Today’s twentysomethings are lost in many ways. It’s a tricky world to live in, vastly different from the one in which our parents grew up.
We were promised a world full of jobs, opportunities, and new and exciting ways to make a living. The world of the 21st century was supposed to be a huge improvement over the 20th, and we were all supposed to enjoy an amazing, bright, optimistic future.
Now, it’s easy to argue that that isn’t the case. We constantly hear about disappearing jobs, a bad economy, corruption at the highest level, etc. etc. And there is some truth to this of course.
But our parents were right in some ways. There are tremendous opportunities out there for young, knowledgeable people to get what they want out of life.
Our parents’ world is disappearing. The days of walking out of school and into a job that supported your family while your wife takes care of the home and the children are all but over. But we still expect this to be the case. We’re still thinking like it’s the 20th century.
How can we help it? After all, we were raised by our parents, and they’ve only got their own experience to go on. They’re taking up most of the old school jobs that do still exist, and so to them the world hasn’t changed much. But to a new, ambitious young graduate, things are very different.
I recently re-read one of my favourite short stories, The Martian Way by the late, great science fiction pioneer Isaac Asimov. The story revolves around a group of humans who live on a Martian colony and who make their living by scavenging spare parts left floating in space. The ships ran by blasting water out the bottom of them to lift them off. But when a new water ration was imposed by the government on Earth, it essentially grounded every scavenger, leaving them out of a job.
But one scavenger, Ted Long, came up with an innovative and creative new way to get around the ration. The solution was to get their water from other places in the Solar System and end their dependency on Earth’s water supplies.
This might seem like an obvious solution, but there’s more to it than that.
In the early in the days of space travel, Earth people discovered that any more than six months or so in space would leave you a psychological mess. This became the rule of thumb, and Martian people lived by it. But Ted Long realized these rules were written by people on Earth. People who were used to spending time in wide open spaces like forests, parks, mountains, and all the other beautiful natural vistas we take for granted. But Ted Long came to realize the Martian colony wasn’t much more than a big spaceship on the planet’s surface. He’d spent his entire life there, so he and his fellow scavengers could handle space travel much better than Earth men could.
Just like Ted Long, we hold all sorts of different beliefs and rules of thumb which seem true, but end up holding us back from what we can really accomplish. But once Ted Long realized the common sense knowledge people believed didn’t apply to him, he found a new and creative solution to his problems.
Like Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
If you want to be successful in your career, you’ll need to leave the old fashioned ways of thinking behind. But what does it mean to think like it’s the 21st century?
Here are a few ways to help rearrange how you think about a job, a career, and how to succeed.
Focus on the internet!
You know as well as I do that the internet is the future. It’s what has been driving our world for nearly twenty years now.
…it feels weird to say that.
Anyway, there are many people who have become wealthy by taking advantage of the power of the internet. And I’m not just talking about web designers and software tycoons. In fact, you can make a living in ways you’d never even think of.
Do you have a blog? You can make money with it.
Do you like photography? You can sell stock photos, prints, greeting cards, and much more!
What about videography? YouTube will pay you for good videos.
Have you written a book? You can sell it online!
Graphic designer? The possibilities are nearly endless!
Or maybe you’re not a creative type. You can buy and sell items on EBay, become a virtual assistant or a mobile app tester, buy and sell domain names, build an e-commerce site to sell products, get into affiliate marketing, and much more.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many opportunities available online that a career counsellor won’t be able to help you with. They’re still thinking about jobs in a 20th century manner, after all.
And to many people, these options just don’t occur to us. I’m pretty sure no child ever said they wanted to be a mobile app tester when they grow up. But these 21st century career options can help you make a good living.
Solve problems in a creative way
Once you’ve found a good opportunity, it’s important to take advantage of it as best you can.
In his book Linchpin, author Seth Godin talks about the concept of being a linchpin to an organization. According to Wikipedia, a linchpin is “a fastener used to prevent a wheel or other part from sliding off the axle upon which it is riding.”
The linchpin doesn’t get as much attention as the wheel or the axle, but without it the whole thing falls apart. It’s indispensible. If you’re a linchpin in an organization, you work the same way.
Your parents might have taught you that the best way to succeed in your career is to work hard, keep your head down, and do what you’re told. And this might have worked in a 20th century job, but the world moves too quickly for that to be effective anymore. Businesses are always looking for new and creative ways to keep themselves relevant in the modern world.
If you can solve these problems for them in a creative way, even if it’s not “your job” to solve them, you’ll make yourself indispensable to your company, and make yourself more valuable to the people around you.
To our parents and grandparents, education wasn’t as important as it is today. They finished high school, of course, and then they started a job. They learned how to do their job, and then they did it. That job didn’t change much from the day they stepped into it until the day they retired.
But the world is changing too quickly for old knowledge to be useful for very long. People are always coming up with new and interesting ways to do things. In certain industries (like SEO, for example), things change so dramatically that using old methods can actually harm your efforts! But if you can keep up to date with it, you’ll become smarter, more productive, and better at what you do. You’ll be in a much better position to become a linchpin for your organization.
How can you keep up to date? Use the internet, of course! Search YouTube and the blogosphere for news about what’s going on in your industry. Pay attention to new possibilities and new methods of doing things. You can always learn from what other people are up to.
Learn to sell!
Selling is difficult for many people. It was difficult for me for a long time too, I know. But today more than ever, it’s one of the most important ways you can bolster your career.
The art of selling is simply about persuasion. If you’re selling a product or service, it’s about convincing someone it’s something which will bring them value.
It has a nasty reputation for being a way to take advantage of people. At best it’s a bothersome annoyance, and at worst it’s a way to squeeze money out of innocent people with no care for anything other than blind profit.
And of course, it can be used in this way. But it doesn’t have to be!
Just like a knife can be used to hurt someone or to prepare a family dinner, the art of selling is neither bad nor good. It’s just a tool.
In the 21st century, knowing how to sell is one of the most important tools out there. After all, there are all sorts of interesting new technological innovations coming out every day which are untested and unproven. You might know with all your heart that you have a useful solution for a business, but everyone else is probably not as convinced.
As an internet marketer, I have to sell clients on the idea of SEO all the time. And that’s simply because I know that a top ranked spot on Google can bring someone incredible amounts of new business. But some of them haven’t even heard of SEO in the first place!
So what do I do? I convince them that SEO is something they need. Not because I’m taking advantage of them, but because I know something they don’t know. I know how much business a good SEO campaign can bring in, and it’s my job to convince them of the power of SEO.
Selling can be very complex, and there’s a lot to it. But fortunately, there’s some great material out there on the subject to help you learn. Check out guys like Zig Ziglar, Neil Rackham, and Mike Bosworth. Each has written some great books on how to become great at selling.
Be an entrepreneur!
According to a recent report from Babson and Baruch Colleges (and reported on here in Forbes), entrepreneurship has hit record high levels in the United States. There are more entrepreneurs today than ever before in US history.
Another statistic puts it in more concrete terms. Each month, more than half a million new businesses are formed in the United States alone!
What are these people doing? With so many different companies being formed, it seems like a little of everything. These businesses range from multinational conglomerates to single moms selling homemade jewelry on Etsy, but those who run them all have one thing in common. They’re entrepreneurs.
How do you become an entrepreneur? The simple answer is to find a need in the market, and find a way to fill that need in a way that’s profitable.
Look, I know times are tough. They really are. But there are so many opportunities out there too, if you just know where to look.
How have you been thinking about your career so far? Maybe you’re following your parents’ advice. After all, it’s what they did, and it worked out okay for them, right?
Yeah, it worked great in the 20th century. Back when advertising in the Yellow Pages worked. Back when you rented a VHS video tape or an Atari game from Blockbuster Video. Back when stuff like this was cool. Ah yes, the good old days.
Now, no one is ever going to be able to convince me Twisted Sister isn’t still cool. But that’s not the point. The 20th century is over. Done. Kaput. Take a lesson from Ted Long, and adapt your beliefs to fit your surroundings. It’s time to think like it’s the 21st century. Leave the old methods in the past.