As a digital marketing consultant and millennial, I’m constantly amazed by the amount of Gen Y-centric content floating throughout my industry.
The funniest part is that almost none of this content is written by millennials themselves. It’s sort of similar to when men write definitive, impassioned pieces about women’s experiences. What the hell do they know?
Everyone is trying to dissect our generation, find better methods to sell to us, and discover more creative ways to keep us engaged at work. It’s a never-ending witch hunt dressed in an ugly sweater called “market research”.
Yet between the lines, each and every one of these articles boils down to the same message: we’re a bunch of self-absorbed, Snapchat-using, college-debt ridden kids too entitled to take “regular jobs” but too lazy to work hard at them. Essentially, we’re the worst.
Let me make it clear: I’m also not here to generalize my generation. If you think about it, we’re talking about a pretty wide age gap here: everyone born between 1982 and 2004. That means that 34-year-old professionals and parents are being grouped together with my 15-year-old high school freshman brother. So, enough with the blanket statements. If you’re going to talk about a group of people, you better get really specific.
So, I’m going to talk about post-college grads, specifically those who sit between the ages of 22 and 28. Since I fall into that group, I get what you’re going through.
Here are the three biggest challenges that people in this age group face, and exactly how to overcome it.
College can be a really deceiving place when it comes to preparing for reality. When I was living in Eugene, Oregon, everyone I saw on a daily basis was between the ages of 18 and 24. If I saw a child on the street, it was like seeing a unicorn.
And because everyone was my age, it was a creative playground full of constant activity. You could do whatever you wanted to — join student clubs, to go parties, work out at the gym, study in a cafe, watch movies with roommates. I was always surrounded by like-minded people and had the freedom to do exactly what I wanted.
But in the real world, things were suddenly different. People suddenly expected me to only do only one thing: get a job. So, I got the job. And even though I was learning new things and interacting with new people, within a few weeks, I was beyond bored.
Although older adults told me that I should be feeling ungrateful and lazy, I actually just craved creativity, movement, and more than anything, FREEDOM.
When I was in college, I did what I wanted to when I wanted to. And now I was expected to sit at a desk for nine hours a day doing the same things over and over again while being yelled at by the same boss? No thanks.
The problem is that no one takes “I’m board” as an acceptable excuse. “This is adulthood, stop complaining,” people told me. “Get used to it because you’ll be doing it for the next 60 years,” people told me. “Get a better work ethic,” people told me.
But I’m going to tell you something different: get the hell out of there. Run for the hills. If your mind and body are giving you a restless feeling resulting in boredom, it’s a sign that you’re meant to be doing something else. Maybe it’s another job that you’re naturally more passionate about, orstarting your own business. But whatever you do, don’t take the “stop being lazy and stick it out” message to heart. You are wasting your time, your potential, and your life. And is that REALLY something you want to be doing for the next 60 years in result of “work ethic”? Hell no.
You’re already considering grad school
This one’s a classic. I cannot tell you how many people I know who jumped straight from undergrad to grad school, with maybe a year in between. I’m not saying that this is always a bad decision. If you want to be a doctor, I recommend that you go to medical school before operating on patients. If you want to be a lawyer, it’s probably a good idea to pass the bar exam before taking on cases.
But for a lot of other people — the people who go to grad school because they’re simply lost and scared of the real world — enough is enough. Don’t put yourself in any more debt simply because you don’t know what you want to do.
First, it’s important for me to say that IT’S OKAY if you don’t know what to do. Most people, no matter what their age is, don’t have any clue what they’re doing. But putting yourself in more debt or asking your parents to fork out another $200,000 for the sake of not knowing is not the answer.
Here’s the truth about school: it doesn’t get you as far as you think it does, especially in 2016. A lot of jobs have an undergraduate degree requirement, but what the majority of employers are looking for is real skills. And where do skills come from? Experience. Go get those unique, immeasurable experiences through traveling, working or volunteering, and be open to learning through doing. If you could afford to go to grad school, then you can definitely afford to go out and dive into something completely new. This kind of action will get you a lot further in life than sitting in a classroom will. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Don’t be a student. Be a practitioner.”
You feel like you don’t have any real skills
I’ll never forget a required medieval archery class I had to take in college. It was considered an essential part of our “general education”. If you’re wondering what it involved, they made us build our own arrows and shoot them into a field for a grade. Yeah, this is what my poor parents spent 40 grand a year on.
The point is, school is really good at teaching theory but fails to teach tangible practice. The truth is, we don’t need theory. We need to learn skills today that we can execute tomorrow. But since the American college system is an outdated and broken business, they haven’t quite caught up to what dictates professional success today. This is why they continue to teach us things like medieval archery instead of what will actually help us.
So, if you feel like you don’t have any skills and you’re bullshitting your way to a job, you’re not alone.
Gaining real skills efficiently comes from two core factors: the internet and execution. Today, the business space advances and changes so quickly, and the only way to keep up with those changes is from learning online. Read blogs, follow industry-related publications, and take online courses. There are thousands of free, high-quality online guides that you probably don’t even know about. So, go out and find them, learn from them, and practice what you learned. Don’t just sit on it — use it yourself. You will never gain a real skill by just reading about it. Actually put it into practice, don’t be afraid to mess up, and do it repeatedly until you get it right. Skills gained from this method will really impress potential employers and will give you authentic confidence, not bullshitted confidence you have to force in order to land a position.