By Teju Adisa-Farrar, Founder & Creative Director at World Unwrapped.
Often, people in our 20s are told, implicitly, this period in our lives is just a warm-up for adulthood; that it's about gaining experiences. I agree, however I believe it's not simply about collecting experiences. Our experiences should lead to clarity about what we want to do, where we want to do it and with whom. It is of no use to collect experiences if they are not somehow propelling us forward, helping us to create a unique path and simultaneously helping the world and/or others. All of life is an experience, but we only get one chance (unless you believe in reincarnation) so it's better to think of it as the real thing rather than a test-run.
What we do in our 20s certainly affects where we are and how we feel about our 30s. It's no surprise that many young adults feel worried about getting older and their future when we are told it's OK if we don't have it "figured out," and at the same time are characterized as being selfish, have to pay more student loans than any other generation and stereotyped as audacious entrepreneurs. Here is a list of things that are commonly told to millennials and my feelings about this advice:
- A[ny] job is better than no job. I disagree with this statement. For a generation that is overeducated (whatever that means) and underemployed, it is clear that any job is not better than no job. It's not better for the economy or for the people who are less skilled/educated who rely on certain types of jobs to support themselves. We were told, as children, that if we go to college and do well in school, we would get a good job (and be able to pay off our college loans). Many millennials do well in school, graduate college and are not able to find decent-paying jobs. Some cannot even find jobs that require their level of education, resulting in many other issues. While those of us who have jobs are grateful, having a job is not better -- it's necessary. We cannot pay our bills without a job. Having a job that helps us develop skills and learn what we are passionate about is the ideal we should look for.
- It will all figure itself out. No, no it won't. Either I'll have to figure it out or my parents will have to help me figure it out. Paying loans, finding jobs and paying rent do not just "figure themselves out." All of these things have to be figured out. We have to work hard or work smart, plan and be responsible. We cannot be irresponsible for a decade, turn 30 and everything will have figured itself out. On the contrary, when we are in our twenties it is imperative that we begin to lay a foundation for our future. If we are told to start saving for retirement now, which I agree with, why should we believe that everything else will "figure itself out"? It won't. And truly, many millennials in our twenties are very good at being proactive and building the foundation for the life we want, now.
- Millennials are selfish and self-absorbed. Yes, some of us are selfish, and some of us are self-aware. It is no surprise that wearable technology, enhanced-self and lifestyle design are popular with millennials. We want to be better, more self-reflective, reach our potential and be the best we can be for the world. I admit that some of us may be a bit narcissistic and selfish, but many of us want to enhance ourselves so we can be more productive and useful to the world. We want to know what is going on in our bodies, with our health and execute on our ideas so we are able to make an impact on the world and other people's lives. Yes, we believe we are individuals-and may sometimes forget that we are apart of a larger mass. However, I'd argue that our self-awareness and self-reflection leads to creative developments (startups and blogs) like innovation and an understanding of how we can change the world with our ideas.
- YOLO. You live everyday, you only die once. That's it. As a 20-something, I may be conservative with the acronym movement. If you're in your 20s and living by YOLO, I hope you have a plan for tomorrow.
- You need experience to get experience. Seriously? The point of entry-level jobs are to gain experience. Why should you come to an entry-level job with more experience than what you learned and did in college and the first year or so post-college? That defeats the purpose of "entry-level." Some of us have worked through college and gained a lot of work experience, others in their early 20s need to gain experience so they can develop their skills, learn new skills, and figure out what kind of job and career they want. Before we can get experience, we have to be given the opportunity to gain experience.
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