What do you know now that you wish you’d known then? Are you where you thought you’d be? What advice would you give to a young person entering the working world today?
Recently I was asked the questions above and here are my candid answers.
When I was 22, I had just graduated from college into a world of uncertainties and was very scared about my future. Much of this uncertainty and fear was driven by the idea that there was a “path” and if I strayed off the path all would be lost.
I wish I knew that the future is always uncertain and that is part of the excitement and challenge. I wish I knew that my career would not be a linear path but rather a winding river with multiple branches that sometimes diverged and sometimes converged. I wish I knew that at times the river would surge, at times it would be turbulent, and at times it would rush off a cliff. I would tell myself that a career (and life) is continually changing and that this change can be a good thing. I would focus on ways to adapt to change and maximize time and learning so that I could embrace the change instead of fearing it.
This constantly changing workplace is even more evident today than in the 1990s, so I would advise a young person today to embrace change. Learn skills that help you navigate different settings. Professional degrees (MD, JD, MBA) will give you skills that you can use in multiple settings but a PhD is a very specific skillset. Having said that, I learned a very different thought process from my PhD that I would not have learned in other settings.
Finally, I would tell myself that waiting for a “good time” to get married or have a family is whenever you are ready! I believe that life, family, and career are all parts of your identity and are not mutually exclusive. Since it is impossible to do it all, I would tell myself that it is OK to ask for help and delegation is the key to making it work.
What things would you tell your former 22-year-old self? I’d love to hear!
Live Mentally Healthy,
Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill