There are many things I would do over if I were 22 again. As I think about it, my list keeps growing, as I get older. This is not my bucket list. It’s just a list that I want to share with those of you who I hope won’t make the same mistakes I once did when I was 22. I have told others and myself over the years that I wouldn’t change a thing in my career. However, in reality, I would change a few things.
Now that I have nearly 3 decades of experience, I look back and can say I loved (almost) every minute of it. However, here are a number of things I wish I took advantage of as a young professional. If I were 22, I would definitely put these listed below right at the top of my to-do list.
- Invest In Experiences, Not Stuff
- Listen To The Advice Of Your Elders
- Enter Your Career With Your Eyes Wide Open – Open To New Paths
- Start Your Own Business Or Get Involved In A Start-Up
- Create More Than One Income Stream
- Learn A Foreign Language
- Start Investing Early
Invest In Experiences, Not Stuff
If you’re a marketer like me, you may not understand what I am about to say. Hear me out, this has merit. Today’s consumerism is rampant; because advertising exists pretty much everywhere people go. Companies want marketing professionals to expose their product to increase sales – naturally. This feeds consumerism, and now our entire culture is obsessed with buying stuff, more stuff and yes, more stuff. We just can’t get enough. The joy of getting something fresh and new provides only a temporal rush of satisfaction. This only lasts until we see or hear about the next cool thing and we must have it. No, this is not just with guys wanting techie gadgets and new cars. It also exists with the ladies out there who need clothes, shoes and the latest style. The buying temptation hooks us all, and it is totally out of control.
Stop the buying madness and invest your money in experiences. Here’s why. When you buy something, it typically has a shelf life that is much shorter than your memory. When you spend your money on a trip, either across the city or across the world, you will fondly remember it for a lifetime. That experience will also help to shape who you are and make you more well rounded as a professional. The best part is, you will always carry it with you wherever you go.
Listen To The Advice Of Your Elders
When you’re 22, you think you’re smart and can handle anything. Well… You’re wrong. Sorry to burst your bubble. Invest time with older, more mature co-workers and acquaintances. Ask them to mentor you and give you constructive criticism along the way. Don’t forget to apply this advice to your career. It’s also incredibly valuable to hang around a successful entrepreneur. You will learn a great deal because entrepreneurs think different. It won’t take long before you begin to recognize the insight you are getting from them is far more valuable than any other job experience. This mentorship is priceless.
Later in my career I found myself working and interacting with people that I found to be truly fascinating. It was their insight and innovative ideas that inspired me professionally and made me want to create and innovate. My entrepreneurial spirit was on fire because I was fortunate enough to be around people that invested in me. Their innovative approach and passion rubbed off on me – too bad I was in my 30s by the time I figured this out.
Enter Your Career With Your Eyes Wide Open – Open To New Paths
Most people tell college grads to plan your career path and follow the one that pays the most. I say, know your passions, strengths and desires, and follow them throughout your career. However, along the way, be open to new paths that are placed in front of you. You just never know what will happen and which way your career will lead you.
As you continue to work for companies, remember your passions, strengths and desires and continue to follow them. When you keep your eyes wide open, you will see and experience what life and work has to offer. A new plan may unfold right in front of you. In my case, my plan was not where I ended up, but I am so glad I was open to the new paths that were thrust in front of me. When I graduated from college I entered broadcast television, which at the time was my desire and passion. I followed it for nine years until a professional detour was put in front of me. I chose to alter my path and head in the direction of creative marketing. I am still on that same path today, eighteen years later. Along the way, the Internet, digital and social media were born, and now I am a professional doing things that didn’t exist when I was 22. It’s amazing how my career evolved, all because I was open to a new path.
Start Your Own Business Or Get Involved In A Start-Up
Big Business, contrary to what may people think is not as secure as it once was. Small businesses and start-ups can be equally as unstable. However, the learning experience along the way is incredible. It’s like earning a real-life on the job MBA. In my opinion, the experience is better than any Master’s degree can offer. Additionally, if the start-up you’re involved in progresses to the stage of a buyout or even a public offering, you will then be able to cash-out and take your hard earned money on to yet another business. I promise, the start-up experience, regardless of how it turns out will be one you will never forget and wouldn’t trade for anything. Today, start-ups are among the most popular business types in America and innovation is key to their success.
Create More Than One Income Stream
At some point in your career you will most likely get layed-off from your job. Sorry to be so negative, it just happens with corporate downsizings, buy-outs and mergers; so get used to it. It’s usually not a matter of if it happens but when. Companies now a days don’t exhibit loyalty to their employees that once existed twenty and thirty years ago. Thus, layoffs are occurring more frequently in all industries. One of the ways to make this less painful along the way is to create an income stream that is not coming from your primary job. Whatever you do, my suggestion is to pick a professional endeavor that allows you to work from home, or work remotely using your computer. This will give you the flexibility to invest as much time as you want during nights and weekends. It also provides extra money to stash away for when that layoff knocks at your door.
Learn A Foreign Language
As someone who loves Spanish and studied it in high school, I wish I had continued to learn that foreign language as I got older. Later in my career, I was asked to conduct business in Latin American countries. I wish I had continued to practice my Spanish. I certainly could have put it to good use in my job. At some point in your career, you may be faced with an opportunity that requires you to know another language. Select a language when you are in high school or college and stick with it. It’s so much easier to learn it and continue learning it while you are in your twenties. If you wait until you are in your forties, the time and effort it takes to learn the language will be much more difficult because of the personal and professional demands that are on your life. Don’t let this happen to you. Becoming bi-lingual early in your career could be one of the best things you do for yourself and open many doors in your career.
Start Investing Early
Retirement at the age of 22 seems so far away. I know, I thought that many times. When I was 22, I didn’t have any friends that were thinking of retirement. My parents weren’t even talking about it, so why should I? When I was 24, I had a co-worker that was trying to give me some good advice and told me to invest in the company’s 401k plan. I thought he was nuts and didn’t listen. Boy was I stupid. If your company offers a 401k plan with matching, you are throwing away your money by not participating. You are also throwing away the money your company would be giving to you (at not cost to you). Start investing your money now and by that time you are twenty years into your career you will be in great shape financially. If you wait until you are in your forties to invest in a 401k, you’ve wasted twenty years of the power of compounding and you will never get that money back again.
Yes, life does pass us by, but we must learn to embrace it, choose to see the good things life has to offer and smile. In part 2 of our series, tomorrow, I will share yet another 7 life altering experiences that were real for me, and may be real for you too. If you can harness the reality of them now, you will be far better off as you mature later in life. #IfIWere22