If you are anything like me (born in the 90s, sheltered, well-to-do background), the most significant life challenge you might face in your early 20s is adulting. I knew I struggled for two reasons:
1) I was used to Singapore’s spoon-feeding education system that it took me some time to find the initiative required to find my own way. I remember feeling a sense of dread during resume-writing class and realizing I had nearly nothing to write in it. That was one of the things that kicked me into gear.
2) There was quite a bit of difference in the Singapore of my parents’ generation and my generation. Whatever methods they deployed in the past wouldn’t have worked for my generation. Hence, they didn’t know how to guide me. Thankfully, I had friends and google.
In all honesty, I probably still have ways to go, especially in the managing-your-own-household department. (In Singapore, you typically stay with your parents until marriage.) However, I think I have come a long way since the start of my adulting journey and thought it would be nice to summarise the process in getting to where I am today.
Finding the Initiative
As the youngest in the family, it was actually hard to do this because you are so used to having everything done for you. And sometimes, when you TRY to be independent, you are given a free pass not to. You also never/rarely had the opportunity to take care of something so you have 0 experience in taking care of yourself.
Aside from slowly finding a way to develop new habits, I found my initiative by looking into my future. In fact, this is probably the part of my personality that saved me from a TON of things. I constantly ask myself if X is what I want to suffer through potentially and took the steps needed to avoid that type of future.
My biggest episode with failure happened in my mid 20s. Up till then, I would say my life was pretty smooth sailing. Granted, I expended a ton of effort to make sure I wouldn’t fail my A levels.
As a near-perfectionist, it isn’t easy to experience failure. However, I must say I couldn’t have gotten to where I am without it. It is a failure that taught me how to manage negative emotions, how to find my way back up the ladder and how life never goes as planned. Failure shouldn’t be shunned. It should be embraced.
Getting (Job) Experience
I took up some small part-time jobs / volunteered while making sure they wouldn’t interfere with my studies. This gave me 1-2 years of part-time experience. I managed to do this while still studying in university because I crammed many class units in my early years. (Protip: Go for summer studies to eat up your credits.) Even though I didn’t end up in the fields I was part-timing in, I still believe it was an excellent way to explore my interests.
But I do think I should mention that if you like your part-time job, it doesn’t mean you will like the full-time version because the demands of the full-time version is much higher mentally.
At the end of the day, I ended up jumping into a career I wasn’t even sure that I would even like. However, my intuition must have been onto something because 3 years later, I am pretty much thriving.
Small Tips to Finding a Job
– Resume Writing: If you are in a line that requires a bit of design sparkle, then I highly recommend using Canva to develop your resume. They have templates! I think it really made a difference between looking for my 1st job and 2nd job.
– Apply in Bulk: I remember applying to 20 jobs in every ‘phase’ to avoid burnout. I try not to scrutinize too much and apply for jobs that vaguely matched my skills. Then, when the calls come in, I would take a closer look at the companies’ background and office culture.
– Interview: Honestly, I think I am still lacking in this area. I am also not even sure which of what I said got me hired. However, I basically strive to always be honest because I do not want to project a false impression of my attitude and nature. What they see is what they get.
What I need to work on next:
(…because knowing where you need to go next is also key in adulting!)
Career & Skill advancement: I may have gotten promoted from sheer hard work, but it wasn’t out of design or planned. I think there needs to be some actual planning on the backend to add some ‘oomph’ to your advancement.
One soft skill I need much more work on is relationship management in the office. I have improved vastly since the beginning with my interpersonal relationships, but the next level is managing inter-departmental relationships. This is probably integral if I ever want to become a manager. Thankfully, I have good examples to observe how this can be managed.
Finance Management: Thankfully, I have savings. But how does one progress from there? I want to deal with the actual calculation and numbers instead of just having the nebulous awareness that I have enough to live on.
Reflection & Building a Life: Your job is important…but it isn’t everything. I am juggling several commitments and constantly tweaking my ways to manage them. But sometimes, I think it is important to take a break (especially when you have dengue – gods) and take a step back. Re-access yourself. Do you have time to manage all you have right now? Do you enjoy what you do? Do your current methods help you go somewhere or are they ineffective?
In any case, I wish my readers all the best in getting to where they want to in life.