How to Find Direction If You’re Lost In Your 20s
University and college do everything but prepare you for the outside world. This reality becomes immediately apparent the moment you leave the comforts of the structure it provides.
“Hey, here’s your degree. Well done. We taught you everything you need to know about your chosen subject. The rest? You’re on your own. Good luck.”
With that, you step foot into the real world, and the weight of the unknown smashes you in the face like a freight train.
My university experience played out similarly. As I left campus for the last time, I was immediately overwhelmed.
What the fuck do I do now?
I had no experience, an average degree, and a lack of passion from the subject I studied in. My attempts to kickstart a career proved futile.
To those of you who have had similar experiences, take it from someone who has been there, done that, and finally found some direction — it’s okay to lose your way. To borrow a well-repeated phrase, you can take your 20s to find it, your 30s to build it, and then live it for the rest of your life.
Here are some steps I’ve taken to finally find a sense of direction and purpose that should help you. I even managed to build a dream job for myself in the process.
Work a Minimum-Wage Job
Many people look down on ‘low-grade’ jobs and those working them as if they aren’t worth the shit on their shoes.
Ignore the naysayers. In my experiences, the part-time jobs I’ve had in my 20s have been lifelines for me. They have disciplined me, kept me afloat financially, forced me to develop a strong work ethic, provided my life structure when it needed it most, and built me a network of contacts that I can still rely on today. Best of all, I’ve made countless friends, many of whom I still consider to be close to this day.
While I’ll concede that many minimum-wage jobs can be thankless and grueling tasks, the personal growth and development gained from them far outweigh the downsides.
If you’re floating around aimlessly, I’d encourage you to eat a slice of humble pie and get a job — any job. Once you’re there, commit to it 100%, and you’ll be thrilled with the outcomes.
Gamble on a Passion
Alongside my part-time job, I took steps to turn a passion of mine into a project — before launching it into a business.
That’s another benefit to part-time work; you can earn and still have plenty of time to pursue other interests. My passion was making things. It was born from having access to a wood workshop facility during my university studies. Alongside a fellow graduate, we played around for a year or two in a tiny rented studio, building the odd thing here and there and doing projects for friends and family.
Then, when the timing felt right, we branded it and launched it as a business. As it grew, we were able to quit the part-time jobs and pursue our passion full-time. In the years that followed, we accomplished amazing things and were involved in some really rewarding projects.
Running the business gave my life some much-needed purpose, and the personal growth I have undergone since starting it has been monumental for me.
If you’re finding yourself out of options, why not look to something you already love doing? If you throw in some commitment with that passion, there’s every chance you can regain control of your future.
Work (a Little Bit) for Free
One of my main work commitments these days is being co-partner on a big-name publication. Sure, I’m privileged to hold the position, but how did I get here?
I offered to help the owner out, in any way I could, for free.
I met my now partner in crime, Tom Kuegler, after being one of the first students to take his newly launched writing course. With the rest of the students, that was the end of the story, but not for me. I made a concerted effort to stay in touch with him and offered him my help if he ever needed it. After assisting in the course-associated Slack community, and writing some newsletters, one day, I received an email presenting me the opportunity to come onboard his publication as an editor.
I almost choked on my coco pops.
18 months later, our partnership is blooming, and the future is freaking exciting. I’m not an advocate of working for free, but I do believe that offering to help someone in a small way without asking for return is a surefire way to put you on their radar — and you never know what opportunities that may lead too.
Find the People You Want to Try and Become
If somebody is living the life you want for yourself, why not reach out and ask them how they achieved it?
There’s no harm in asking, and you’ll be surprised how many people respond to a cold email.
Many people in the writing space do what I want to do. So, when I first started writing, I reached out to them. I asked about their journey, or for any advice they could give me. In relation to an earlier point, I offered to help many of them out for free.
As Gary Vee once said “I’m a big believer in working for cheap (or free) for the person you want to try and become.”
Now, I consider many of these people to be my friends. Connecting with them has opened many doors that would never have been available to me beforehand; writing gigs, mastermind groups, clients, and job opportunities.
You really don’t get if you don’t ask. If you’re fed up, feeling disappointed in where you’re at, reach out to those you admire. It could be the start of something life-changing.
If you can take anything from my journey, it’s this; time is on your side, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There’s no pressure to figure out the complicated puzzle of life by tomorrow.
When I finished my studies, I was only 21 years old. I’ve been able to work some part-time jobs, try my hand a few projects and passions, set up and run a business, and now move into an exciting new career opportunity as a writer and editor. It has been quite an eventful 7 years.
My story should clarify that this motto does ring true; you can find it in your 20s, build it in your 30s and enjoy it for the rest of your life.
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