I often meet with men and women in their twenties who are riddled with worries about the choice of courses and career; they agonize over each job description, the list of duties and responsibilities assigned to them, and want a blueprint on how each task will get them closer to “the career,” the one they envision will make them happy, rich, and excited.
This emphasis, unique to this generation, is quickly becoming obsolete as the economy grinds down to a slow churn, and bills still need to be paid. The great news for these youth is, every job, big or small, teaches life skills and kick starts the journey. College courses, extended high school courses, trade school courses, and university courses all make the job experience brighter and help you prepare for the moment opportunity presents itself.
Remember, education in isolation is not enough; experience allows one to test the theories and hypothesis learnt. Whether the work experience is in the form of an unpaid internship, a first job that you had to take for money, or the job of your dreams, each experience is part of your education, and the course load doesn’t stop with the degree. Every year we spend money to educate and train staff at every level and expect staff to go for courses outside the workplace and expand their knowledge. Even if you needed to take a paying job right out of school there are many skill-building courses at local high schools, trade schools, and junior colleges that can add value to your CV, as well as your abilities.
So stop worrying about whether you are on the right path. Every course you take, every degree worked for, every job tackled and every path taken in your twenties is part of building the skills you will be using for the next 60 years.
Even the mundane—learning how to verify a credit card number, entering data, researching an idea, packing a box, or sending out a mailer—might seem trivial tasks. But think again—through conquering each task you learn to be responsible for the outcomes.
In 1972 I graduated from Brandeis University. During the four years away from home I learned to do my laundry, balance my meager allowance, and get along with roommates who were not my family. After graduation I sold magazines, ran a pizza place, and then went to school at night for six years to learn accounting. The value of my economics degree took a while to kick in. I needed a job description that matched the skills I learnt from 1972–1976. Finding that job took 20 years, but when it came up, I was ready.