In the last year of being in my twenties, I realized I had a lot of significant changes in the past 10 years. I held 5 jobs, worked in 4 different states, purchased a home, had my heart broken several times, graduated college, gone back to college for a second bachelor’s degree, and moved across the country to pursue my vocation in archaeology and continue my career in graphic design. I have gone through a whirlwind of emotions and grown exponentially as an individual.

Below are some life lessons I think everyone should learn in their twenties:

  1. Job skills: Learning how to sell yourself as a valuable asset to a company in a professional manner will help you land your dream job. Having a good resume and cover letter are what will stand out to a potential employer. It’s their first impression of who you are. Crappy resume created in Word with no formatting = lazy college student. If you have to, download a nice template or take an online class, do it. (I'm a graphic designer so I have a bit of a leg up on this skill, however, everyone should take the time to make their resume look professional).
    Next, always dress business professional to an interview even if it’s for a car wash job. It will make you stand out. Look good, smell nice, and be genuine. RESEARCH the company and have some good questions to ask them. It shows determination, initiative, and great interest in the position. I ALWAYS call to confirm they received an email with my CV and resume. If it’s an Indeed.com listing or no email or contact is given, do a Google search and find their headquarters number and ask for HR. Even if you see that it has a ‘do not call ‘note, confirming the receipt of an email is never a bad thing in my book.

  2. You WILL have to pay your dues. What I mean by this, is that don’t expect to come flying out of college with your degree at the bachelor’s level and make 50k (there might be a few exceptions in certain fields and big cities). It just doesn’t happen. You have to pay your dues! Experience in your field is much more valuable than that piece of paper unfortunately. This doesn’t mean DON’T go to college, but have a realistic idea of what someone in your industry makes in an entry level position so you aren’t shocked when you get a job. You can look up all this information online.
    Learning how to work in a job environment is just as important as the skills you learned in college. You will have to get accustomed to the politics of your employer, how to work on a team, interact with difficult clients/coworkers so you don’t burn bridges, how to send professional emails and how to prep for meetings. These are all learning curves you will have to face and takes years to perfect! I have worked extremely hard for the past 10 years in my field and finally feel like I make what I’m worth. This may be a harsh reality to sink in, but no one tells you this between college and the real world. Don’t be discouraged! It does pay off!

  3. Adult yourself! No one ever says “it’s up to you to learn how to balance your life, get out of bed, go to work, show up on time, do banal errands, keep up with bills etc.” You’re now the adult and it SUCKS! But now YOU have to do it. If you have to create a Google Calendar to keep organized or purchase an organizer to keep your life straight do it. Nothing is worse than missing a doctor’s appointment and having to pay the $25 fee or realizing you missed your rent by two days or forgot to get your insurance switched to a new vehicle. You are now responsible for everything in your life so don’t pass up blame to others. It’s all on you now. Take charge and be responsible. You’ll get into a rhythm or routine just like you did in college and some things will start to become second nature.
  4. Create an ‘oh shit kitty’ (OSK. bank account): Start by setting up an automatic withdraw every month of what you can afford: five, twenty, fifty, one-hundred dollars, whatever it is. Don’t rely on a credit card for an emergency fund. I recently used my OSK to replace my AC unit that went kaput. But a credit card with a reasonable interest rate is always good to have tucked away in your purse for that emergency flight to see family, a household emergency, car repair, etc. But, you will be thankful if you have the cash to tap instead of adding to more credit card debt. When your OSK is empty, just start adding again!

  5. A few good friends are more valuable than a lot of casual ones. Of course, make yourself available to others but having those few extremely reliable people that will do anything for you at any time, are worth their weight in gold.

  6. NEVER burn bridges. Our generation gets a bad reputation for having an entitlement mentality, laziness, being greedy, and have negative personalities. Changing this view for future generations is extremely important. One BIG way to do this is to NEVER burn your bridges. ALWAYS take the high road and make sure you thank everyone (especially your employers) for opportunities you were given (even if your boss treated you like crap and you may hate their guts). You never know when you might come across that person later on in life and need a favor from them. It IS a small world and it’s better to have more friends than enemies. Besides, it’s too much stress to carry negative feelings around.

  7. It’s okay to ask for help! I’m one of those people who likes to do things myself and learn on my own. I have a creative mind and learn by doing rather than by someone telling me how to do it. But there are some HUGE things like ‘how to buy a house’ that you just need to ask someone for help or advice. It was a learning curve for me on my first home purchase and I was thankful to have my mom and dad only a call away to ask about what documents I needed, what ‘escrow’ was, what insurance I needed, and even that I should change my locks after I first moved in. There are just things that other people will have done and experienced before you. It’s okay to ask them for help and advice!

  8. Never be afraid to learn & keep an open mind. In the field of graphic design, there are constantly new tools being released in software that I can learn in order to advance my skills as a designer. Don’t be close minded to what you already know. I’m sure there is some proverb that says ‘keep your cup empty so it may always be refilled’. Take a leap and learn a new piece of software, how to edit video, or even how to make bread from scratch. It doesn’t have to be something that advances your career, but constantly learning new things is a human wanderlust that needs to be fulfilled. I’m taking it so far as to go back to college for a bachelor degree completely unrelated to my current field, in hopes that it will meld together in my future to fulfill a dream. You never know where learning something new may lead: a new hobby, meeting new people, or a new career.

  9. Know when to keep quiet and know when to speak up. This was a huge lesson that I have had to learn over the past few years. Again, millennials have a bad reputation for being too outspoken, are quick to jump to conclusions, and are disrespectful to superiors. Yes, these are generalizations and stereotypes, but we hear about these for a reason. I learned very quickly in my last job that it was wiser to pick and choose your battles (as cliche as that sounds). This doesn’t mean you should compromise your beliefs, not share relevant experience, or suggest ideas. It means to think thoroughly about whether or not what you’re about to say will benefit the conversation, make you appear intelligent and most of all be of help. Sometimes voicing your opinion over something as trivial as font choice should just be stowed for another day.

  10. Don’t be afraid of change. Throughout my life I’ve lived on the east coast, west coast, midwest, deep south, and now the southwest. This amount of moving may be startling for some but for me it was the norm and change has always been a big part of my life. I think it made me very adaptable to different situations including being fearless of change. Change can be terrifying since the outcome is unpredictable, however this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are many things that may seem daunting: switching jobs, getting married, starting a business, starting a family. Life is about the experiences that influence you as an individual and this can’t happen without change. Embrace it, go with the flow, and if you don’t like the outcome, take action and create the change you want!  

  11. Do what’s best for you. Many times we hesitate to follow our dreams or opportunities because we are petrified about what others may think and react to our decision. True friends will always want what’s best for you and show support as long as you’re happy. I had a very tough decision to make in moving across the country from Alabama to Utah but I knew it was the best thing for myself personally and professionally. All of my friends were extremely happy for me and my family’s unwavering support was key in my final decision. At the end of the day, it is your life and hopefully you know what is best for you!

  12. My personal motto: I’ll try anything once! Telling someone you don’t like sushi and when they ask ‘have you tried it’ and you reply ‘well, no…’ lends NO credibility to your statement and denies you from an experience that may be positive! When you were a kid and you tried ice-cream for the first time you probably had the same reaction. Don’t knock something until you tried it! I can say I’ve eaten alligator, gone rock-climbing, tried fried okra, stayed in a haunted hotel, flown overseas multiple times, and ticked a few more items off my personal bucket list. What you won’t try, you won’t ever enjoy. Be open and take risks. What’s the worst that can happen?