Despite the number of ‘20 things you need to know about in your 20s’ articles on the internet, there is no refuting that many twenty-somethings find themselves unprepared for the crucial decade that lies ahead of them. Bidding goodbye to carefree teenage days and grappling (sometimes hopelessly) with adulthood, this period is marked by uncertainty and often second-guessing our decisions, but also excitement and desire to test our abilities, prove our worth and achieve greatness. Through the trial and error, mistakes made and lessons learnt, there are a few bases that every twenty-something needs to touch to ensure an overall smooth ride:
A strong foundation to break your fall(s)
Metaphorically, the twenties is all about falling down and getting back up, over and over again. It may sound exhausting, but it’s the biggest learning process you shall encounter (despite 15 years of formal education). How does one create a strong base for oneself? Build yourself up like you were to build a brand – understand your strengths, weaknesses and aspirations. Set goals for what you want to achieve and how you’re likely to achieve this – create a master plan that focuses not on your goals, but on you as an individual. Supplement this with an attitude of risk-taking – experiment, make mistakes, try new things and be ready to be proven wrong on several occasions. Look inwards to help make sense of what’s around you, and make sure that you’re constantly making decisions to get where you really want to be. A lot of twenty-somethings discounts this process of ‘self-evaluation and understanding’ as a function of time, and let their guards down when it comes to crucial decision-making points in their lives.
Manage your moolah
The cost of setting up your new life in your 20s is high – be it repaying student loans, planning to live away from home, or just earning for the first time and managing your finances. With a new source of income comes the desire to try new things – travel to new places, eat out or experience new things. For millennials, to create wealth, time is the most essential element. It is important to make a conscious decision to educate yourself about investing for long-term goals and not resort to the instant gratification of all wants. Tracking finances, budgeting and saving for a rainy day may seem like cumbersome tasks, but it is important to take time out every now and then and evaluate your spending habits, making sure that you’re making the best decision for your future self while spending your hard earned money.
Build your network
Furthering your cause – be it finding a new job, starting a project of passion or just branching out to try new experience – all of these can be achieved through networking. You are bound to encounter people from various walks of life, each of whom will have something to teach you. Many people mistake networking as a forced way of walking up to people, introducing yourself, exchanging cards and hoping that this connection will be of some use in the future. Networking doesn’t have to be transactional, it is merely the process of forming a friendship that is rooted in the kind of work you do. Focus on either adding value to the conversations you have with people, and never make the mistake of assuming you are too young to create an impact in anyone’s mind. Building your personal brand, as mentioned before, is something that will help you gauge what you can bring to the table and what you can seek in other people. Networking will never go out of fashion, so it is important to grab every opportunity that comes your way.
Show ‘em who is boss
‘Leadership’ can seem like a subject that one might not take seriously in their early 20s. But the norms of leadership are fast changing – millennials as a generation exhibit more skills as leaders than any generation before them. This is because they are agiler when it comes to procuring resources to solve a problem and are unafraid to try unconventional methods to reach the desired goal. Irrespective of how old you are, it is important to take charge of situations every now and then, and demonstrate bouts of leadership, whether your role may explicitly ask for it or not. Consider this as an exercise in inculcating a habit that is bound to take you places. Take up initiatives, exhibit a child-like curiosity about things and don’t accept status quo at face value. This will help you open up various avenues for yourself and become an individual people would look up to.
Connect to a cause
It is essential to inculcate in ourselves, especially when we are younger, a habit of giving back to society. Owning wealth is not a prerequisite – simply use your skills to give back to those who are lesser-privileged than you, and help them have access to the same chances you might’ve had. Volunteer for a cause close to your heart, donate things you might not be used to people who might need it, donate to an issue you are deeply passionate about – it is important to stay humble and be rooted, and endeavour to make the world a better place in whatever way you can.