I’m 20 And There’s Nothing Wrong With Putting My Career First

by Tess Woods

I have three college roommates. The first is spending her summer dancing in Paris and backpacking through Europe (cue FOMO).

The second is spending her summer lifeguarding, boating and living with her amazing boyfriend. And the third stays constantly mocking me for being “too career-oriented.”

Where have I spent my last two summers? In an office, working 40-plus hours a week.

Not because I didn’t save enough money this year to study abroad, or because my parents scored me a gig I couldn’t pass up, but because when I graduate and head off into the real world, I want to be 100 percent sure I love what I do.

Simply put, I’m tired of being looked at as a less-adventurous, uptight college kid because I’m choosing to follow what appears to be a road less desirable for my generation.

It’s important for us early 20-somethings to know there are many reasons to feel confident when choosing to chase professional dreams -- here are some of those reasons:

Work meet play, play meet work.

I have been to more than 100 concerts; I have never turned down a spontaneous road trip and can probably shotgun a beer faster than you.

Don’t, for a second, think I’m lame.

Entering the job market as a Millennial is scary. In many instances, we’re not taken very seriously and employers fear we might not have the “proper” work ethic for today’s business world.

This is why I decided to spend time embracing my Gen-Y attitude, Instagram addiction, selfie passion and channeling what I already know into marketable skills.

After two summers as a public relations intern, I’ve discovered one of my core strengths is understanding the average consumer (which sounds significantly better in an interview than saying, "I troll social media").

Six hours is all it takes.

There are 24 hours in a day. Take away an average work day (eight hours), an average round-trip commute (two hours) and the amount of nightly sleep our doctor wants us to get (eight hours). What are we left with? Six hours.

While I trust myself to make the most out of those six hours by exercising, grabbing dinner and drinks with a friend or calling my mom, I think the other 18 hours are pretty important.

I want to be passionate about projects, enthusiastic about clients, close with my colleagues and good at what I do.

Since I’m going to be spending much more than 50 percent of my overall time working, I don’t think that’s such a crime.

Not knowing is dangerous.

Cue that awkward moment when you realize you don’t like your job. Spoiler alert: You should never let this happen.

If you’re not first, you’re last.

Sorry to quote Ricky Bobby, but it’s true. Getting ahead of the game is the only way I’ve ever known how to do things.

I was lucky enough to find an industry I’m passionate about early in life.

Because I make an effort to read the news, participate in brainstorms, own projects and spend time with my superiors, I constantly feel like, well, I’m killing it.

When I go back to class in the fall, I know I’m much more advanced and knowledgeable about certain industries.

I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to feel like one of the smartest people in the room?

Transitioning is a luxury.

Last summer, I was 19, working well over 40 hours a week and commuting into Boston from a house in the suburbs. Safe to say, my first impression of adult life was a bit of a shocker.

I was constantly exhausted and confused.

While it was an amazing, “step out of my comfort zone” experience, I was relieved when I went back to school in the fall, where there were optional attendance policies, Tuesday night happy hours and friends my own age.

Fast-forward to this summer: I’m 20, continuing to work well over 40 hours a week and have my own place in the city.

While working full-time is no walk in the park, I find it easy to acclimate to this lifestyle now.

I don’t feel like an intern; I feel like an employee. I know how to beat the exhaustion bug and embrace this schedule.

Wait, I still get to go back to college one more time? Score.

By spending my summers this way, I know once graduation approaches, I will be at peace with leaving college after four fun years, and I'll be ready to jump back into the swing of things in the working world.

I’m beyond thankful I’ve given myself this much time to gradually transition.

So, let’s do this.

I’m speaking out because I don’t want any of my fellow college students or career enthusiasts to ever hesitate when it comes to this aspect of life.

As my 20s continue, I plan to travel the world, fall in love, chase the rest of my dreams, etc. — as we all should.

When I was a freshman, I repeatedly told myself, “Okay, so all I need is an internship at some point while I’m in college and I’ll get a job. Cool.”

I had the mindset that college was solely for partying and I didn’t really care what position I fell into after graduation.

Because, after college, life is basically over, right? Wrong.

My life is just beginning, and I couldn’t be more excited to launch my fabulous career.