Mine was a different generation. Looking back, my 20-something list would include:
- Embrace your college experience fully but remember grades do matter.
- Try new learning experiences; you never know when a life spark will light a new way forward.
- Think ahead, as much as you can…. Planning delivers longer term value and there is life after college!
- Be financially prudent.
- Remember to laugh, find joy…. always and often.
Some things changes, and others don’t. Get a more current perspective now….
Guest Post from Danny Rubin
If you were born between 1982 and 2000, you’re unlucky.
You may have already won the lottery, found a four-leaf clover and took home a new car like a lunatic on “The Price is Right.”
Doesn’t matter. Still unlucky.
In a recent piece for The Atlantic, Derek Thompson calls Millennials the ‘Unluckiest Generation.’ He says the economy, job market and student debt have all combined to make our lives historically tough.
The one upside to being so unlucky? We have plenty of tried-and-true wisdom to pass along.
When our children are old enough to understand, here’s what we, as a generation, are going to tell them:
1. Avoid student loans like the plague
Years later, my generation is still dealing with a mountain of student debt. If necessary, take a job to help pay for school or start out at a less expensive community college.
Oh, and apply for every grant and scholarship you can get your hands on. Yep, even the obscure ones like the Jif Most Creative Sandwich Contest, Wear Duck Tape to Prom Scholarship and American Fire Sprinkler Association Scholarship Program.
They all add up.
2. If a good job/internship comes along, take it
When I was your age, millions of well-paying jobs went overseas, and Americans had to fight and scrap for whatever was left.
In my twenties, I shouldn’t have been so picky. What I really needed was experience,experience, experience.
If a door opens, walk through it. You’ll find your true passion soon enough, but in the meantime be thankful you have a steady 9-to-5. They aren’t guaranteed.
3. Learn a second language
I mean really learn it. Not the typical four years in high school and then you’re done. Commit to being fluent in another tongue, particularly one that matters on the world stage.
Twenty-five years ago, you could manage just fine if you only spoke English. Now, you’re at a huge disadvantage. I wish I had picked up Mandarin or Spanish when I had a little more hair on my head. Those languages matter today more than ever.
4. Treat your credit score like a priceless work of art
In my twenties, I played it fast and loose with credit cards. Before long, I was in debt up to my eyeballs and had a financial history no one wanted to touch.
Bad credit impacts so many future purchases. It even made it tough for your mom and me to get our first house. My advice to you: spend only what you can afford, pay bills on time and have an almost religious devotion to maintaining your credit score.
5. Major in a field that’s in demand
I know I sound like a broken record but…when I was your age, I majored in philosophy when I should have focused on something more marketable like business, math or science. Understand what the economy needs and tailor your education to be the right person for the job. And don’t forget to dress nicely for the interview.
Geez, I sound like my father…
6. You must save for retirement
Your grandparents completely exhausted Social Security and bequeathed my generation, the Millennials, zilch for retirement. You know what that leaves you?
Well, what’s less than nothing? That’s what you’re going to get.
Take a little out of every paycheck now to ensure you have money down the road.
7. Don’t hide out in graduate school
If you need the advanced degree, we stand behind you. If you’re avoiding the real world, then please accept a gentle nudge into the unknown.
Just keep your eyes open because life itself is a master’s degree. And the School of Hard Knocks never requires tuition.
8. You don’t know how lucky you are
I remember when gas was only $4 a gallon, a song on iTunes was $.99 and we actually wrote things with pen and paper. Times have really changed since I was in your shoes. But in many ways, they’re still the same.
Like my generation, if you take advantage of every opportunity and save money when you can, you will set yourself up for a happy life. No one controls the future, but we can certainly prepare for it.
Now, can you please turn down that god-awful music?
Kids these days…
What will you tell your kids one day?
Danny Rubin is the managing editor of News To Live By, a blog for Millennials that highlights the career advice and leadership lessons “hidden” in the day’s top stories. Don’t just read the news — use it to gain an edge on the job. You can follow the blog at @NewsToLiveBy. – See more at: Damn Right I’m Part of the “Me Me Me” Generation.
Join the Conversation
What Every 20-Something Will One Day Tell Their Kids
Danny, great advice for the kids of the future, especially on spending only what we have. Love your approach, too. I’d “amend” a couple of your suggestions, if you don’t mind. First, on the not taking on student loans – Yes, they do add up, and ought to be avoided unless absolutely, positively necessary. However, there are exceptions. For years, I volunteered with a non-profit that helped inner city college hopefuls attain financial literacy and find money to attend college. For many of these kids, without taking on loans, at least partially, college was unreachable. Secondly, on the point about going for practical degrees, again, that’s very sound consideration. However, if everyone majors in business, math or science, the arts would suffer and our societal evolution would be lopsided. I believe part of a parent’s “job” is to provide structure and boundaries for his/her offspring, while encouraging and supporting them to know themselves and grow up to be confident, thoughtful individuals who can choose wisely and make valuable contributions to society with authenticity and spirit. That may or may not mean majoring in business, math or science. In any event, my two cents. Thank you for sharing your advice here.
“However, if everyone majors in business, math or science, the arts would suffer and our societal evolution would be lopsided.”
That’s very true. So maybe we can agree that all kids should come out of college with at least some background in business, math or science. Be a bit more balanced (and marketable). Even an philosopher needs enough business acumen to sell books 🙂
What a fun post Danny – loved Jon’s list and then yours! I would add one more thing to the list. “Don’t lease a car” – terrible investment – find a way to love the one in the garage that you completely own. AND I hope you are able to tell your kids that you remember when gasoline was our only option! 🙂
Ah great addition! I just took your advice and bought a car rather than leased it. Much smarter decision long-term.
I wrote last week about what I would tell college students http://www.joannamuses.com/2013/08/notes-to-my-college-self.html
In addition to what I said there, I would maybe tweak number 5 on your list and say that if you want to do an less practical major, consider doing a double major with a complimentary one that is practical. Eg. the reasoning skills you learn in philosophy might help in a second major in law and some of the social sciences can be quite helpful in marketing. Here in Australia depending on the combination you can sometimes do a double major in the same time as a single major and sometimes in just a year or two more.
I’d also tell them, watch what you put on the internet. I really worry for the job prospects of some younger people I know in the likely event of a potential employer Googling them one day. Something as drastic as changing their name might not be enough to get away from it given how well face recognition technology for photos is advancing
I agree with the preparation aspect of this post – preparing yourself with good credit, retirement savings, and fewer student loans. However, while I agree times are rough, I disagree with only using your college experience and experiences in general as ways to position yourself for a well-paying job. I think experience informs passion and, when someone is equipped with passion, they can go anywhere and do anything. It was unfortunate seeing classmates declare specific majors in college or avoid graduate school because “there is no money in that.” In my opinion, the world does not need more pencil-pushers or people working for the almighty dollar; it needs passionate individuals to pull us out of “rough times” and work to ensure we won’t have more in the future. I want to teach my future children and my current friends/family embarking on college journeys that it is not all about occupation, but vocation. I believe vocation exists where the planning discussed in this post meets passion and it is vocation that I would want to pass on from our generation to the next.
That’s a fair point, Kelly. It’s always nice when passion aligns with what the market needs. That’s the sweet spot!
I fully agree with the “passion” statement. I also know that passion can be a great motivator, but it also has to be supported by a strong goal setting system that can provide the roadmap to the fulfillment of that passion.
Unfortunately, our school system doesn’t teach the art of goal setting for young students, and that’s sad in itself. I’ve been advocating this for years, but it’s falling on deaf ears.
If they were taught the correct way to set and accomplish goals, they could begin setting plans in place to accomplish their own dreams and passions. What a gift they would then have for life, to accomplish anything!
I’ve witnessed many incidents in my work life where the person with the most passion got the promotion, without any consideration about degrees. Enthusiasm in the workplace will get noticed first, and be seen by everyone that matters.
I have since written a goal setting workbook that I primarily directed at students, but is valuable to anyone wanting to learn this art, and it is an art. I’m not talking about some “to-do” list that many call their goals. I’m talking about goals to achieve something of major importance.
Good stuff here.
Any education on goal-setting for young people should include this tenet:
Do not expect to attain any meaningful goal right away. The biggest victories take a lot of time and perseverance. That’s not what young people want to hear in our need-it-now culture, but it’s an immutable truth no matter the pace of our society.
Amen to your “tenet”….you’re right on target there, and that’s exactly why people have developed “to-do” lists, thinking that they are accomplishing goals. They don’t want to face anything that can’t be accomplished in the next two weeks.
But I still believe that if a real goal setting program was established in the high school and college school system, the student might be more apt to understand that the goals we’re referring to are major goals, and require a great deal of planning to accomplish.
By this I mean they could be told of some of the great battles in our history, such as General Eisenhower’s strategic goal of attacking the beaches of Normandy, and how important the result of that goal turned out to be. If that goal was not accomplished then all of Europe would have been a different place today!
They would understand that the strategic and tactical plan that was developed to accomplish this mission was amazing. Then they might be more inclined to be more patient, and realize that great accomplishments do take more time.
If their passion is strong enough, and they were exposed to the importance of a planning process in their early years, they would be more inclined to believe in your tenet.
Thanks for the great reply!
Goal-setting curriculum would be great. So tough to impart that kind of thinking on kids who correspond with each other through text messages that come across at the speed of light. Just the world we live in…
Here’s part of the curriculum at St Johns Military school in Kansas, and this applies to most Military schools. I guess their students just have a different mindset than the average student today.
Students will demonstrate mastery and understanding of the curricula benchmarks in these areas:
· Celebrating Differences – Culture and Individual Diversity
· Power Bases and Influence
· Styles of Leadership
· Management Skills
· Taking Charge – Knowing Your Responsibilities as a Leader
· Company Formations and Movement
· Brain Structure and Function
· Left Brain/Right Brain
· Learning Style and Processing Preferences
· Learning Models
· Multiple Intelligences
· Communicating in Groups
· Roles and Group Communication
· Finding Solutions – Conflict and Behavior
· Preparing to Teach
· Using and Developing Lesson Plans
· Delivering Instruction
· Graphic Organizers
· Using Feedback in the Classroom
· Geography and Government
· Making the Right Choices
· Goals and Goal Setting
· Career: Labor You Love
· Dietary Guidelines
· Controlling Fat
· Taking Care of Yourself
· Understanding and Controlling Stress
· Ready, Go…Crossing the Finish Line – Year 2
· First Aid for Burns
· First Aid for Poisons, Wounds, and Bruises
· Heat Injuries
· Cold Weather Injuries
· Drugs – Use and Effect
· Tobacco – Use and Effect
· Alcohol – Use and Effect
· Substance Abuse Intervention
· Substance Abuse Prevention
· Introduction to Maps
· Making Decisions – Majority and Consensus
· Establishing Ground Rules
· Small Group Meetings
· Representative Group Session
· Revolution and Independence
· Your Constitution – Its Purpose, Reality, and Use
· The Executive Branch and Sources of Presidential Power
· Political Parties, Voting and Elections
Leadership Education and Training (LET) 2. Washington, DC: Headquarters, Dept. of the Army, 2005.
Great post Danny! I majored in philosophy too. I loved the major, but doesn’t really scream “hire me.” So much of what you wrote I wish I would have known and will definitely pass on to my kids! Student loans are killing me and I will tell my kids to do whatever they can not get a loan. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, Luke! Hindsight is always 20/20, ain’t it? 🙂
Great post from Danny! My brother is a part of the Millennial generation and he’s smart and a kick-ass hard worker and he’s a part of the contract generation. He’s getting great experience but always working hard with an eye on his next gig too. I graduated college, joined a big Firm, had 401K, and insurance and stayed there (going from job to job internally) for 11 years. I can’t even imagine what the world will be like for my children!
Thanks, Alli! I think all young people are out there looking for ‘the one,’ that one job that will satisfy us. It’s a tricky line we walk because no job is perfect but some just aren’t a good fit. The challenge is to know when we have something good and stay put. Not always easy to see in the moment.