I’ve had several conversations in recent weeks with young adults either in school or in the early days of their careers. They’ve been looking for advice from me. I guess they perceive I’ve had some success. And, they obviously think I have experience. (That’s a kind way of acknowledging that I’m getting old.)
Here are some quick thoughts that might help you if you’re on the front end of your journey in life. If I could sit down with Millennials, this is what I’d share. These are some of the basic steps that allowed me to pursue my dreams. Here they are:
1. Get responsible while you’re still at home. Don’t rely on mommy and daddy to bail you out. Don’t let them try to get you out of a bad grade. That’s your challenge. Own your schedule. Own your priorities. Own your financial responsibilities. They may help, but the goal is for you to leave home knowing how to navigate life without mommy and daddy having to step in if there’s a problem.
2. Get a job while you’re in high school. Any job. You need to learn how to show up on time, make a boss happy and and work hard to earn a paycheck, even if you don’t enjoy the job. That’s life. No matter what you will do later, you need to learn how real people work real jobs in the real world.
3. Get a degree, but don’t leave with a lot of debt. No one owes you an education at an out-of-state school. Even if the government makes it easy for you to borrow all the money you need, go where it’s cheaper. Apply for as many scholarships as you can. Work your way through school. Too much debt will prevent you from pursuing your dreams.
4. Get an internship while you’re in college. Don’t settle for working at McDonald’s unless you eventually want to own a McDonald’s. In the real world, what distinguishes one candidate from another is quality experience. Get experience doing what you hope to do in the future. Don’t wait for the internships to come to you. Go out and create them, even if you have to volunteer.
5. Get a real job when you graduate. It’s highly unlikely that your first job after graduation will be your dream job. But your first job can prepare you to work with and influence your peers and your boss. It can help you begin to process conflict. It will help you learn what you enjoy doing, where you’re skilled and what someone will pay you to do.
6. Get married to someone who shares your values and dreams. You need a teammate. You need a close friend. You need to help them fulfill their dreams, and you need someone who will help you pursue your purpose. You can’t do that if you marry someone who doesn’t share your core values for life.
7. Get a savings account instead of a car. If you want to pursue your dream, you can do that in a 10-year-old car. You can’t pursue your dream if you don’t have a savings account. That savings gives you the freedom to take calculated risks to pursue your dreams while still providing financially for you and your family.
8. Get off your phone and into action. Just because you “like” something on Facebook or “retweet” something on Twitter doesn’t mean you’re a champion of the cause. Instead, you need to give your time and money. Make a real investment. (And, by the way, be careful what you post on Facebook and Twitter. Employers look there first.)
9. Get a mentor. But don’t ask anyone to be your mentor. They’ll probably say no. Instead, read everything they’ve written. Listen to what they have to say. Watch how they live their lives. Email them pointed questions, and they may respond. You need their wisdom and experience more than you need their time. (If you also get their time, that’s a bonus.)
10. Get disciplined about doing the next right thing right now. If you want to experience your dream, you need to begin taking the next right step right now. That’s where integrity is built. That’s where you learn to persevere. That’s where people begin to believe in you. Be faithful in the now, and you may just experience your dreams in the future. If you fail to take the next step with integrity, though, you may never experience your dreams.
Pretty basic stuff. If you want to know the nitty gritty personal details, I shared some of that in this article on “How to Get from Here to There” several years ago.
Of course, you don’t want to follow these exact steps. Your plan is different than my plan. I highly recommend, though, that you embrace these foundational principles.
And I hope you get to experience your dreams.