Up In The Air: 20 Pieces Of Advice For The Class Of 2020

by Steve Johnson

"The slower we move, the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living." 

From “Up in the Air” (2009)

Giving career advice to the class of 2020 is something that still makes me do a double take and reminds me of the 60s hit, “In the year 2525,” by Zagar and Evans.

Nonetheless, the thought of the year 2020, and specifically, the graduating class of 2020 is a reality — a reality that is moving really fast.

So in teaching workshops across the country and here at the University of Florida, I often ask what younger student journalists want to do when they “grow up.”

First off, let’s be honest, we never really grow up — we’re Generation-Y.

And like most wide-eyed teenagers, they wanted to change the world with every blog, tweet, post, like and follow.

I couldn’t have been more excited to hear this. I believe that your ideas are our future.

This class of 2020 is entering a job landscape unlike any other time period. Not just because media has been turned upside-down over the past decade, but because a seemingly crazy idea for a blog or publication or project can become your career.

What is so exciting for young journalists is the way we are now consuming media — even reading Elite Daily is a perfect example of this.

More than 80 percent of the students I work with watch on average of four hours a week of Internet-enabled television (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime) and almost 10 percent don’t have cable TV.

We’ve been hosting high school journalists at UF for more than 60 years, and now more than ever, we see media evolving and the jobs evolving with it.

Your job when you graduate in 2020 will be completely unrecognizable to you today, so we’ve compiled a list of tips that will help you move through these uncharted waters.

Don’t think about who you want to work for, but what you want to do.

If you plan a career around a specific company or job, you will never be happy. There is no way to predict just how happy you’ll be in a job until you’re in it. Focus on what you want to do, what you want to change or who you want to affect.

Get out of the building

Mom, dad, teachers, friends, family are all great, but they do not have all the answers. Get out of your school, neighborhood or city and find people who work in fields you are interested in.

Move. Often.

If you don’t move, you don’t experience the world around you. Try not to stay in the same place for more than a month — even if it is just a weekend trip.

And when you travel, experience where you are, don’t just do the top attraction, find locals, find adventures and don’t plan everything.

Pick up the phone

Want to get new job experience? Ask. Pick up the phone and call someone you want to be. Ask them for a cup of coffee. Seriously, right now. Do it.

Write your own scholarship check

College is expensive and debt is clearly an issue for college students. Start your business early and develop it. Make it your ticket to a paid education.

Find a mentor

Mom, dad, teachers and friends are great, but they can’t tell you how much to ask for in a job, or what assignments to focus on to develop your career.

Find someone who is doing what you love and seek their advice constantly. A mentor does not find you. You find a mentor.

“You’re too young” / “You don’t have enough experience”

Words that are said countless times to many aspiring professionals. Take them with a grain of salt and find a way in.

Keep asking for experiences, show your passion and find a way to connect with a company that does what you want to do.

Start writing

Tweet, blog, post, Tumble, do everything you can to properly get your name online. Writing is a fantastic way to clarify your goals and keep a chronicle of your experiences.

Tag so you can go back and search through your wins and losses. Make sure anything you publish is professional and relevant to your career path.

Fail, and fail hard

Celebrate your losses. You will learn more from a failure than any success. Admit your failures as soon as possible to lessen the fallout.

Teach yourself how to learn

This is a skill set that is lost in the common core, test-based education system that. If you can take a challenge and figure it out yourself (with the help of Mr. Google, of course) you will go places.

Nothing is more annoying as an employer than people asking questions that they could have answered themselves with a little work.

Recognize opportunities

Be observant — especially in your first job or internship. Could something about that process be done better? Quicker? More efficient?

Then politely make a note about it at the right opportunity. Don’t be a know-it-all Millennial; be a problem solver.

Self-evaluate, reflect and meditate

Every day is an opportunity to better yourself, but it takes time to figure out what exactly there is to improve.

Did you come across as a complete jerk in that meeting? Did you make a good first impression? Could you have completed an assignment differently? Is this current role helping me advance my overall goals? All things to think about calmly at the end of the day.

Find your passion

This is the second hardest thing to do on this list. The first is to find out what makes you happy. Finding your passion is a daily exercise.

There should not be a day that goes by that you don’t focus on what you want to do with your life. This doesn’t have to be all-consuming, you can think about this for a little as a minute, but it should be constantly evolving.

Take out the earbuds and listen

When you experience new places, don’t let artificial noise distract you from the experience. You might hear something that guides you in a different direction.

Question everything

From why you eat what you eat for breakfast each morning to why your process of idea creation has never changed (usually procrastinating and then caffeinating), question everything and ask yourself, “Could this be done in a better way?”

Find your closest friends

Your first years in college and after college will be some of the toughest. Your journey will take you through many highs and lows and friends that are along for the ride are invaluable.

What makes you happy?

The hardest task of all. What makes you get out of bed each day? What do you do that fulfills you? Is this something that could drive your passion for the rest of your life?

This task takes the most time, and ultimately, will never be completely answered, but is the single most important aspect of your career to figure out.

Plans change, and that’s OK

We all don’t become firefighters and astronauts, and that’s OK. Plans will change and change often. Learn to adapt with those changes with forces that you can control and cannot.

Write your own story

You control your thoughts, and your thoughts control your feelings. Make sure you are behind every decision and path you take to write your own career path.

Learn to love your job (and classes)

Not every job or class or internship will fulfill you — in fact, most won't. But if you learn to love your current situation, you will find the best opportunities.

If you’re stuck in a computer science class that has absolutely nothing to do with what you love then find a way to relate the materials to your passion. Do the same with jobs. Always find a way to adapt your job description into something that excites you.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It