As graduation season draws to a close and students leave college in their rearview mirrors to make their first steps into the job market, I can’t help but reflect on that time in my own journey. When I think about it now, the overwhelming emotion I associated with that time is unhappiness.
Until very recently, I struggled to put my finger on why I was so unhappy in the beginning. On the surface, when I spoke to anyone about my situation at the time, I chalked it down to the fact that after five years of college and a masters in journalism, I couldn’t find work in my chosen field. I couldn’t break into the industry because I didn’t have experience and to get experience, I had to work for free which just wasn’t viable. I felt stuck and cheated like my whole education had been a waste of time.
When I reflect on that time now, however, I can distill my unhappiness down to three root causes. I was naive, impatient and felt like I deserved better – or, the ‘millennial’s curse’, as I have now come to call it…ouch! It hurts to say it but if I’m honest with myself, it’s how I felt at the time. I don’t want to tar every person of my generation with the same brush but, for me, the times in which we were raised did us few favours.
Like most of my fellow millennials, as a child growing up, I can honestly say that I wanted for nothing; I had everything I could have wanted and more. I know for a fact that the same cannot be said for my parents, they had little and had to enter the workplace when they were still children themselves. Nothing ever came easy to them and they worked themselves to the bone to make sure that I had everything I needed. At the time it all seemed so easy, they never said a word. Now, as an adult trying to build my own life, the old saying rings true: nothing worth having ever comes easy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame my parents for one moment, they just wanted me to have what they didn’t, but I believe it bred in me and my contemporaries a naivety that fueled the dangerous misconception that it was all going to be an easy ride when I left college.
On a similar note, the phenomenon of instant gratification we have enjoyed has made us an impatient bunch. We want what we want and we want it now! We start out with stars in our eyes, believing with our stolen confidence that we will have our dream job in no time with a minimum of effort. If you haven’t noticed a trend, I have since learned the hard way that nothing in your career will ever come easy or fast. Millennials have this borderline obsession with ‘making it’ in their twenties and I’m sorry to say that for the most part, it’s a myth. We all have those friends that chose ‘safer’ roads with more guarantees, but I have several friends that went on to become teachers and accountants that now, only a few years later, are questioning their path. The road to true career happiness takes time and work.
As I write this, I am in the twilight of my twenties and if I have one regret it’s that I spent so much time fretting that I wasn’t going to figure it all out by the time I reached thirty. Your twenties are a time to experiment and have fun; it’s a time to find out who you really are and what you want out of life. The average person in this day and age will have three to seven jobs in their lifetime so don’t worry about getting it right first time. Most will never use their degrees or will end up in a completely unrelated field. After all, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are college dropouts, so if you think about it, the concept that you choose what you want to be for the rest of your life at eighteen years old is ridiculous.
We often put so much pressure on ourselves to make the right choices and to lead the perfect life that we can end up not making any choices at all, and ultimately staying static. This was certainly the case for me when I left college. But I have since learned that choices are not a burden, they are an opportunity and a privilege. Nothing is forever and if I don’t like something, I have the power to change it. When you embrace those simple truths, there is no reason to fear mistakes, you will eventually come to realise that they are an essential ingredient in any success in life.
If I were to offer any advice to anyone entering the workplace now or those still trying to make their way I’d say worry less, don’t be afraid take a chance and embrace mistakes. Even if it doesn’t lead you where you want to go, it’s all part of the journey and if nothing else, you will learn and grow from it. Take your time, give yourself a break and for goodness sake, don’t compare yourself to anyone else – that will only make you crazy! By taking these learnings to heart, my career has gone from strength to strength and I am much happier for it. The only thing that makes me unhappy now is that Stranger Things is gone for another year and I have nothing left on my Netflix watchlist. I guess I have a choice to make after all!
Ken Kidney is a Team Manager at Voxpro.
Are you an employer? Check out our recent article on how to attract and retain Millennial teammates