Have you ever watched a movie and wanted to shout at the person on the screen and tell them not to go into the basement because you know someone's hiding down there? That's how I feel about women in their twenties.
As a woman in my 60s, I've become a sort of elder spokesperson to my fledgling younger friends. While life is not a movie, hindsight can imitate it. But just as I did in my 20s and 30s, they listen to well-meant advice with a little “You really don't know what it's like nowadays," echoing in their heads. But some important basics don't change and will help make life a little better in the future. Here goes:
The most important thing to remember is that your future just doesn't happen to you, at least if you take part in its shaping. Sounds simple, right? Somehow, it's always easier to say, “I'm too young to think about that now."
Try incorporating some of these key points in both your personal and professional lives, and you'll have your hands on the wheel.
1. The Media Is The Nessage — Social Media That Is
Keep yourself up to date on all sites, both professional and personal. Know the difference and make sure you don't over share on the personal ones. This is something I've never been guilty of, but I often wonder why some of you post so much on your sites. Prospective employers don't need to know how fast you can chug a beer.
2. Have A Go-to Interview Outfit And Invest Heavily In It
If there's anything I've learned, it's that you are what you wear. If you walk into an interview and the first thing your potential boss sees is all the wrinkles in your cheap, thrown-on blouse, they're already too distracted to listen to what you have to say. Buy a good blouse and a power outfit, at whatever level you can afford it. But try to spend the money. You will feel better, more comfortable and at-ease, and you won't be worried about your clothes while delivering your best interview version of yourself.
3. Keep Your LinkedIn And Other Professional Sites Current
Your resume should be updated whenever there are any status changes. I wish someone had warned me about this. Trying to piece together 14 years of job history with my firm when another company bought it was a monumental task. I wish I had kept a “job diary."
4. Don't Feel Pressured To Find A Partner
You've time for that. Get to know yourself. Speaking as a single woman, let me clue you in: there are a lot of perks to the unmarried status. While singlehood isn't for everyone, neither is marriage. Going solo can be fun too. Definitely don't settle for the wrong person just to have one. Don't sell yourself short — you deserve someone you're thrilled to be with, not someone who'll just be "better than nothing." (That's what my friend's father called the husband she quickly divorced.)
5. Don't Envy Anyone For Their Social Media Persona
It's easy to portray a false image to the public. I remember having dinner with a friend I hadn't seen in years. On her Facebook page she looked happy and popular. She told quite a different tale; those “friends" were co-workers she was forced to socialize with for business. She currently was looking for a new job, because she was miserable. You never know what's going on past that screen.
6. Be Careful Not To Get Involved In Office Drama
I had a boss who was always telling me all the details of her marital problems and when she and her husband smoothed things over, I was resented for knowing their secrets. I had to transfer to another department. Also, don't get involved in office gossip. You can't anticipate who will hold what position in the future.
7. Be Open To All Possibilities.
You never know where your current career might lead you. This is an area where I definitely could have been more open. I was once offered a job as an assistant manager of a famous antiques shop and turned it down without considering it, because I felt I didn't have the knowledge. The owner was willing to train me, and it might have been interesting and certainly fun, but I was too timid to try it.
8. Don't Take Yourself So Seriously
Dip your toes in different waters. Remember Gaugin was a stockbroker before he became well known for his painting. Now I'm not suggesting you dump your current endeavors and hightail it to Tahiti, but hey, you never know!
9. Financial Health Is Important No Matter Your Age
Save the maximum. Bank your raises. Sure you can, and should, splurge now and then. Just be aware that the future is closer than you believe. I wish someone had twisted my arm to get me to follow this crucial advice. I felt the future was so far away that I should enjoy now and save later. Unfortunately, I'm now retired and still paying a mortgage.
10. Pay Attention To Politics.
Maybe you don't need to get into a dispute over your candidate while at work, but stay informed and be active on issues that speak to you. Now is the time to begin to make statements through your actions. Being involved in current events can help shape the future of this country.
11. Take Care Of Yourself Both Physically And Mentally
Careful eating and exercise can go a long way to making you a happier, healthier person both now and in the future. I was always interested in nutrition and took courses on the subject in college, but now there is so much information just a click away. Also, don't be afraid to seek emotional support when you need it.
12. Don't Be Afraid To Rock What You've Got
While age no longer makes a difference in fashion, the really wild outfits usually benefit from a bit of young blood. No, you won't see me in dowdy clothes, and my blue toenail polish is anything but dowdy, but I think I'll leave the short jumpsuits to you.
13. Know The Difference Between A Friend With A Problem And A Problem Friend
People that are always negative can drag you down with them. I was once in a situation where a friend of mine would have problem after problem, many of them of her own making and would talk about nothing else. She never wanted any advice and would just continue to dwell in misery. After a time, I had to minimize my contact with her. The relief I felt was amazing.
14. Never Compare Yourself With Anyone
I believe that this has been one of the most important principles I have followed. As long as I'm doing the best I can, I only judge myself on my own merits — not in comparison with anyone else. That has given me an amazing sense of peace and acceptance.
15. Live Your Passion
There's a saying that if you work at what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. When you can combine your work with your passion, you are indeed fortunate. While I can't say that I had a passion for my work, I can say I have always enjoyed it. I could never understand people that complain about their jobs and how they hate them. I have never worked at a job for any length of time unless I truly enjoyed it.
16. Be Sure To Embrace Your Talents
Don't be so critical of yourself that you don't see your own assets. Trust me, you'll encounter lots of people who will be more than happy to lend a hand in pointing out your shortcomings. A little self love is a good thing, although too much is definitely not!
17. Your Success Can Breed Success For Others
Share your knowledge, networks and experience with others. I love keeping a file of information if my head and linking people I believe can be of benefit to one another.
18. Invest In Social Capital
Friends and acquaintances should be positive additions to your life. Friends can be part of a network, both professionally and personally. Housecleaning your friendships can be liberating, and nurturing good friendships can add to your well-being. At this stage in my life, I realize the friends I have had the longest are those with common interests and values. Choosing friends as thoughtfully as you do jobs and mates should be the norm.
19. Listen To Your Inner Voice
It may tell you something important. I once had an interview and had a bad vibe about the prospective boss, but I ignored it and took the job. It didn't take too long to find out he was difficult and condescending, and in a one on one situation, it was impossible. I quit within a month.
20. Listen Voices Of Experience
This might be the most important one. Listen to those who are older and wiser. They might actually know something!
This piece was originally published on September 2, 2017.
WRITTEN BYCarol Zyla