Twenty-Somethings & the Working World

“It’s like Forrest Gump said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates.’ Your career is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re going to get. But everything you get is going to teach you something along the way and make you the person you are today. That’s the exciting part—it’s an adventure in itself” — Nick Carter

As promised, here is the second edition in my series related to the transition from school into “adulthood”.

Career and work decisions are tricky and often full of emotions.

If you are anything like me you have probably been dreaming and talking about what you wanted to be when you “grow up” since you were little kid. I dreamed of becoming a doctor, an architect, a country music singer, and even at one point I was convinced I wanted to become a bag lady (I had no idea what that meant)!

Kids are primed early on to begin preparing for their futures and proclaiming who and what they want to become when they get older. I work a lot with college students and I am always amazed that at eighteen there is an expectation that you will select a major that will lead you into a career.

In this entry I plan to address myths/expectations students often feel about careers as well as a few truths about work world.

Myth/Expectation 1: Your first job dictates every job from here on out

We tend to believe and feel the pressure when we are applying for jobs that we could be picking the job we will stay in forever. But truthfully we don’t know what forever will look like. Taking a job does not mean that you are locked into a certain industry, a certain career path, or that if you hate it that you must continue to work there.

Myth/Expectation 2: The real world will be way better than college

I’ve believed this and I hear others who are absolutely convinced that life after graduation is going to be the best time of their life. It can be. I would say from my experience that comparing the first few years after graduation to college is not a fair comparison—in college you live close to friends, typically you have financial support from parents or scholarships, there is a vast array of activities and free things for college students. Upon graduating, it can be tough to figure out where you belong—is it in a singles group, a young married group, where do you meet people, etc. The years after graduation are often times the most uncertain and difficult times of our lives. I don’t share this myth to dishearten or scare you away from “adulthood,” I share for the sake of checking our expectations. Though I have loved getting older, moving away from my college town and pursuing jobs and friendships, it has definitely come with its fair share of difficulties. But, now I know who I am and what I want.

Myth/Expectation 3: Your first job could be your dream job

Most likely, your first job will not be your dream job. Your first job serves as a place to teach you what it means to have a job. Jobs can be excellent places to identify likes and dislikes in terms of work environments, job responsibilities, if you enjoy having lots of face to face contact or the bare minimum. Any job and position we hold will teach us more about ourselves and more about how to work—so take advantage of the positions you have as you are pursuing your “dream job.”

Myth/Expectation 4: Work & Careers will provide financial stability

Somewhere I had picked up the message that once I graduated and starting working any financial difficulty would disappear–that I would be able to afford my bills and a vacation. This absolutely can be true…but what is also true is that some careers do not start with a set salary and a 401K. Finances and income is an area where comparison can drive you mad—the key here is remembering that what you are making when you first start is not going to be your forever. You have the freedom to build companies, private practices, positions you hold, and you also have the freedom to seek out other positions if finances become a struggle.

Providing for yourself and learning how to manage budgets is necessary. This first part of working gives you an appreciation for the things you earn, buy, or pay for. It is true that the harder you work for something, say an awesome piece of furniture or an epic vacation, the more you value it.

Myth/Expectation 5: Once you land a job you are done learning or improving skills

Continue learning for a variety reasons. “It’s impossible to get somewhere old if you learn something new. The way to break through a ceiling is to learn something new.” –Jon Acuff

Myth/Expectation 6: Expecting our hours/pay/benefits will be the same as our parents, friends, roommates, etc…

Your job may stir up the dangerous “game of comparison.” You may hold a position that requires you work nights or one that has inconsistent hours. We may look at these jobs and try to convince ourselves that our friends with “stable 9-5” jobs have the life—that the “grass would be greener” on the other side. Everyone’s journey, including “career journey,” winds and twists in different ways and it’s good to remember that in finding peace where we are.

Some truths about the workplace:

  • One of your friends will be instantly successful in the workplace. You might have a friend that is bringing in a six-figure salary or started a business right after college. Be careful with comparing your work success with these friends.
  • Your first job might not involve your major at all. Which is okay! You may choose to pursue a career related to your major at a later point in your life or you might decide that you would love to go a different route. Your major isn’t meant to confine—rather it’s a launching point to learn and grow as a person.
  • Be humble and willing to learn from co-workers and others.
  • Work & school will be different. Some employees experience their jobs as much easier than college; no homework, less stress, and more free time. Some employees find that they work harder in their jobs than they ever did in school.
  • Before mortgages and families are a part your life, it might be a great time to take advantage of a lower paying job, or a job that requires more travel. Take risks and opportunities.
  • The work world is all about connecting. Don’t burn bridges at a job that you don’t like. Even after you have landed that first job, it might be a great idea to continue networking, attending alumni events, or connecting with others in the community that do work that you are interested in. I have learned the significance of this time and time again—knowing people may lead to jobs, opportunities, support, etc.
  • You have to start at the bottom—it’s your first job not your final job.

“The Defining Decade” by Meg Jay PhD

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About the author:

Kim DeRamus, M.A. is a licensed professional counselor. She is a counselor at Formation Counseling Services Grace Midtown. Kim is originally from Athens, GA where she obtained an undergraduate degree in Psychology. She returned to her Alma Mater following her graduate program as a counselor at UGA's Counseling & Psychiatric before moving to Atlanta. Kim is a twenty something herself and enjoys working with twenty somethings in a variety of settings, such as individual counseling, mentorship, and campus ministry.