The most important realization I’ve had about jobs-in-your-20s is simply this:
You’re perpetually at the bottom.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the whole can’t-get-a-job-without-experience-can’t-get-experience-without-a-job paradox. It makes sense. You don’t have any experience yet, and the way most economic structures are set up, there’s little to no-way-in-hell you can skip any rungs of the ladder.
The point of most of the job search in your 20s is just getting your foot in the door. Wow, super fun!
What jobs you can get might be relevant to whatever you want to do, but the relevance is usually marginal, if at all. “Yeah, this phone sales gig is sorta relevant to my English and Literature degree, because I get to write…emails. Yeah! Emails is writing!”
There’s more, too. Much more.
1. No one is “killing it”…
Except Jennifer Lawrence, drug dealers, and real estate agents in Beverly Hills.
No one is making that much money, no one can really say “ugh, I just like, love my job. I think I’ll stay there for like 5 years or maybe 12.”
Mostly, we’re just working to pay the bills while we wait and hope and pray for a better job and read articles with the phrase “quarter-life crisis” (never gets old, right?).
My first job out of college was actually pretty sweet — at first. It aligned with my English degree (suck it, every-article-that-lists-English-as-the-worst-degree-ever!), and it was at a super cool, totally legit startup! Except it wasn’t legit, and I found myself emailing clients under the fake name “Laura Johnson” so they couldn’t track us if things went south. They fired me shortly after my first year. Cool.
After that was odd jobs ranging from a Magic: The Gathering card game tutor for some guy’s spoiled kids to being an actual lab rat guinea pig. Then phone sales.
Like, don’t you just want this life??
2. …But Everyone Makes it Look Like They Are
The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel. -Steve Furtick
You constantly feel your job (and relationships and fitness and money and travel and cars and friends and huge milestones and adventures) is not as good as everyone else’s.
Maybe it’s not. But it’s better to be struggling and exploring and learning what you want your job and career to look like for the next stage of your life, than to have a surface-level “awesome gig” that really traps you with golden handcuffs.
I have a friend who makes like $60,000 dollars a year, working for some super famous marketing agency. But she works 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, and is on-call on her day off. She has a pretty impressive “highlight reel” on social media, but is that really the life I want?
3. Jobs are mostly a decade-long speed dating game.
My 2nd eBook Buyer’s Remorse: The Life You Thought You Wanted After College is all about this.
(Fun name, right? Just fills you with so much hope for the future.)
Mostly, jobs in your 20s are just a precursor for the next one. I would say…I think I know 2 people who have been at the same job since college longer than 3 years. One of them is my wife.
There’s actually good news in this: if you don’t like a job (say, because you find yourself working as a contractor for 2 super sketchy lawyers who basically have you working for free), you can just leave.
But it gets exhausting. Depressing. What’s worse is when you find a job you actually think you might like, but…they don’t like you. Like that time I got a cool writing job at a decent company, but at the end of my 2nd day, they called me in and fired me because “it wasn’t working out.” (I had just started to get everyone’s name down, too. I didn’t bother saying goodbye to anyone as I walked out.)
♫ You’re always stuck in 2nd gear ♫
In a peanutshell:
Jobs in our 20s kinda suck, unless you’re really lucky. You’ll probably have a lot of them, and odds are, they’re not going to be that relevant to what you really want to do with the rest of your life.
Understand the point of “jobs” in your 20s aren’t so much to shape the rest of your career, but more to help you identify what you like (giving presentations, working alone, perhaps owning my own business) and the things you don’t like (phone sales, going to meetings, Excel sheets).
Call to Action:
If you liked this article, read more about how to Find Meaningful Work at StuffGradsLike.com.