To celebrate a milestone on PopCultureTraveler, this is an informative article aimed at people in their 20s, but anyone pick up the tips contained within. It is a no nonsense take on what people in 20s could do to set themselves up for the future. It comes after speaking to many people in their 20s who are wanting guidance and are still reflecting on their lives and whether there will be certainty in the future. At outset, I felt the same way, but on realizing that starting early, being consistent and working hard, and also being kind to others, both being open to good, thoughtful ideas and genuinely helping others, goes a long way.
If you are in your early 20s, you might be only a few years out from high school and/or in your first or second year at university/ college or even in an apprenticeship in a certain trade. You may be feeling uncertain about the future and the direction you are heading. You probably dream at night of living life like the rich and famous. You know, living like those famous music artists, actors, talk-show hosts and other celebrities with their good looks, endless amount of followers and immerse “talents”. But you need to honest with yourself, the chances of reaching wealth and fame only comes to less than 0.01% of the us. Getting there is a combination of luck by knowing the right people, having the requisite skills (you won’t get much meeting a famous music producer if you can’t sing or play music), and saying yes at the right times.
Therefore for the rest of us (e.g. me included), it is better to be realistic with your future and do what you can to secure your future and live your best life. And who knows if you focus on the realistic picture and things within your control, you will feel more secure and you may actually hit your lucky break and become a celebrity.
I remember when I was young, I wanted to be become the next martial arts action star like Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Donnie Yen. I took up martial arts in the hope of one day landing a gig in a movie. I could have been a movie extra for all I cared. Throughout middle school and senior school, I honed my skills, but my lucky break never came. I wasn’t in the right country and didn’t speak much Cantonese nor Mandarin for that matter. Given that martial art films are predominantly filmed in Hong Kong, it was highly unlikely that some Hong Kong cinema producer would find me out of the blue in Australia. I would need to put myself out there and make myself noticed. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the means, particularly the financial means, to do it and even now (though I can afford a ticket to Hong Kong thanks to my job), I think I’ve missed my chance since I am no longer in my 20s and my body isn’t what it used to be. Despite me not getting to the top, I still hope others can achieve their dreams.
So I spent my early 20s meandering and not really having a goal. Although I did okay in high school, I always knew I could have done better and gotten into a more well known university. The university I attended is not bad at all. But the sense of not attending the best university and having a worse hand come employment certainly helped to push me to work harder and think more creatively about what I needed to do to succeed.
On realizing my dream of becoming a martial arts movie star was not possible, in my mid 20s my other dream developed and it was to be able to travel the world and experience as many new things as possible (from food to activities). For that, it was more realistic and I knew then that to be able to travel and try new things that needed a lot of money and good friends. Money to pay for the plane tickets and accommodation and friends to ensure I had people I could travel with or visit. Having made my way through university and working some odd jobs here and there and moving up, I certainly feel more financially secure and content so I thought I’d share some of my tips to my younger contemporaries.
1 – Do not neglect your education
If you could, you should put your all into getting great results in university/college. There will be days where It will be hard and it will takes a lot of determination and motivation since you will have a lot of appealing distractions to take you away from your studies: outings with friends, hours procrastinating on Netflix or YouTuve and/or just simply doing something that isn’t study.
At university, I heard a saying that “Ps gets degrees”, well it is a true that you will pass. But “Ps” (or pass mark of just between 50% to 59%) for several subjects aren’t going to land you a job. It won’t be impossible to get a job, but between a candidate who normally gets “HDs” (high distinctions) and a person who gets “Ps”, it is pretty easy for a prospective employer to go with the better scoring student. I can’t recall someone who only got “Ps” and managed to secure a great job on the basis of their score. (If you are getting “Ps”, it is not the end of the world, but it will require you to work your guts off to prove to prospective employers that you have what it takes to perform in the role.)
If you constantly get good scores, it will make a big difference and make it easier for you to get summer clerkships and graduate traineeships. Even better, if you get constantly good results and actually understand the material that you are learning, it will be a great asset in your eventual career and you are more likely to be promoted. Plus, if you do well and also have a whole bunch of work experience and extra circular activities, you are more likely to be hired.
So if you are a “P” student, you will need to make up for your poor results by having a lot of work experience. I was a “D” student and had about three jobs at any one time, including volunteering work, retail work and tutoring. It really paid off come employment time. I was able to show that I did really well at university while holding down heaps of jobs in various industries, some not relevant to the job, but showed that I had an incredible amount of work experience.
2 – Get your first job and start small
I got my first job when I turned 21. I realized early on that I needed to add jobs to my resume. There was no way I could get a job finishing university without work experience. By the time I started in my first job related to my university degree, I had already racked up more than 10 part-time and casual jobs. I was a nervous wreck when I just 21 years old, but as I kept trying and applying for new jobs, more and more prospective employers were impressed and each new job I worked at continued to give me new experiences and the confidence to succeed.
My first job was in fast food. I had no other place. I just rocked up in a nice shirt and pants and asked if they were hiring and the hiring manager sat me down then and there and hired me. It wasn’t a desirable job with the feeling of grease around your body after work and the messiness working with a group young adults. But what I gained was a lot of experience and one or two good friends. I learnt how to deal with customers from all walks of life, from the very poor to the very privileged. The things I experienced as a cashier to drive through person taught me about how I should treat people working in service. I developed immensely from the role. By the end of the role, I was less arrogant towards people and a greater appreciation of people working in the food industry. (Though, I don’t frequent fast food a lot since I know how unhealthy it is.)
It was thanks to my job in fast food that I landed another job at a large supermarket chain. The job was a little more desirable.
Obtaining my other jobs were the similar. I would rock up to a prospective employers place of business and ask if there were vacancies. Maybe due to my politeness or dress (and out of 20 or so attempts), I would get three or four saying they would interview me then and there. I only needed one or two job offers and then be set. The key is to engage with the manager/owner and not a store worker. I didn’t care if it was volunteer work or anything else, I just needed to add to my resume. (And many of my volunteer roles ended up becoming paid roles, because I was able to do some really good work for them. So never discount roles that don’t pay at the start.)
3 – Be kind and look out for your friends
Don’t be a jerk. Be kind and lookout for your friends and in turn, your friends will look out for you.
The more friends you have the better, particularly friends of different ages and in different parts of the world. A real friendship feels like a give and take at the start, but is leads to a situation where you are always willing to be there for someone and that person is willing to be there for you through thick and thin.
Most of my better friends nowadays are my high school friends and work colleagues. Unlike in high school, where I used to hang out with the same people each lunch, I remember how hard it was to make new friends at university. Most people were living in their own worlds and we weren’t at university long enough to be able to form a meaningful relationship.
When working out who are friends, you should always be weary of “friends” who only take from you and don’t give anything back in return. If these people just take, then they are not really your friend. Remember that the giving and taking doesn’t have to be money or physical items, it can be time together or doing them a favor.
You should hope your friends succeed in life. They are the people you know. So, if they become successful, you are likely going to be a recipient of their success when they remember all the good things you did for them. If you think of some of the richest people in the world, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, they all worked their way up to their wealth. Your friend may not reach their heights.
One key thing is to lookout for mentors with experience. They are important and will give you great experience in your field. In particular, they will share their ups and downs and the stories of their lives so that you can learn vicariously through them. I have friends who are much older than me, who have so much they are share with me and teach. I am incredibly fortunate. Do not let age be a barrier to making new friends.
4 – Your health is important and quit the bad habits as soon as possible
You only have one body. When you are young. You will think that you are invincible. You will break your arm doing skateboarding, maybe engage in a few tackles on the sports field and eat a lot of junk food. But you need to be more careful otherwise you will feel the results of your carelessness in your 30s and 40s.
You should aim to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, whether it is running, doing weights or some exercise routines. If you don’t have the motivation, you should join a group class at your local gym where your teacher will guide you through the exercises. (Don’t worry, no one is really going to care if you join a class. I do and enjoy it because I don’t have to think and know I’ll get a good workout. Plus, group classes are usually part of your gym membership.)
Remember that if you neglect your health now, it will cumulate as you get older. For instance, a decade of eating junk food is going to cause you to gain weight and be generally unhealthy. I think you will also be less energetic and more prone to negative thoughts. If you look at well regarded celebrities, you know that they are eating good food, exercising and are so energetic in their lives. Once you get into a rhythm, your life will improve. I think being healthy is one of the keys to having a happy life.
5 – Remember to have fun, but don’t spend beyond your means
Life sounds like a lot of hard work. As you get older, it is true since more and more people depend on you. In your immediate range are your children, partner and parents and there are more on the outer ring including your siblings, in-laws, friends and work colleagues. But there are so many opportunities to enjoy life. I recommend spending enough to enjoy your life while you are young, but never spend more than you earn. Credit cards are not your friend if they cause you to go into debt.
When you are young, you are more able to do things because you are physically capable of doing heaps of things. For me, I would prefer to go kayaking or exploring Venice by boat when I am young then wait until I am financially secure in my late 60s or 70s. I don’t really want to picture myself being physically old riding a boat at that age (and probably falling sleep halfway through the journey). I want to do it when I am young and fit and have the photos to prove it. So this tip is aimed at helping you save money now so that you can travel when you are young.
When you are in your 20s, you will have some really expensive things that require you to save in order to purchase, they are your (in order of most expensive to cheapest):
To be financially secure, you will need to ensure you secure a job. Ideally you should work hard to secure a job in the industry that you are trying to break into and it can be a relatively junior role. (I don’t know many managers who are in their 20s, it is very rare. That fact that you are in your industry is good enough.)
When you receive you regular pay checks, you should consider the following:
- living at home with your parents to save having to pay for rent. (The advantage is that your parents will likely let you stay for free or at a reduced rent and will feed you and help you with chores.)
- if you can, aim to put at least 60% of the remainder of your paycheck in your savings or investments (such as shares or a term deposit). Compound interest is your friend and if you keep making regular contributions you should see your savings and investments grow exponentially over time. We are talking years, not weeks or months.
- on the remaining 40%, work out what is important to you, e.g. is eating a fancy dinner every Saturday night important to you? Or do you want to save the remaining 40% for something bigger like a nice phone or a holiday.
- it is easy to buy things, but incredibly hard to sell things. Don’t buy things that you know will not be used or is just to satisfy a temporary fad. For me, I prefer to buy really nice clothes from certain brands twice a year than buy a lot of cheap clothes that don’t last long and/or I won’t wear.
Once you have a good rhythm with your savings and you have the financial means, you are able to do so much more. You will have more discretionary spending power and the ability to give back to people. To this day, I want people to be able to be their best, particularly the people around me. I want them to succeed, because if they succeed, it means knowing a successful person in my life.
You should compare yourself to the person you were yesterday, are you more educated, a better job, good friends, more healthier and financially secure. If not, see what you can do to improve your lot in life.
My only other tip is to consider what you can do for others. It may seem insignificant, but consider donating or taking your vote seriously. Donating to worthy causes where the money goes to people in need will go a long way. (Remember that charities have admin fees like staff and rent to pay, so it is unrealistic for 100% of your donation to go to the cause. Pick charities that put a lot their donations toward the cause.)
In Australia, voting at Federal, State and Local elections is compulsory otherwise you get hit with a fine. I take this obligation very seriously and think every young person should as well. I think it is important to support political parties that actually support young people in education and their careers and genuinely want to help hard working people instead of giving handouts to the elite and privileged. Don’t listen to people who say the political parties are exactly the same, there is a very real and clear difference between the political parties.
Disclaimer: this is an informative article aimed at providing information to young people. There is no personal advice or personal product being offered to readers. In additional, this article does not consider the reader’s personal situation or circumstances and it is up to the reader to seek their own advice for their own situation and circumstances.
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