or not you want to actually pursue a career in that field.
For those of you whining that internships are almost as hard to get as real jobs, don’t forget that internships don’t have to be “prestigious” to be beneficial. Tons of startups, websites, freelancers and family-owned businesses would eat their right arm for an intern and will be just as accommodating and useful to your eventual career (if not more so) than a major corporation.
3. Get a hobby – or five
One of my favorite stories ever is of Sydney Owen, who runs the awesome blog over at Sydney: Unfiltered. Sydney got into skydiving while working at her day job, developed an addiction, and ended up quitting said job,
going freelance starting her own business and now does work for a skydiving company on digital strategy and events.
If I hear one more person bitch about how they don’t have any passions but sit around on their computer all day dicking around, I might scream. Trying heaps of new hobbies can introduce you to passions you never might have discovered. It gets you out of your house and meeting people.
And, hey, maybe that book club makes you realize you want to own a book store or that windsurfing lesson makes you want to jump on the next plane to Bali and teach. You can’t discover what you want to do with your life if you don’t take advantage of everything life has to offer. (I’m torn between whether that line is significantly too corny for me or really profound. You choose.)
4. Talk to someone
Life coaches. Therapists. Your old high school career counselor. Writing “dear diary” every night isn’t enough. While using something like 750words.com can be really useful in getting to root of whatever block you might be facing, sometimes we need an outside observer to point out things we never would have noticed otherwise.
Above all, the beauty of being GenY is that we’re the first generation to have been given permission to just not know. So calm down. We’re career changers. In the words of Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock, “We are an immigrant nation. The first generation works their fingers to the bone making things; the next generation goes to college and innovates new ideas. The third generation snowboards and takes improv classes.”