It's really easy to look back at mistakes you've made in the past and give advice. It's the classic scenario of, "If I only knew then what I know now." I think that what makes a great business consultant is the ability to learn from mistakes and help others through their own experiences. It's also probably the reason you don't see a lot of business consultants who are in their 20s, because you need to have some experiences with varying degrees of success and failure in order to help others. Here are four pieces of business advice I would give to my 20-something-year-old self.
Network Your Brains Out
I hate it when people tell me, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." To me, that means you can be dumb, but as long as you know the right people, you will be fine. However, I will grudgingly admit that there is some truth to the end of that statement; who you know is very important.
I wish I had spent way more time networking effectively when I was younger. Notice the keyword effectively in that last sentence. It is important to understand how to properly network and build relationships. Networking is all about helping other people. If you only network with a completely selfless attitude, then you will eventually get what you want.
If I needed a job right now, I would probably not waste a lot of time on the various job forums, hoping that the right position was available. Instead, I would identify the job I wanted and network my way to it. I do agree with the old saying that, "The best jobs are not advertised."
Building a strong network will prove invaluable to you. You can use it to grow a business, find a job, and help you in in a variety of ways.
Follow Your Passion
Everyone will tell you to follow your passion, but it is hard to believe that someone will pay you enough to make a living doing what you love. I can speak from experience; following your passion can work and it is important. Just understand that you are going to have to work hard to make your dream a reality.
Don’t get too hung up on your job being your passion. Focus on a career that allows you to pursue your passion. Nothing is worse than going to a job day in and day out that you hate and that doesn’t fulfill something deeper in your life.
Follow your passion and keep your eyes open to the right opportunity.
3 Financial Suggestions - Life Insurance, Buy A House, and Max Retirement
While there are tons of financial suggestions I would give to someone coming out of college, there are three that really stand out to me.
1. I would have purchased life insurance earlier on in my life had I known why it was important. I understand it can seem pointless when you really don’t have much liability or assets in your life. However, I would have at least purchased enough life insurance to cover my funeral expenses and any debt that I had. Believe me, you will be purchasing more life insurance in your life and the younger you are, the cheaper it is.
2. My main focus would be to save money for a downpayment on a house. I suggest the rule of aiming for a 20% down payment and 6-12 months of total living expenses, including your mortgage, in case you lose your job. I’m sure this sounds completely unattainable at this point in your life, especially if you have a lot of debt. However, starting this saving habit early sets up a good routine.
3. Last, I would also do my best to maximize my employer retirement account. Again, I understand that all of this sounds crazy when you are in debt and not making much money. All I’m saying is: create the habit. At the very least, contribute whatever amount toward retirement required to take advantage of your employer's contribution.
I wish I had gotten serious about my professional life much earlier. This is the time in your life to become financially responsible and to start good habits. Get serious about building your business network and finding the best job possible. Do some self-reflection to try and identify why you are here; what is your real passion in life? Create good financial habits by saving money, maxing out your retirement contribution, and covering yourself by making sure your death won’t be a burden to anyone. Your adolescence is over and you are an adult; it’s time to get serious.
This is my advice to my 20-year-old self. What suggestions would you give to your younger self?