The voices were loud in the booth behind me at breakfast last month. Loud enough that I couldn’t help but overhear an argument between a dad and college student son. The younger was insisting that having pictures of him and his friends drinking on his facebook website was perfectly OK, and wasn’t going to affect any future job opportunities.
“They aren’t going to look for me online!” he loudly protested. “Besides, after I turn 21, it won’t matter if they do.”
It was all I could do to repress the urge to turn around and slap him upside the head with my bacon omelette.
The father was as patient as he could muster, but it was wearing thin. By the time they left the restaurant, I could see total frustration setting in. It was also easy to visualize the skinny, unkempt know-it-all kid working a slurpy machine for the rest of his life.
As that most perfect line from “It’s a Wonderful Life” goes, “youth is wasted on the young!”
OK, kids know it all. We have a 16-year-old who doesn’t hesitate to point it out as often as possible, especially when he explains over dinner the mating cycle of the crane fly, or reminds us we’re going over the speed limit. This is the same kid who’s in summer school now, making up those geometry assignments he thought weren’t important last semester.
The fact is, recent studies have shown that kids’ brains aren’t fully cooked until sometime in their 20s, or in some cases, never. That’s why you need to cut this article out and give it to your student who hasn’t yet discovered the cruel realities of life on his own, so he won’t need to learn it the hard way.
Here are a few time-tested tips for an easier transition into the adult working world:
1) Don’t put anything on the Internet now that you wouldn’t want your grandma or your future employer to see later. You might remove it from your site, but someone else may have put it up on theirs, just to be funny. Ask Pamela Anderson, or maybe Paris Hilton. On second thought, don’t use them as role models.
2) Rethink the placement and content of tattoos and other permanent markings. What looks like a cool piece of art in your early 20s may appall you in your 30s and 40s. By the time you’re 60, it will probably resemble a run-over crayon box. If you must do it, put it in a place that can be hidden under clothes. Although body art is a little more accepted now than it was 20 years ago, you might be the unlucky one whose future boss disapproves. Don’t lose out on great opportunities because of a trendy whim.
3) Utilize spare time in a productive way. TV and video games can be fun distractions, but taking a night class, doing something athletic, or learning a new hobby will feed your brain and move your life into directions you hadn’t even thought of. You may find the seeds of a new career, meet a new friend, or even a future spouse. The people I know who have succeeded the most, personally and professionally, were people who had a good balance of work, fun and family in their lives.
4) Reassess negative personality traits, and accept feedback. If everyone you care about is telling you something, perhaps it deserves a closer look. Explosive anger, extreme negativity, a victimhood attitude and other anti-social behaviors, will hold you back and lose you both friends and jobs. Everyone had a lousy childhood. Get therapy and get over it.
5) Be bold. Dithering obsessively won’t get you anywhere. Get all the information you need to make decisions and then throw yourself into it. If it’s the wrong one, chalk it up to a lesson learned and move to the next thing. Don’t dwell on failures or fear the future. Your future is the one only you can create. No one else can do it for you.