Our high school peers can be a valuable network.
I didn’t like high school much, I wouldn’t want to go back, and when I left I didn’t think I’d see most people again. Social media makes it easier to keep in touch, so I’m still in touch with people from both high school and college. The thing I never thought of as a teen is this: the people you know in school (whether it’s high school or university) are future professionals. The people you know will eventually work in a variety of different fields, and they’ll be the ones you can ask questions or learn more about an industry through.
Weigh your options.
When I went to college, I knew exactly what I wanted to study, but I never really weighed my options to see what else schools had to offer. I didn’t take the time to really look through all of the departments, and if I had, I probably would have found a balance sooner between following my passion and earning a living.
Know that things change.
As a teen, I felt so so so much pressure to figure out what I would do! For! The rest! Of my life! But honestly? Like the real honest truth? All of that is a myth. Lots of people, if not most, change careers at some point in their life. There are people who become accountants, teachers, doctors, or psychologists, only to leave the field and do something else.
That’s not a bad thing (even if it might sound like a waste of money from all the degrees). But it is a fact of life. People change and grow. What you want at 18 or 24 might not be what you want at 29 or 35. You don’t need to know what you want to do forever. But finding something you can see yourself doing for at least years is a good place to start. Once you have experience in one field, it’s easier to find ways to apply those skills to another.
Don’t take life too seriously.
School and building a career is a lot of work. It’s important to work hard and study and try your best, but you want to make time for fun and good memories, too. The career path you choose in your studies might not last forever (or who knows, it just might!), but you’ll likely have relationships and friendships that last for many years. Those will be some of the most valuable things to take from your years in school.
Blaze a trail.
The truth is, there’s no “one size fits all” advice. You might have someone who chooses to study engineering and builds a career in that, or you might have another person who graduates with that same degree, only to decide, ‘This career is not right for me.’ You can have someone who studies Musical Theater and finds different jobs they like after college, then you’ll have others who study the arts and struggle to pay the bills for a while.
It can really go either way, regardless of what career path you try. You have to find the balance between doing something that makes you happy, and doing something that makes you money. For many people, this means experimenting, trying out different things, and learning more about themselves before finding a path to “settle” on. But the truth is, I don’t think we ever settle. I think we’re always evolving, and you just kind of have to be along for the ride.
Your 20s will be one big experiment.
Very few people have their shit together in their 20s, regardless of how their lives may look on social media. People are figuring out their careers, and their love lives, and whether they want children, and where they want to live, and (for those in the U.S), making sure they still have health insurance after they turn 26. It’s a long road with a lot of (really) big decisions.
Overall, I think you just have to remember to breathe. Most decisions are not final (except, ya know, having children. That’s a bit more permanent than most things lol). But overall, you have a lifetime to learn, grow, and try new things. The time also goes by fast. It can be stressful, but try to make time for fun and to be happy. You’ll go through career highs and lows, honeymoon phases and heartbreaks, decisions you’re proud of and things you would do differently if you could. It’s quite a journey, but you learn a lot and become more You than you’ve ever been.