I recently joined a mentorship program for Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business called the Wisdom Project. You get paired with a student and they interview you asking about your college experience, time after college, and any other additional questions or advice. In the end, they write a blog post about you and what lessons they took away from the experience. I walked away from this experience impressed and wishing this was an opportunity I had when I was a student 5.5 years ago. Now I would not change anything I did, but would pass this advice along to my younger self.
Chase Knowledge - Not Money
It is not all about money while in your 20’s - it is about learning and growing. Recruiters will try and lure you with attractive offers including the ability to earn 6 figures, free coffee, ping pong tables, and nap rooms. None of this matters if you are not learning and growing. As one of my very smart managers says “Treat your entry level job as a startup.” Most Startups don’t make any money in the beginning but this is where they learn and progress the most. Recruiters at your next job will look at the skills you developed and the knowledge you gained - not your W-2.
No this is not “Always be Cam” from the bachelor - it is always be curious. If you aren’t learning, you aren’t growing. Instead of just accepting something for how it is, ask why it is that way and look to improve. Without being curious, learning, and growing, you become stagnant. By relating this idea to treating your early career as a startup, we can compare this to companies that stopped being curious: Sears, Toys-R-US, Mattress Firm, Radio Shack, etc. What is the common theme? They all stopped ABC’ing and went bankrupt. Always Be Curious and never stop learning or you will go the way of all the old crusty companies.
Take Big Risks
I know what you are thinking here - I’m going to go all youtube guru on you, tell you to quit your job, and start an online eCommerce store and you’ll make millions. No, this is the opposite of what you should do but you should be taking risks in your 20’s. You’re either going to hit it big and change the course of your life or you’ll fail and learn lessons that will pay more than you lose.
Become a “T” Shaped Employee
A “T” shaped employee is someone who is well rounded and knows a lot (the broad top part of the “T”) and who is an expert in a specific subject (the bottom, deep part of the “T”). This makes you a great employee in that you can collaborate in all parts of the business, but you also are a resource and expert on one or two specific parts. This makes you more valuable as an employee and a greater contributor.
Just Do It
Have a friend who texts you to go to Peru on a whim, fly to Vegas in 2 hours, or go on a road trip? Just do it. Spend time traveling the world and immersing yourself into other cultures and experiences. You will grow a lot as a person by traveling and learning how the rest of the world works and lives. Now I’m not saying go into debt to do this, but spend a few weekends staying in with friends instead of at the bar to pay for it. You also can’t forget that it's important to work hard. Tired? You can be tired when you have kids in your 30’s. You won’t regret saying yes while you have little in the way of responsibilities - the stories are also great later in life.
You Don't Need a Billion $ Idea
I used to think you needed a billion-dollar idea to start a business and this held me back from trying a few things. If you do the math you can run a six, seven, and maybe even an eight-figure business by yourself and make a decent living. Start something on the side and if you fail you still have your main source of income. You won’t know until you try
“Hold the selfies, put the gram away” - Kanye West
Don’t get caught up in all the social media hoopla. If you’re always comparing yourself to others, you will always be behind. More than half the people on social media aren’t happy and most of the photos are staged. You are the master of your feelings.
Stay in Shape and Eat Healthy
Taking care of yourself should be one of your top priorities. You only get one body and once you lose your health, it's hard to get it back. Exercise, eat healthily and take mental breaks. This will give you more energy to focus on work and to have fun. Take care of yourself.
What advice would you give yourself?