Advice for the Young and Restless

1450388845_fa42a9efd3_zI’ve always loved to write, but when I graduated from school, I often considered becoming a teacher. I had taught a few summers while in college, and it was a great experience, but my real motivation was a salary. No, not a high salary. Just to have a salary sounded great. I was feeling lost and a little dissatisfied with my degree, and I saw teaching as my best bet: something I actually enjoyed just fine that paid enough to get by. Because, I definitely wasn’t going to get a job as a writer, no way, that was a fantasy.

But I didn’t go back to school to be a teacher. I took a job at an online university, learned a lot about office culture during the day, and worked at my writing at night. And where did that lead me? To a job as a creative writer for a respected company in a cool city. I won’t be here forever – in fact, I’ll be leaving soon to go back to school to get my MFA in creative writing – but the point is I didn’t rush into something because it seemed like the only option. I instead opened myself up to learning and got a job that I really love.

I bring this up because I couldn’t help but thinking of my own trajectory when reading Sallie Crawcheck’s LinkedIn post, If I Were 22: Face It, You’re Going to Be Kissing Some Career Frogs. In it, Sallie writes a great letter to her 22-year-old self, telling the young version of her to avoid going into careers just because they were hot or because her friends did. She says, instead, to take jobs as they arise and learn from these jobs: what’s good, what’s bad, what kind of workplace do you prefer, etc.

I really loved this post. Not only is it well-written and chock-full of great advice; it also covers something that is often overlooked: a mostly normal progression. So often, we read about the 22 year old with the billion-dollar app or the 16 year old with the perfect voice. Or else, it’s the other extreme: the 48 year old stockbroker turned comedian or the 62 year old miner who wrote the great American novel. Sallie is a breath of fresh air. She figures out her path at 29 – not too early, not too late – struggles a bit to start, but eventually stabilizes and goes on to achieve exceptional things. It might not be sexy enough to catch the attention of a Buzzfeed “writer,” but it’s a great story.

So read what she has to say, and relax. You don’t need to have things figured out as soon as you walk across the stage and get your degree.

(Photo by Katy Warner, used under a Creative Commons License.)

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