A Thirty-Something’s Guide To Not Completely Blowing It In Your Early-Twenties

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A Thirty-Something's Guide To Not Completely Blowing It In Your Early-Twenties

This is less of an open letter and more of a free guide to help you not completely blow it in the days, weeks, months and years following your shockingly uneventful walk across a stage. I’ve tried to fill it with some decent nuggets of wisdom from a guy who’s sleepwalked through a very good gig after college, had no clue what he wanted to do in life besides not lose touch with friends, went to grad school, changed careers, started a business, and now occasionally hires people in the Uber-less town of Austin, Texas.

I’m not saying that these are the, as my first boss used to say, “keys to the castle,” but I think there are some decent takeaways here. At a minimum, you’ll be less of a tool as you figure out what you want to do in life.

Don’t do law school or grad school just to buy yourself more time.

Unless that trust fund is about to kick in, or you’ve got a full ride because you managed to not torpedo your academics in undergrad, don’t you dare make this mistake. Grad school isn’t the place to tread water because a.) it costs money, and b.) it’s a waste of time if you don’t commit. Speaking directly to those of you considering law school:

Don’t do it unless you’re balls deep in the idea of practicing law. I know too many people who just did law school because they did decently on the LSAT. Terrible plan. I mean, I can work a room reasonably well, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be running for office. There are better ways to stall your transition besides accumulating debt and having some career academic flame your timid ass in front of a classroom full of type-A personalities.

Shine your shoes.

Had an adjunct professor in law school once tell my entire class that he refused to hire qualified candidates that had scuffs on their shoes. Kind of psycho, yes, but I weirdly respect it. Just make a habit to shine those deal sleds before you step out of the apartment for an interview, wedding, or just to strut around town like you’re important.

Stop showing up late.

What is late these days? Is late actually “on time” as some publications have discussed? If you’re reading this as a soon to be college grad on the job hunt, late for you means arriving 14 minutes before the interview. 15 is the number that every counselor and recruiter will tell you, and I’m not going to fuss with them on that point. As long as you’re in there making nervous small-talk with Amy at the front desk 15 minutes before the interview, you’ll have enough time to get back into Jordan Game 6 mode. Hell, make it 20. Just make sure you don’t enter the building any sooner than 15 minutes before the interview. You’ll risk looking like a try-hard, and Amy at the front will get tired of watching you fidget around in the lobby. As someone who recruited in a previous life and now hires human beings, I can tell you that you don’t want to be remembered as the guy who interviewed well but was a few minutes late. Someone else who had the foresight to check the traffic report and leave early will interview well too. It’s really not that difficult.

Now, if you’re reading this as a recent entrant into the corporate grind, also stop showing up late. Even if you think your boss is the cool boss who doesn’t really mind if you walk in a few minutes after 8, you should probably stop because the allegedly cool boss takes mental notes too. I know you had a valid excuse that traffic was terrible on I-30, but traffic is always kind of terrible on I-30. Adjust your game plan and leave a few minutes earlier. It’s really not that difficult. Being in an entry-to-mid-level gig means you’re very likely competing with similarly situated peers for some kind of promotion. Unless you’re cool with having a minimal chance at advancing in the world of business, show up early and put out the grind vibe.

Don’t even bring drinking and driving into the equation.

You know yourself. If you’re really just going to have “a couple beers” like you said, then maybe you’re all good. But it won’t take you long to realize that’s bullshit. It’s never 2 beer, dog. Especially when you’re under the age of 30. You’re rarely going to turn down the chance to check out another bar, because you’re a kid in constant search of a chill sitch. Leave your car at home and take Uber or Lyft. Or if your city has somehow managed to make their city less safe and convenient by driving extremely innovative tech companies like Uber or Lyft out of town all because of a misguided and smug sense of protecting their town against big bad corporations that make all of our lives better like say, Austin, Texas, then take a cab.

Don’t leave right at 5.

Similar to “Stop showing up late,” being a clockwatcher is not a good look. You know, the person that bails right when their day technically ends. That was me after college. At 22, I had no idea I was doing anything wrong, and then someone told me about the whole perception thing. Even if you’re dominating between 8 and 5, packing up and rolling out at the time your employment agreement states your day is done can give off a negative vibe depending on your office culture. Is your boss still there? Are older employees still there? Is your competition still there? If so, hang around and clean up your inbox or maybe get some actual work done. Or hey, here’s an idea: fake it. Nobody will know what the hell you’re doing, but they’ll see you there hunched over that keyboard like everyone else.

Speak up.

Let’s get inspirational for a moment. One time I got passed over for a fairly big promotion in favor of a slightly older guy who started months after me. He had a young family and a mortgage to worry about, and I had a car payment and weekend trips to plan for. Pretty much a no-brainer. Well, I was fucking livid. I thought that since everyone liked me, they’d just hand it to me. What a moron. It wasn’t until one of my mentors noticed I was being a little bitch about everything that it came out that I wanted that promotion. I didn’t tell anybody. I had a false sense of entitlement that makes me cringe to even think about.

You can’t expect people to read your mind. If you don’t like the status quo, you’ll never be happy just sitting there bitching about it to your cube mate. Speak up and show some initiative to the power players around the office. Even if what you’re presenting is a terrible idea, they should respect you for taking a shot. If they don’t, you probably need to get the hell out of there anyway.

Hope this helps the transition. If all else fails, just read this site every day and let us get you through the week.

Image via Shutterstock

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