If you’re a so-called ‘millennial’ you’ll be familiar with the frequent slurs aimed at our generation for not reaching the key signifiers of adult life on schedule. Regardless of structural inequalities, we’re accused of buying too many avocados in lieu of getting married, securing a mortgage and stockpiling a stable pension.
Except, now psychologists and scientists have stated that you might not actually be an adult until you’re 25, with adolescence lasting from the ages of 10-24.
Critics have argued this infantilises young people, yet neuroscience proves our brains are still developing beyond the age of 20. Surely this new broader definition of adolescence allows greater flexibility and support for young people to develop at their own pace.
Whether you deem yourself an adult or teenager, the years from 18 to 25 encompass much soul searching and upheaval in establishing who you are, what you stand for and what you want to do in life. No pressure!
However, careers advice isn’t beholden to age categories. If you feel overwhelmed and confused, take time out from your adult-in-progress persona, and explore these ways to reconnect with your inner child – allegedly your true, original self. You might find the answers you’ve been looking for.
Remember that play is the beginning of knowledge
Young children begin to engage and interact with the world through play, yet this concept is often sidelined in adulthood. Think back to what you were naturally interested – or even better, obsessed with – as a child. What did you do for fun when play was a necessity? Perhaps you used to make collages from magazine cuttings, write elaborate stories about your schooldays or established a mini enterprise in the playground selling counterfeit Tamagotchis.
Draw a massive mind map of everything you’ve ever been interested in, enjoyed, or want to do more of; analyse it and you’ll start to see certain themes which can indicate your natural interests and talents. These are the sorts of things you should try to replicate in the world of work to stay fulfilled.
…and that knowledge is power
Through a child’s eyes, the world is a never-ending source of fascination. Even everyday mundanities are novel and exciting. By cultivating a sense of curiosity, you’ll become better informed and more aware of your choices, and thus able to make better decisions.
Learn to ask questions – to clarify, quantify, empathise and evaluate. If you’re thinking about a specific career, approach people already established within that sector and offer to take them out for a coffee whilst you pick their brains. Go to networking events, apply for mentorship schemes, and gather perspectives from different personas. Read autobiographies and be inspired by other people’s stories. There may not be a singular road map for career success, but seek wisdom and ye shall find it!
Examine your friendships
There’s nothing quite like the uninhibited silliness and intensity of childhood pals, but start by analysing your specific role within friendship groups. Are you the organiser, always making people laugh, observing situations or solving conflict? In this way you can understand your broad skill set, from what you already do naturally within social situations.
Moreover, whilst it’s seen as slightly cringe-inducing, why not ask your family and friends what they think you’re good at? It’s sometimes hard to be self-aware and perceptive enough to understand your own true talents, and the people who know you best can provide some telling insights.
Believe in yourself
Children are uninhibited and fearless; they know there will be someone to catch them when they fall, and they bounce back up again. They’re not worried about their performance in comparison to their peers, because they’re too absorbed in the moment and the sheer joy of learning by doing.
Children aren’t defined by their mistakes yet as adults sometimes we’re so scared to fail it means we never even try. Once upon a time, that risk or leap of faith wouldn’t have felt so intimidating. Adopt some childish enthusiasm and don’t wait around for someone else’s permission to give it a go; trust your intuition and embrace your chance to grow.
Whilst the perimeters and definitions of adulthood may be shifting, it’s still a tough process to get to where you want to be. However, the equally wonderful and terrifying thing about growing up and becoming your own person, is that you’re the one in the driving seat… as Peter Pan said, “To live will be an awfully big adventure.”