I'm fortunate to have a very wide circle of friends. Many of them are younger, which I adore, since I thrive on their energy and optimism. This younger crowd occasionally asks me for advice, which is very flattering, as it shows they value my feedback. In this instance, I'm going to offer it unsolicited. It's not a complete list of things they should know, and I'd love if you'd chime in below with your own ideas, because there is so much wisdom we can share with those younger than we, if only we take the time. So here goes:
Hey! Younger Person! In case no one has had the nerve to tell you these things, listen up:
The years between ages twenty and thirty are the most important in your lives. They define the map you will travel for the course of your lifetime, and the decisions you make here will create your future. I knew that in a vague sense back then, but looking back, I felt like I always had more time. I felt like I could always make something happen later, or catch up on unmet goals, because I had plenty of time to figure things out. You don't, to be honest--time has a way of just melting away when you're not looking. These years tend to be when you choose having a job versus having a career. This is when, most often, you choose a spouse. Give birth. Buy a house, or end up just renting. Many milestones of your lifetime take place during this decade, and the choices here will navigate you from one destiny to the other.
Scary when you put it this way, huh?
Sure, you can always get a divorce, which may quietly be in the back of your mind as you prepare to marry someone. So much of your time, energy and focus will be shifted to recover from this bad decision though, you'll miss out on enormous potential. The years you spend in this situation will completely rewrite what you could have done with your life.
Sure, you can always plan on finishing school later, but what if you don't? Do you really want to do this kind of job for the rest of your lifetime?
See what I mean?...
In short, never settle, for anything, because doing so will not only create, but limit, the high points your life can reach.
I acknowledge our world is getting harder to navigate. When I was younger, it was easier to recover from mistakes, but the world has become incredibly shared and transparent. A drunken spree or inappropriate post on social media could have consequences that haunt you for your lifetime, because too many people are now competing for resources. Whether it's jobs, safe housing, slots in a degree program--everyone is fighting for the top, and your vulnerabilities can now easily be tracked down. You have to recognize that, and narrow your focus. The Kardashians don't mean anything, and neither does about 98% of what else is out there competing for your money and attention. So be careful what you click, like or post--it can always be tracked down by someone who wants to cause you trouble.
The internet is full of things to distract you from finding your purpose, but YOU, my Friend, are here to accomplish something specific. The hours you spend reading about celebrities or funny cats distract you from determining what you can uniquely bring to the world. So tune them out, and listen to your soul. What inspires you? What enrages you? What creates happiness within you?
Those are the things you need to determine, so you can find ways to satisfy your spirit during your free time, because here is the thing: you may end up with a crappy job. Sorry--that's just how it is. Remember when you were a child, and your parent would shuffle off to work, not very happy? That's adulthood. Sucks, but it's the truth. Regrettably, we can't all be internet famous, so don't plan on it. Many of us won't one have the kind of jazzy job we see highlighted in magazines, where we simply change our hair clip and shoes to go from boardroom to dining room. Most often, we have to sit in a cubicle, managing someone else's money or minutiae, and then find ourselves on a sofa at the end of the day, lonely. Or broke. Or both, to be honest. This isn't a problem unique to you--this is part of growing up. You've heard all of your lives from your parents that you are unique, and special, and perfect. Well...sorta.
Here's a harsh newsflash: the world doesn't love you. The world is out to break you down, because everyone is competing for that promotion. Everyone is trying to cover their backside, and look better to the boss, so you have to be aware of that. Don't become paranoid, just realize that you're in the fast lane now, and it's time to pull up your big girl panties. You have to look out for you. Stop counting your people on Instagram, and figure out where you want to be in ten years. Otherwise, ten years from now, you'll look up from your phone and wonder what happened to your life.
Like others have told you: saving money does matter. When your HR person talks about the 401K plan the company offers, don't tune out--sign up. Even if it's just a dollar now, it will become more than a dollar later, when you need it. Do as much for future self that you can right now, because your future self will most likely be more tired and less healthy--don't build a mountain of hard catch-up work to deal with when you're old.
Recognize the people around you will define not only your experiences, but your potential. Hanging out with shady people may not seem that big a deal when you're having fun at the club, but when someone gets popped for something illegal in the car you didn't know was there-- you're also in trouble, and your mugshot can go viral. Yes--be young, be carefree--just don't be stupid. (Did I even have to say this one? Seriously--it's that obvious).
Be kind to the older people around you. Whether they are people you work with, people who live near you, or family members you're already supposed to love--that older person you see was once someone just like you, full of the same dreams and cocky attitude. One day, if you're lucky, you'll also have slower reaction times and a foggier memory. These things are not to be mocked, but championed. Time in the field is hard earned in this crazy world, and all of us are trying to navigate rules that change every half second. Remember ladies--that quiet older woman in the cube next to you is part of the reason you have the job you do--she did a great deal of trailblazing on your behalf, and helped open up the workforce to your gender. She deserves to be respected, not ignored, so work to be pals. I promise--you'll be amazed at what older people have to share. In case you're interested, here is what life in the workforce might look like to them.
Have a little humility. All of us are equal as humans, no matter the job title. The person who empties the trash cans in the office after everyone has gone home has the same value as the people who have filled them--they've just traveled a different life path, and bring different things to the planet. So don't throw anyone under the bus--it makes you look petty, and is a great way to lose friends. Be the person in the workplace known for hard work, sincerity and team spirit--those things will get you further than blind copying your boss on emails when you think someone is not performing well.
Never give up. Yeah, you may have that crappy job now, but do the stuff your mama told you, and you can get further. Kindness, good manners and a solid work ethic are falling out of favor in our hyper-kinetic world, so bringing them to your job--whatever your job is-- will take you far. Show up clean, sober, dressed appropriately and on time, and let your actions impress--the bosses will take notice. If they don't, keep doing a good job, and quietly look for another place to earn your living--don't rant about how you are unappreciated and deserve better. Just line up something else, and take off to an organization with more opportunities. No drama, no fuss--the world has enough of that, frankly--we don't need more. (There are also 8 million people waiting for that job you think is so crappy. Think on that for a minute...)
Keep in touch with your parents. They love you more than anyone, and worry to death about you, whether they admit it or not. Touch base every so often, and let them know you're okay. Yes--I know, you're on your own, but you're still theirs, and always will be. Wait 'til you have your own kid--you'll see what I mean. So please answer your phone, Young Friend--stop screening you mom.
This is a microscopic list of possible advice, and I'm sure others could chime in with their own thoughts. I'm going to sit back, and allow them to speak, because there will be fantastic wisdom in their stories.
How about it, Elders? Here's your chance...Keep it kind, keep it helpful and please tell us what you want the Younger Workers to know about working for a living...
**Chanler Jeffers has seen many extraordinary things over her lifetime. An adventurer, survivor, overachiever and advocate of kindness in all instances, she has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), and is a member of their Circle of Champions. She has had the good fortune to live and travel all over the world, grew up as a military dependent, was a single parent for many years, has survived cancer and gently shaped countless people over her years on this little planet we call home. Follow along at http://www.teamjeffers.com/ as she shares her knowledge, her experience and her love. Oh, by the way-one more thing. She's married to a Bass playing rock star, lucky girl.