As much as my undergraduate self wanted to wish it true, there is not a three-credit class for every aspect of life. There are, however, plenty of people willing to offer pearls of wisdom they’ve gathered along their own job paths, passing along the best career advice they’ve received to those of us who could use some real-life guidance.
There is plenty of job advice you will receive in your 20s that you should feel free to ignore. Such is true for pretty much any piece of advice that crosses your path. Oftentimes, you’ll be gifted a piece of wisdom that feels wholly irrelevant, the life advice equivalent to a Christmas sweater you definitely didn’t ask for and really don’t know what to do with. But perhaps, somewhere down the road, you’ll be invited to a tacky holiday sweater party and be like, “Thank god Aunt Kathy gave me that heinous blouse.” What I’m saying is life advice doesn’t always come when you need it most; sometimes you need to hold onto those pearls of wisdom until you’re in a specific situation and you can see what they’re really worth.
Recently, Reddit user Coffeelifts took to the /r/AskWoman subreddit to find out what career advice people would give their 20-year-old self. Here are 11 pieces of job advice to help guide you down your own current career path or to save for a rainy day in the future, when you could use help navigating the road ahead.
1. Don’t Overlook “Menial” Jobs
The top voted comment in the thread says to “get a job and stick to it, no matter where it is it [or] how marginal it is.” Establishing your work ethic can be done in pretty much every workplace environment, regardless of whether it’s your dream job or not. And keep in mind that CEOs didn’t comes of out college running a company. Many CEO’s career paths are long and winding and paved with seemingly “menial” entry-level positions.
2. It's OK If Your First Job Sucks
“The first job you get in your field will be shit,” Redditor Pwrls writes. “It's okay, because 2-3 years experience makes a world of difference. That second job might pay double.” There are also ways to turn a job you hate into one you love by doing things like focusing on what you love and are learning in your current position or connecting with coworkers who inspire you. “And the second job?,” Redditor Pwrls continues, “Apply to anything that interests you. It might surprise you when you get something awesome.”
3. Know When You Need To Quit
“It's OK to quit before it's been a year,” reassures Reddit user Writethewritethings. It’s important to understand the signs you need to quit your job as well as the signs your career isn’t a good fit. Does going into the office fill you with dread? Figure out which part of your job is bringing you down so you can understand if it can be best solved by leaving your current team, your workplace, or your career field as a whole.
4. Look For Other Jobs While You’re Employed
Thinking about quitting? Start job hunting now. Like Reddit user Pwrls says, “Job hunt while you still have a job.” Multiple people in the thread recommend having another job lined up before you completely jump ship from your current place of work.
5. Make Career Choices For You, Not Anyone Else
Prioritizing your career shouldn’t have to come at the cost of your relationship. In turn, making a career choice you aren’t crazy about for someone you’re with isn’t something to take lightly. One Redditor put it bluntly: “Don't make any decisions based on crushes or guys you're dating.” Finding mutual support in a relationship is key. Be cautious when people give you relationship ultimatums that make you choose between them and your job.
6. Start Thinking About Longevity
“Actually start getting any career in general,” says Redditor Gamerlady71. “I was a lazy 20 year old that refused to work or get an education, and my parents enabled it. Nowadays, I would go back in time to kick my younger self's ass and actually decide to do something- anything.” By no means do you have to pick the job you’ll be doing for the rest of your life when you’re 22. However, starting yourself down a career path, by taking college classes in that field or finding entry-level jobs related to it, will help you down the road.
7. Don’t Be Deterred By Male-Dominated Fields
“Don't be afraid to work in a male dominant field,” one Redditor writes. “It's not as difficult as it might seem. I've had great experiences with it.” Gender inequality in the workplace is an unfortunately reality, but it shouldn’t deter you from pursuing a field entirely. Easier said than done, I know. One thing that can help is finding female mentorship in your place of work or outside of work, through online communities or local networking events.
8. Keep Learning
One Redditor simply wrote, “Don’t stop learning.” That could mean furthering your education by seeing if your current employer helps pay for advanced degress (“They exist!” says Redditor Darcg8r.) That could also mean finding jobs and positions that push you, challenge you, and help you keep growing.
9. Prioritize Your Mental Health
“Choose happiness,” simply writes one Reddit user. Multiple people spoke about knowing when to talk to a therapist about job-related issues and simply knowing when it’s time to quit. “You will figure something else out but you need to get out of there first,” says Redditor Writethewritethings. “Your health should always come before work.”
10. You Don’t Have to Have It All Figured Out Right Now
“Fumbling around and trying out different things for a while is more normal than you think it is,” Redditor user Localgyro writes. “Just look for opportunities, do things that seem interesting, and see what happens.” Hearing “it’s okay if you don’t know everything” is something I wish I had heard more when I first graduated. Because, frankly, everyone feels like their flailing at least some of the time.
11. You Are Not Your Job
“A job doesn't have to define your life,” writes one Redditor. “It's perfectly fine to have a boring career with no fame or prestige and spend the money you earn on things that you actually enjoy.” This can be hard to remember given our job-centric society, and our jobs can certainly take a toll on our self-esteem. It’s important to remind yourself that who you are, what you offer, and what you are worth will always be more than whatever current job you have.