Hi, I'm Lena. I'm a 24-year-old freelance content marketer, and I have a big secret: I'm not a workaholic. In fact, I'm not even considered a good worker in the eyes of the traditional employment structure.
I hate offices. I despise 9-to-5 requirements. I don't do well with bosses, and I refuse to wear any shoes other than flip flops.
So, instead of trying to change these traits and accept these miserable expectations, I decided to try a different route: freelancing. It was the best decision I ever made. Learning how to work smarter instead of harder changed my productivity, income, work satisfaction, confidence and overall happiness.
But enough about me. Meet my Millennial friend, Rachel. Let's talk about her.
Rachel is also 24, and she works full-time for a tech company. She works nine to 12 hours a day, commutes 30 minutes each way, feels enslaved to her boss and complains about her job for at least a third of the time she's there.
She works hard: like, really hard. But if you're making a lousy salary and generally don't feel appreciated, then why does it matter?
Surprise: It doesn't. Rachel is miserable, and would do anything to get out of there. But she doesn't. I have a feeling Rachel isn't the only one grappling with this internal battle.
The other day though, Rachel said something incredibly enlightened. “You know, maybe I don't want to have big career goals or a high-level job. Maybe I just want to be comfortable, happy and work with cool people. Why is that so bad?”
The truth is, nothing about that is bad. But many Millennials have been brainwashed into believing harder work is better work, longer hours are more impressive and the amount of time that you've been at a company somehow translates to future opportunities.
Don't get me wrong; there are a lot of Millennials on board with the “create your own career” mentality. But for those of you who feel lost, stuck, defeated and pressured, don't be.
We're now going to walk through this together.
Let's pretend for a second that the traditional work structure is all bullshit. Instead, let's take a few minutes to try to become more self-intuitive and aware of our individual, professional needs. Nothing is a one-size-fits-all, right?
Here are some of my greatest tips for rediscovering yourself and finding a career and lifestyle you love:
1. Act with transparency toward yourself and others.
Of course, what this comes down to is personal preference and individual circumstances. Some people thrive in the traditional office structure, while others really suffer.
A lot are somewhere in the middle. Regardless, it's about listening to yourself, understanding your needs and trusting your own intuition. We need to set aside more time to do this.
You may discover that quitting your job isn't the best option, and that's OK. “If work is taking up more than reasonable overtime and leading to stress, anxiety or depression, any decent employer will be accommodating in dropping back to something that works for you both and is sustainable over the longer term,” says Mirador Wealth Management.
If you feel your boss could fit this description, it's worth considering talking to him or her first. Regardless, really listen to your intuition and be honest with yourself about your needs. Think about how you can best communicate with others in order to achieve them.
2. Set the word “stability” on fire.
A lot of Millennials tell me they stay at jobs they hate for one reason: stability. Going to the same job every day, regardless of your feelings toward it, ensures you'll make a certain amount of money each month.
Well, I have a surprise for you all: Stability isn't real, friends. Your company could go under, you could get fired, you could get evicted, your girlfriend could break up with you and you could get a bad haircut all in one day. Nothing in your life is stable.
Honestly, even if it is, that sure as hell isn't a good enough reason to stick to something you hate.
Don't get me wrong; this isn't forever. Soon, we're going to be old enough to crave stability. We'll have spouses and children we need to support, mortgages we need to pay and car payments we need to cover.
But for now, why the hell would we prioritize stability when we could be experimenting with careers we actually enjoy or learning skills we're actually interested in?
Fuck stability. Instead, challenge yourself to actually find something you love. I promise you the money will follow.
3. Be real with yourself.
So many Millennial employees feel so expendable, it literally drains them of any self-confidence they have. So, I challenge you to sit down and write the truth about yourself: what you're good at, what you're bad at, what motivates you, what you enjoy doing, what you're insecure about, what you despise and, most importantly, what you value.
Simply putting it all on paper can bring tremendous clarity regarding who you are and what you're meant to be doing.
Oh, and literally never think about the things you're bad at again. Don't try to change them, don't dwell on them and don't indulge in them.
Put 100 percent of your efforts into your strengths, and don't look back. You are who you are, and you must value that.
4. Thing of practical alternatives.
If you're thinking, "I'm not just going to quit my job, I need the money,” trust me: I get it. But there are a lot of other ways to make the same – if not more – money.
Maybe you can work two part-time jobs in fields you really love or want to learn more about. Maybe you can land a teaching position abroad to help gain some perspective.
Maybe you can launch your own freelance business or start a blog. I can personally say that my income has doubled since I began freelancing, so financial practicalities don't have to be an obstacle. Get creative, and I guarantee you'll find better solutions.
You are young, capable, talented and worthy. Don't waste a second of your life in a job you don't love.
We're too young to settle. So, get creative and go discover your happy place.