Last week, I have done interviews for this blog with really inspiring female entrepreneurs, which will go online soon. At every interview I ask one question: “What would you tell your 20-year-old self?” And when I asked it during an interview last Thursday, I realized that I had actually never asked this myself. Hence, I decided to use this Monday Postcard to reflect on this question.
First, I need to explain to you where I was – physically and mentally – when I was at the age of 20. I was a business student in Vienna and was just off to my exchange semester in Beijing. My goals were finishing my studies as soon as possible, start working, earn a lot of money and probably drive a Porsche 911 by the age of 30. (Or the even more ambitious part of me would have said an Aston Martin). While I still love sports cars, I am sure of one thing: I would tell my 20-year-old self to apply a broader (and maybe less materialistic) mindset.
1. Find the Right Job
Sounds easy, but it is not. It took me quite a while to find out what I wanted to do. And I think part of our lives is a constant search for what we want to do with it. Graduating with a business degree forced a mindset on me that was centred on a prestigious, high-paying job. It did not really matter what you actually did, it was more about which prestigious company you would work for and who would pay the highest salary. Very soon I found out that while the independence of having a high-paying job is amazing, money alone will not make you happy. You need to learn and be challenged. It sounds really dull but my 20 to 27-year-old self needed to learn that the hard way.
Furthermore, do not choose the career because other people think that this is the right thing. It is good to get advice from your friends and family but in the end, it will be YOUR job, YOUR life and YOUR daily issues with it. Really ask yourself if you can do the job for 10-12 hours a day. The worst feeling is to wake up every morning, stare at the ceiling and hating to go to work.
So, how can you find the “right” job? Try as many things as possible. Because this will allow you to learn about what you enjoy and what you do not.
2. Stop the Pressure and Be Patient
I used to hate it when mentors told me I should be patient and that not everything in life will work out the way I plan it. But it is definitely true. You might have a plan, but life might have a totally different plan for you. Sometimes you just need to lean back and let things happen.
3. Do Not Over-Plan Your Career
While I do think that you need to have an idea where your professional journey should take you, it is simply impossible to plan every career step ahead. I remember talks with my girlfriends in our early twenties about how we wanted to plan our careers so that we can have kids at the “right time”. (It is funny, I never had those talks with men and it took me quite a while to make male friends understand why women need to plan ahead.) But then life happens again – some got pregnant without really planning it, some decided to not have kids, some, unfortunately, cannot have kids and others deliberately took a break in their careers. But what all of the stories have in common: nothing went according to plan.
As another example, I decided not to pursue a career in diplomacy when I was 23, because I thought it would be a very transient life – moving every four years and hardly being back in Austria sounded not only intimidating but also very lonely to me. Fast forward eight years, I have had a very transient life so far (I have mentioned in a previous post how many times I have moved since 2012). But I actually ended up liking it and I still had the chance to come back to Austria fairly often. Maybe I should not have seen everything as black or white when I was younger.
As this is still supposed to be a postcard (I know, my postcards would probably need to be the size of an A4 page), I do not want to make it too long. But the last thing I would like tell my 20-year-old self:
“Everything will be fine in the end. And if it’s not fine yet, it’s not the end yet.” 😉
(Special thanks to Dev Patel in Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I have been having that magnet on my fridge for ages.)