All my life, someone has been telling me what to do. When I was young, it was my Mother, and with the benefit of hindsight, I’ll admit she was right most of the time and had my best interests at heart. But as I grow up and am transitioning into the “real world” — as if the world I lived in for 20 years was fake – people are constantly telling me things that I have to do.
Young PR professionals should start in an agency.
I majored in public relations, and as I was beginning my job search everyone — from fellow students to seasoned professionals — said I should start at an agency, find my niche and then go in-house somewhere. But after an internship with a pharmaceutical company the summer before, I had already found my passion in health care. I also knew that I worked better on one thing at a time and I wouldn’t be great at balancing multiple clients. I like stability and routine. I knew what I wanted to do, and agency work didn’t appeal to me. But my peers and mentors insisted.
“Agencies are more fun”
“Agencies are full of young people”
“You may think you know what you want, but you may change your mind”
“You don’t want to work in an agency in your 30s, so you should do it now.”
And on and on and on…
I made the mistake of listening to that advice and tried an agency for a summer. It wasn’t for me. I learned some valuable skills and lesson, and I wouldn’t take the experience back, but it wasn’t where I belonged. I ended up taking a fellowship in corporate communication, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.
20somethings should be single and dating, not tied down.
My boyfriend and I have been together since high school (cue head tilt and cooing noises). When I tell people how long we’ve been dating, this is always the reaction I get. They look at me like I’m adorably naïve, and that I am wasting time with a high school sweetheart when my soul mate is clearly in a bar somewhere.
People think we should date more and meet other people, because how could you possibly know?! Without getting too mushy, because that is NOT my style, I can tell you that Chris knows me better than anyone else, sometimes better than I do. He’s been with me through some of the biggest challenges of my life and has always supported my dreams. After four years apart at separate colleges, I accepted a fellowship in New Jersey. Without hesitation, he made a leap of faith and followed me here. He sacrificed a lot to come with me, and someday, I will do the same for him. We rented our first apartment together here and we are really, truly happy. We are great together, and though we’ve had bumps along the road, like any couple, I just know.
Everyone should live in the city at some point in life.
I grew up in a small town. No really, there are two red lights and my high school was in the next town — we’re talking about a population of less than 4,000. I recently moved to New Jersey for work, and I’ve had more opportunities to visit New York City for my job and for fun. Now, don’t get me wrong — it’s a beautiful place to visit, but I could never see myself living there. I still get starry eyed when I go into the city, and I know that living there would take away the luster of it all.
But people keep telling me that I should really go live in the city while I’m young. Let me make this clear – I am destined for suburbia – I love shopping malls and Target, I love driving my car to work and being able to leave town without public transportation, I hate crowds and I can’t hail a cab. Maybe I’m not cool enough for the city, but the truth is, it’s just not me.
And I think that’s okay.
I’ve always struggled with the fact that I haven’t chosen the normal path for a 20something PR professional, but I am coming to terms with the fact that my dreams are different. And I’m not knocking anyone who has chosen this path — there’s a reason that so many people give this advice — it has made a lot of people happy, and you may be one of them. I don’t claim to have it all figured out by any means – in fact, that’s what this blog is all about. But what I do know is I’m happy where I’m at and who I’m with, and I’m comfortable with where my career is headed.
We’re all just trying to figure out what it is that makes us happy – I’m just taking the road less travelled by.
What cliché advice have people given you in your 20s? Did you take it?