If you are a twenty-something-year-old either fresh out of college or a few years into the working world, sick of the “overnight success” posts on the internet and searching for a good job, this article is here to help.

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.

– Joseph Campbell

I talk with twenty-somethings about their careers all the time. Their opinions on where they stand in the work world often get to me. Summed up, I would describe the twenty-something perspective on working with this sentence:

“I’m not good enough to get the job I really want, so I’ll take whatever I can get, and then ‘figure out’ what I really want to do later.”

While you may jump to the conclusion that student debt or paying bills drives this line of thinking – absolutely valid – this perspective is also driven from fear of the unknown and rejection. Young people with less experience don’t feel qualified to even apply for the job they want, let alone accept it.

Instead, they take the job they think they are ready for and work it for a “few” years until they “figure it out”.

It’s funny in a way, because the boom of online business has created another subculture of young people that swing the other way. They believe that it’s no longer necessary to “pay your dues” working an unsatisfying or low paying job. Their stance is that you can work remotely or for yourself and never worry about having a job you don’t love.

We have to pay homage to this perspective too, because this article is not going to go in that direction either.

You are building the foundation for the remainder of your working life in the first 5 years of your career. Because the stakes are so high, it’s a real shame that so many people waste these foundation years, afraid to go after a job they really want. And while I can appreciate that “loving your job” is a valid goal for anyone, being self-employed at 22-years may put you at a disadvantage later on if it doesn’t work out long-term.

The solution is simple, and in a way, marries the two stances above together:

Be audacious, but don’t be naive about what you can realistically do. You don’t need to work a job you hate. What you need at this stage of your life is a job where there is plenty of work to be done and plenty of opportunities that are right for you.

In your early to mid-twenties, there are 4 things you should be looking for in a job:

  • An opportunity to cut your teeth in the industry you see yourself working in long-term
  • A job where you will be working around people. This is the point in your career where you learn personalities, social dynamics, and how leadership plays itself out in the workplace
  • A job where you can network, grow with, and learn from the people you work with
  • A job that maintains a professional workplace environment so you can learn the indispensable skills of high-quality employees

Jobs that check all four of these boxes are not unicorns to twenty-something-year-olds.. They exist, but they aren’t handed out like candy. Below are 3 practical, battle-tested solutions that you should apply to find the job that fits the criteria.


#1. Be audacious enough to apply for the job you want — and stop thinking you “need” to do 3 years somewhere else before you’re qualified.

Experience is important. Don’t be naive as to what you could possibly do, but if your heart is telling you that this is the job you really want, listen to it. If you truly aren’t qualified, hold off until something else comes along.

When the right job presents itself, apply for it. Don’t decide there is no chance you’ll get the job or that people will judge you for even thinking that you might stand a chance. There are at least 30 other people out there thinking the same thing.

Not sure if it’s the right job? Use the 4 checkboxes above to measure that. Consider how much of a disservice to yourself it is to accept a job that doesn’t line up with your long-term goals, personality, and work preferences.

#2. Be audacious and unforgiving as you craft a 2017-appropriate resume

Afraid you won’t stand out in a sea of candidates? Like everyone else in the pile, you’re just a piece of paper – at least until you’re not.

The basic resume has not changed much in this new, technology-driven world – but it will soon. Use this to your advantage and be among the few that take the time to build a resume that stands out. Here are some ways to get started:

  1. Add links to your PDF resume to everything online that showcases what you can do.
  2. Add links to your LinkedIn or other (professional) social media platforms in your resume.
  3. Use video from college experiences, internships, or any other past ventures to make a “highlight reel” of your recent accomplishments. You carry a phone everywhere – put it to good use and record something that showcases your skills.

Record, document, and craft something that is truly unforgettable. Maybe you won’t get the call, but trust me when I say, you will stand out. You never know what that could lead to in the future.

#3. Be audacious enough to remember you aren’t the only one being assessed

You’re 23. 12 months ago, one of your biggest worries on a Sunday night may have been how to shake that hangover before Monday’s 8am class. Now, you’re a professional, out in the world trying to make it. It can be difficult to show confidence if you don’t feel like you’re there yet.

It’s easy to feel like you aren’t worthy, or capable, or experienced enough.

It’s easy to feel like the hiring manager has it all figured out, and is judging you for being unqualified.

It’s easy to focus on what you don’t have (experience), and to forget what you do bring to the workplace.

And that’s what most people do.

Understand something: if they called you in for the interview, you are qualified for the job.

The person interviewing you feels the pressure, too. They have achieved a status where their job performance is correlated with their ability to bring in good people, so the stakes are high on both ends.

If you are the right person for the job, he or she will bring you on board. The pressure is never just on the person being interviewed, no matter how inexperienced you think you are. You may be exactly what that company is looking for.