Advice to Your 18-Year-Old Self
I recently attended a holiday dinner for one of the non-profit organizations with which I am involved. It was a great time, and I sat at a table with many old friends. One young lady that I didn’t recognize ended up sitting next to me. As we introduced herself, I asked if she was a student. She looked college-aged and it’s pretty common for students to help with our non-profit. She said yes, but smiled sheepishly, and then said, “I’m a senior…in high school.” I laughed because it’s like meeting someone from a reality show. A real live minor!
It seems that I only regularly associate with people of certain ages. My nieces and nephews top out at about age seven. I know a few people sub-25 who are mostly college students, and then roughly the 30+ crowd. Meeting someone 18 was just sort of novel. As we talked and I asked her about aspirations, there was so much I wanted to say! Study abroad. Go to any college you want. You can move anywhere! You’re not tied down! Dream so big, don’t give up, and don’t worry too much about what will happen. Don’t get a credit card. Go to community college first.
I wanted to write a post about this idea. We’re all a little bit (or a lot) older, and can look back to our former selves with the knowledge of what has worked, what failed, and what we learned about ourselves that we never could have guessed. These are the main responses that I got from friends when I asked:
If you could give your 18-year-old self career advice, what would you say?
- Don’t quit school moron, the 2013 job market is looking bleak.
- Whatever it is, do it NOW. Waiting until you’re 50 is a poor decision.
- Major in something useful the FIRST time!
- Study hard and then you can party hard. Forgot the studying hard part and lost my full ride. Paying for it every month now! Oh well…not the only person with student loans!
- Don’t take out extra student loans for living expenses!
- Don’t marry him…. join the navy.
- Pay attention and don’t give up… Ever. Even if you hate what you are doing right our of the gate… It’s all stepping stones.
- The next time someone asks you where you went to college, you will be 27. So CTFO.
It sounds like some of us had the same college experience—it makes for great stories, but a degree in biochemistry would have been better than settling for one in psychology that I never will use.
The exact major doesn’t seem to be as important as actually getting a degree. Considering how many careers the average millenial will have, one specific major is unlikely to cover them all. Learning how to get educated may be more important as a resumé skill than the exact course of study. Many highly successful people started in this, but became that.
Start saving early, go to college right after high school, follow your heart, and do what makes you happy!!
The thing is, we can’t go back. I can’t let my college self know not to be so worried about what will happen when I graduate. I can’t tell the me that dropped out of school after one semester that it WAS the right decision, or better, to tell me as a senior in high school that I wasn’t going to like attending school for fine art. But the good news is that we know. We know all of these things. We can pass the information on to others. And more than likely, none of us have made a mistake so catastrophic that we haven’t been able to overcome it. Mistakes make for powerful lessons, and learning them for yourself is often the only way. It’s the reason that I could never take my dad’s words at face value, even when he warned me against doing some of the things I would later do and regret.
So now, being in a really great spot in my career and general life, I like to think about my former self, but I don’t dwell on it. Instead, I signed up to mentor young people who are entering my field. I may not be able to help them avoid all of the pitfalls that I know might be ahead of them, but hopefully I can help give perspective on what matters and what doesn’t, what to do NOW, and how to get ahead as a young Career Girl.