(Note: I originally wrote this piece for a project about advice for people in their twenties. I never submitted it as the people running the project never responded to my questions regarding publishing rights, so now I’m posting it here. I tried editing it to make it a bit more personal, but it didn’t feel right, so here it is in its original form.)
Okay, so Disney said it first, but here’s my take on it:
First, a reality check. A simple fact of life is that you probably won’t end up doing what you want to do. To start with, you might not get into college. You might not get accepted for the college of your choice or for the course you really want to do. A large percentage of college students drop out before the end of their first year because (I hope someone has told you this before) college is hard. Even if you manage to stick it out and graduate, that certificate is no guarantee that you’ll get any job, never mind one in your field.
Some people are lucky and they end up in a career they love and where they will spend the rest of their lives. Most don’t. Chances are, by the time you’re in your mid-twenties, you’ll be in a job you don’t like. You might be making minimum wage. You might be making a lot more, but you’re not happy – the stress or the monotony is driving you round the bend. You might not have a job.
Whichever of these scenarios apply to you, keep moving forward.
When things are less than ideal the temptation is very big to sit back and feel sorry for yourself. When things are ideal we become complacent. Either situation leads to stagnation. But if you keep improving yourself, keep adding to your skillset, eventually you’ll recognise new opportunities. They’ll have been there all along. You’ll just be able to see them for what they are.
How do you do this? Volunteer. And learn.
Volunteering will not only make a difference in someone else’s life, but it will make you into a better person as well. It’s something you can put on your résumé. It will show that, even while you were unemployed, you still spent your time on something worthwhile. And it’s a great opportunity to network – while volunteering you will meet people from all walks of life. Who knows what doors they may open?
And never, never, never, never, ever stop learning.
So you didn’t get into college. So what? So you find yourself wanting to do something different than that for which you’re qualified. Your point is?
Today there are so many online courses one can do. Many of them are accredited by good universities. Compared to full-time study, they are ridiculously cheap. Borrow money if you have to (though not from loan sharks or credit card companies, but that’s a whole other piece of advice) but start enrolling for online courses or night classes. And if you’re employed, make sure your boss knows of each new qualification you earn. Keep adding new knowledge and skills to those you already have.
Keep moving forward.