In a world where we increasingly define ourselves by our occupations and level of education, shaming someone for their career choices is fairly common. It comes as no surprise that as we advance through our 20s, we may begin to feel judged based solely on our position at work and the salary we earn. For many of us, getting asked the question “So, what do you do?” at a party can produce spasms of anxiety and dread. If you don’t have a clear and “appropriate” answer, you face being dismissed or feeling passed over.
We constantly compare ourselves to peers who seem more successful or more “on the ball." Scanning through Facebook, it’s difficult to ignore the friend who is funding her own tech startup or the distant cousin that just got a Fulbright Scholarship and is studying zoology (can you believe they got to pet an endangered Kakapo last year?!).
It's not just the judgements made by our peers, but the ones we make of ourselves, that hurt our confidence and progress. The pressure that we put on ourselves to have things figured out career-wise by our mid-20s is immense. Of course everyone wants to be successful, and impress at dinner parties, but not all paths run smooth.
You may feel constantly left behind every time your career stalls but no matter what people project, everyone will eventually face a crisis of confidence. Fresh out of college, it can be difficult to land a job, or even settle on what you want to do with your life. Shaming other people or yourself over a career or lack of one is just silly.
It's important to remind ourselves that there are benefits to all kinds of experiences, and that people who go through career transitions and face adversity become stronger for it and gain diversified skills that will help later on. As Cool Guy Dalai Lama XIV said, "People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost."
Take it from me, you don't have to have things figured out right away, and there is no time limit on success (no matter what certain TED Talks would have you believe). Let's nip the judgey-ness it in the bud, and become more aware of the common career and financial situations that we shame fellow twentysomethings for:
1. Not Having A Clear Career Direction
People assume that when you lock down a major, that is going to feed into your the career field. However, plenty of people find that they don't actually love what they are studying, to continue to pursue it after graduation. Taking time to explore and find out what makes you happy can save you the pain of transitioning to another career later on (after possibly years of suffering). So there is no reason to apologize for not knowing what you want to be when you grow up (even if you are technically a grown-up).
2. Working A Dead-End Job (A Job With No Upward Mobility)
Many of us have been guilty of judging people for working jobs that do not feed into a proper career path. If the job is bellow their supposed "pay-grade" or isn't mentally fulfilling, people do not understand why someone could spend so much time working the gig just to earn a little cash.
People may think these jobs a waste of time or immature, however there are myriad number of reasons why it may actually be beneficial to work a placeholder job. If a job doesn't require too much thought or energy, then a person can spend the rest of their time outside of work following their passions. If the job is simply a way to make money, and you don't care too much about it, then it doesn't tax your emotions, and won't hold you back from other ventures. This kind of job may also be flexible, allowing the person to take time off when they want to travel or need an adventure.
3. Working Too Much Or Too Little
How to prioritize between the proper amount of time spent at work and time spent on yourself is still a riddle wrapped in an enigma. The popularity of the phrase "work-life balance" has increased exponentially, but the hours required in certain fields have doubled as well.
Someone who spends all their time at the office, struggling for a promotion is criticized for not being healthy and taking care of themselves while others are told they spend too much time on their personal life. Everyone's needs are different, so what some consider to be a good work-life balance is probably very different from another's. As long as they are happy, eating properly, and getting enough sleep, then leave them to make their own decisions.
4. Not Having Lofty Ambitions
Shockingly, not everyone wants to be a movie star, an astronaut, or a supreme court justice. If you want to win a Pulitzer and finish first in the New York City marathon that's awesome, just make sure you don't project those expectations on your friends.
5. Not Getting A "Real Job" Right Away
Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to get a job right out of college. Landing one can be crazy difficult, even if you spent summers at internships, depending on the economic climate. Thankfully, there is not one path to success, and taking a gap year after graduation is totally viable and awesome. If you need time for clarity or exploration, and have the savings to do so, take it rather than committing to a job that you don't want. There is no pressure to jump into high gear right away.
6. Being Unemployed
There is a misinterpretation that people who are unemployed have it easy or are slacking off, but that is never the case. Yes, people who are unemployed have time, but rarely can they enjoy it. The stress over money and finding work can color everything. As they say in Flight Of The Conchords, "When you're unemployed, there's no vacation." So whether your out-of-work friend is trying to transition to a new field or just got laid off, it's important to be sympathetic and supportive.
7. Having A Boss That’s Younger Than You
When you have a boss that was born in a different decade, it can be a real hit to the old ego. All careers begin and grow at different times so I'm sure there is a reasonable explanation why that snotty young jerk was promoted (JK). There is also no age timeline for where you "should" be in your career. So while having a younger boss may feel a tad embarrassing, age is just a number, and no one should be judged (or judge themselves) for that.
8. Choosing Not To Go To Grad School
After graduating college and throughout their mid to late 20s many people choose to take time away from the professional world and get a higher degree. The understanding is that these will lead to larger paychecks and more job opportunities, but that is not always the case. More people than ever are completing doctorates and graduate studies programs according to the 2013 US Census, and the number of people going back to school is on the rise.
However, bringing home one of these degrees does not guarantee you a job or easy promotions. The cost of graduate school is prohibitive. On average, annual tuition can run you between $30,000 and $40,000. No person should be made to feel pressured or like they need to go back to school unless they absolutely need it to be the HBIC.
9. Being Considered A Trust Fund Baby
Judging people for having it too easy is... well, easy. While you struggle and work tirelessly to move forward and earn every penny you get, these peers who have seemingly no financial pressures or student loan burdens just get to chill in hot tubs, right? Unfortunately, most of the time that is not the case. There are many other things that come with family money and connections that aren't obvious to the outside eye. Just cause someone has money, doesn't mean they don't have troubles — some might even say, "Mo' money, mo' problems."
10. Living With Your Parents
It's tough to move back in with mom and dad after striking out on your own. Once you leave the big city for your childhood bedroom, it can be hard to shake the feeling that somehow you "messed up." But with rents spiking and a job market not necessarily doing the same, moving back home can make a lot of sense. It's not even as uncommon as some might think —according to data from the recent 2015 US Census, 31.5 percent of adults ages 18 through 34 live at home with their folks. So try and enjoy that free breakfast and room covered in Backstreet Boys posters guilt-free!
11. Being In Debt
Being saddled with credit debt and/or student loans, can make a person feel like they're entering the working world at a disadvantage. Having that big chunk of cash taken out of your bank account each month feels awful. You run the emotional gamut from flush and happy, to strapped for cash — wondering how you'll pay for that last round of drinks. But you are definitely not alone, In fact, 40 million Americans are currently carrying student loan debt. Thanks to cuts in state funding, among other reasons, public college tuition is at an all time high. The minimum wage hasn't caught up with that gap, making it nearly impossible to work your way through college. If you ever feel judged by somebody for taking out high loans, that person is clearly oblivious to what is going on in the world.
12. Refusing To Unplug
While a certain amount of technology addiction is seen as acceptable and even normal, there is a very clear line that one can cross. If you can't put down your cell, people may get frustrated and judge you as having a problem. Of course there are always work emails to send and appointments to make, but taking a breather from technology is OK every now and then. I'm not saying people are right to judge you for being addicted to your smart phone, but...