Hi, I’m Lena. I’m a 24-year-old content marketer and I have a big secret: I’m not a workaholic. In fact, I’m not even considered a good worker in the eyes of the traditional employment structure.
I hate offices. I despise 9-to-5 requirements. I don’t do well with bosses, and I refuse to wear any shoes other than flip flops.
So, instead of trying to change these traits and simply accept these miserable expectations, I decided to try a different route: freelancing. One day, I emailed my boss at my full-time job and told him that I was done. It was the best decision I ever made.
Freelancing taught me how to work smarter instead of harder and completely changed my productivity, income, work satisfaction, confidence and overall happiness. Within three months, I had tripled my monthly income and was living a life of true freedom.
But enough about me. Meet my Millennial friend, Rachel. Let’s talk about her.
Rachel is also 24, and she works full-time for a tech company. She works nine to 12 hours a day, commutes 30 minutes each way, feels enslaved to her boss and complains about her job for at least a third of the time she’s there.
She works hard. Like, really hard. But if you’re making a lousy salary and generally don’t feel appreciated, then why does it matter?
Surprise: It doesn’t. Rachel is miserable and would do anything to get out of there. But she doesn’t. I have a feeling Rachel isn’t the only one grappling with this internal battle.
The other day though, Rachel came to me and said something incredibly enlightened. “You know, maybe I don’t want to work my way up to the corporate latter. Maybe I just want to live without stress, feel happy, and work with cool people. Why is that so bad?”
The truth is, nothing about that is bad. But many Millennials have been brainwashed into believing harder work is better work, longer hours are more impressive, and the amount of time that you’ve been at a company somehow translates to future opportunities. And this is what horrifies me.
Don’t get me wrong - there are a lot of Millennials on board with the “create your own career” mentality. But for those of you who feel lost, stuck, defeated and pressured in your full-time work, don’t be.
We’re now going to walk through this together.
Let’s pretend for a second that the traditional work structure is all bullshit (which it is, but if you're not on board with that mindset yet, give it some time). Instead, let’s take a few minutes to try to become more self-intuitive and aware of our individual and professional needs. Because nothing is a one-size-fits-all, right?
Here are some of my greatest tips for rediscovering yourself, forming a lifestyle you love, and creating a career that's on your terms:
1. Be real with yourself
So many Millennial employees feel so expendable that it literally drains them of any self-confidence they have. Even worse, a lot 20-somethings don't even recognize how badly they feel about themselves. So, I challenge you to sit down and write the truth about yourself: what you’re good at, what you’re bad at, what motivates you, what you enjoy doing, what you’re insecure about, what you despise and, most importantly, what you value.
Simply putting it all on paper can bring tremendous clarity regarding who you are and what you’re meant to be doing.
Oh, and the things you suck at? Literally never think about those things again. Don’t try to change them, don’t dwell on them and don’t indulge in them. Just drop them and fully invest in your strengths.
In order to dive even deeper into your own self-awareness, ask yourself the following questions to determine if the job you're in is worth holding onto, or if it's time to move in a different direction:
- How would I rate my daily happiness in the office?
- What are my least favorite and most favorite parts about my work and office environment?
- Do I feel appreciated in my job?
- Do I feel like I'm paid enough?
- Does this job / company align with my values?
- Does this job / company align with my ultimate career goals?
- Does this job / company burn me out and light me up inside?
- Why do I stay at this job? Is it friends? Money? Fulfillment in your role?
Ultimately, if you don't feel that your best qualities are being appreciated or if you feel that you're confused about what those qualities even are, it's time to leave. You need to be putting 100 percent of your efforts into your strengths and that's it. You are who you are, and you must value that.
1. Set the word “stability” on fire
A lot of Millennials tell me they stay at jobs they hate for one reason: stability. Going to the same job every day, regardless of your feelings toward it, ensures you’ll make a certain amount of money each month, right?
Well, I have a surprise for you all: Stability isn’t real. Your company could go under, you could get fired, you could get evicted, your girlfriend could break up with you and you could get a bad haircut all in one day. Nothing in your life is stable.
Honestly, even if it is, that sure as hell isn’t a good enough reason to stick to something you hate. Instead of prioritizing stability, prioritize happiness. Freedom. Fulfillment. Ownership. But stability - a word that is deeply rooted in fear - is not something you should be aiming for. At least right now.
One day in the next 10 to 30 years, we’re going to be old enough to crave stability. This is when it's okay to make the mindset switch. We’ll have spouses and children we need to support, mortgages we need to pay and car payments we need to cover.
But for now, why the hell would we prioritize stability when we could be experimenting with work we actually enjoy or learning skills we’re actually interested in?
Screw stability. Instead, challenge yourself to actually find something you love. I promise you that the money will follow.
3. Think of practical solutions
If you’re thinking, “I’m not just going to quit my job, I need the money,” trust me: I get it. There's no one who hates being broke more than me. But trust me when I say that there are a lot of other ways to make the same, if not more, money.
Maybe you can work two part-time jobs in fields you really love or want to learn more about. Maybe you can land a teaching position abroad to help gain some perspective.
Maybe you can launch your own freelance business or start a blog. I can personally say that my income has tripled since I began freelancing, so financial practicalities don’t have to be an obstacle. Get creative, and I guarantee you’ll find better solutions.
You are young, capable, talented and worthy. Don’t waste a second of your life in a job you don’t love.
We’re too young to settle. So, get creative and go discover your happy place.