Dear teenage me,
How’s life? I heard you’re ready to apply to a bunch of colleges this fall. I bet you don’t really know where you want to go or what you want to do with your life (actually, I know you don’t know).
Lucky for you, I’ve spent some time in the real world. And here’s a surprise: when you graduate, there won’t be any jobs. It’s called a “Recession,” and it’ll be a doozy for college grads. So you can look forward to joining the masses of underemployed twenty-somethings in a few years.
But I don’t want you to have to “settle” just because unemployment is high. So here’s some advice (whether you want it or not) about what you can do now to survive a not-so-good economy when you graduate:
1. Learn a highly valuable, rare skill
Please, for God’s sake, learn at least one tangible, relevant skill. It doesn’t have to be related to your passion. Just become good at something that’s in-demand.
Because I’ll tell you this: being a generalist will only get you so far in a bad economy. Teach yourself how to code. Become a self-taught marketing expert. Take a class in graphic design.
Want to be unstoppable? Combine that rare and valuable skill with something you love. Become the only painter you know who can build an entire website from scratch, and offer to do the same for the greater artist community. It is possible to be creative, profitable and valuable all at once. You’re already passionate, so learn something useful.
It doesn’t matter if your resume says you’re “highly organized” and you have a degree in women’s studies (see above). When it comes to making money, you are only as good as the value (perceived or real) that you provide to others. Start figuring out how to provide value for money, before you’re thrown into the job market after college.
One of the best ways to do that is to start a side hustle. No, not street walking or dealing… think like an entrepreneur and test out any and all money-making ideas that pop into your head. Experiment, tweak, and see what works. And again, this doesn’t have to be related to your passion – you’ve already got plenty of that.
If you start trying to make money on the side now, you’ll know exactly how to market your skills by the time you graduate (and you’ll have a better sense of what you’d like to do with the rest of your adult life).
3. Fail now
Don’t tell Mom this, but you can stop going to class. Try getting a B+ for once in your life. You’re a smart, ambitious girl. Take a break from homework and papers and use that talent to create something in the real world.
Have you ever thought of taking a year or two off before you go to school? Or starting your own business, just to see if you can? I know it’s not the norm. But what better time in your life to try something, even if you fail?
Run with your ideas. Fall down the rabbit hole. Take some time to experience the real world before serving your four years of indentured servitude in college.
Just keep testing out all of your wild and crazy ideas while you don’t have any responsibilities like paying down your student loans or buying groceries. Some things might stick, some things will be complete failures. If you keep experimenting (and failing every now and then), you’ll be led down paths you never thought of.
And one last thing: it’s about your high school sweetheart. I’m sorry to say that it won’t last. But don’t worry, because you’re too good for him anyway … and you’ll find a stellar guy in your mid-twenties