5 years ago my credit card declined when I was at a bar trying to buy a $5 rum and coke.
I had just graduated college and was living with my parents.
I’ve come a long way since then and want to share my story to help others.
The Moment I Knew I Hit Rock Bottom
I didn’t have a job lined up upon graduation despite my best efforts the last few months of senior year to land everything and anything. (Tip – this is the approach I should have taken to land a job).
I moved back in with my parents and spent the first four weeks of the real world draining my bank account on weekend outings with my friends.
I spent weekdays at Starbucks sipping on $5 lattes and continuing to apply to anything and everything with my other unemployed friends.
Together we complained about our student loans, we complained that our colleges didn’t prepare us enough to get jobs, we complained about some of our classmates who we couldn’t believe got good jobs, and most of all, we complained about living with our parents.
How annoying they could be?!
Always asking us where we were going and what we were doing.
Finally one Saturday night my credit card embarrassingly declined at a bar and I realized I had hit rock bottom.
I had known I was reaching my credit limit but still decided to chance it and buy that $5 crappy rum and coke.
I had to ask “a friend” to pay for my drink.
This friend was a jerk that I was trying to date but had little interest in me.
It was at this moment that I knew I had to get my life together.
Where I Went Wrong in My Life
Whenever there was a hypothetical ladder for me to climb in my life, such as getting good grades, getting into a top college, or succeeding in sports, I figured out how to climb to the top of the ladder.
I had just assumed since I had successfully climbed all of the ladders in my life up until that point, that I would get and deserved a great job.
Well, I was wrong. There is no clear-cut ladder to climb in the real world like there is in school or in sports.
And there is no magical guarantee that graduating from a top-school will land a dream job after graduation.
You have to create your own ladders.
I realized that I had climbed ladders that were defined for me my whole life. It was time I created my own ladders.
Create Your Own Ladders
What do I mean by creating your own ladders?
When was the last time that you started something that no one else had started already?
When was the last time that you took initiative and created something out of nothing?
When was the last time you did something big that no one else told you to do but you knew it had to be done?
Up until that point in my life, I had never or rarely ever done that. I had joined sports teams, I had volunteered in organizations that someone else had started, I had applied for jobs, but I never thought to create ones of my own.
It doesn’t take a college degree to create your own ladders. Everyone can create their own opportunities with a little bit of initiative and the internet.
Best of all, the internet has made it easier and more reasonable than ever to actually learn and grow new skills that you were never taught in high school or college. Everything you could ever want to learn is readily available online thanks to Google and YouTube.
Do you learn best by reading articles? Then use Google.
Do you learn best by watching videos? Then watch YouTube.
There are no excuses anymore for not having the means to learn. You simply have to make it a priority.
The Best Advice I Can Give New Graduates
Whether you find yourself in your dream job or living in your parent’s basement, go out and make something out of nothing.
By the end of that fall, I had woken up.
- I landed a temp job that I wouldn’t have considered at the beginning of the summer but was now grateful for the money it was bringing in- and I was saving every penny of it – not spending it on clothes or drinks.
- I went to the local library and started a gifted and talented program from scratch for elementary schools students. I even came back from the disappointment of low enrollment the first class (I had 1 student) to having 12 students the second class onwards.
- I called up the town high school and set up college essay help sessions for seniors. I even took vacation time to come into the school and help students since I found it so rewarding.
- I started an online blog about a subject I was passionate about. I spent my nights blogging away and building a little social media community. From that blog, I was contacted by a startup for an informational interview about my experience and from that conversation they asked me to join the team. I worked on the startup at night and ultimately learned new skills that helped me land my dream internship with the U.S. Olympic Committee.
My resume was no longer a reflection of all the groups I had joined. It was a reflection of all the things I had created.
The Beginning of the Climb
By December of that year, I was planning my move West to start my new life. I had thousands of dollars in the bank from my temp job and more importantly, a better attitude about life.
- Paid off $89,000 of debt
- Landed a crazy amazing job
- Saved $26,000 in seven months
- Got engaged to an amazing guy!
None of this would have happened if I kept climbing other people’s ladders and blaming others for situations that I could improve myself.
That is why “create your own ladders” is the most important advice I could give anyone.
How to Create Your Own Ladders
The best way that you can create your own ladders yourself is by simply deciding to take an initiative and create something.
If you want to become a data analyst, then download some free public data and try to analyze. Summarize your techniques and results on your own website.
If you want to become proficient in some programming language, take a free course on Coursera or simply look up tutorials on YouTube.
If you want to become a content creator, then start your own YouTube channel or buy a domain name and start your own website.
The way to create your own ladders is to start learning, building, and sharing work online with the world. You can then add this work to your professional resume or, better yet, people in the field that you want to break into will simply find your work online and reach out to you.
Praxis even thinks that side projects are the new resume because working on side projects shows that you’re curious and that you’re capable of taking action and building something without waiting for someone to tell you to do so.
When you work on side projects, you signal to others that you’re capable of creating value and putting it out into the world.
There has never been a better time in history to create your own ladders, e.g. your own income streams and connections with others in the world. You simply have to make it a priority and start moving.
Readers, what advice would you give millennials? Anything you wish you had known at graduation?