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How do I Adult?

Career and Workforce Development Women in Student Affairs
March 30, 2016 Meghan Godorov

How do I adult? 

A funny question you might be thinking. I thought the same just a few weeks ago when a senior sat down in my office to have her resume reviewed and then with a concerned and a bit hesitant expression on her face asked me, how do I adult? She followed that with a full sigh, hands over her face, looking like the definition of exhaustion. I smiled at her, admiring her phrasing and she smiled back. 

Before moving into a laundry list of ways, resources and ideas about how she could “adult,” I asked her what she meant by that phrase. Clearly it meant something to her from her own experiences and vantage point.

She said that she wanted to know what her next step should be, how she could determine what she should do for the rest of her life and how to manage the upcoming transition away from college. Pretty heavy questions even when they stand alone; together quite the burden for a twenty or 21-year-old who hasn’t had the chance yet to define adult in the context of work.

I answered her question, allayed her fears and helped her de-stress by offering one strategy for each of her questions to get her moving in the right direction. I share my same recommendations below for the seniors with whom we all work who are anticipating adulthood, the adults who are still trying to figure it out and everyone in between.

1.  Identify what you need first/now. Resume review? Space and time to reflect on your experiences? Conversations with people in your field. We often associate being an adult with choosing a career that you will do for a lifetime after you graduate. College prepares us to think, with some baseline skills and a place to grow as social individuals. To “adult” you’ll need to prioritize, prepare and plan for what is to come in whatever way you see fit. There are so many entry points to the job search process. Take advantage of these options and talk with a career coach to help you find what makes the most sense for you.

2. Really look at your resume. So many times we get caught up in the minutiae of our resumes. What is the best format? What should my bullet point descriptions say? What types of bullet points should I use? What font do employers like the most? All of this is important but the details do not or should not matter until you’ve really looked at your resume. Ask yourself, what are the themes of my experiences? When I talk about my work with others, are those same reflections included in my resume? Am I missing a critical experience or skills that I’ve developed that weren’t important to me until I wanted to adult?

3. Join digital communities, professionally. Your digital imprint is now just as important as the impression you leave in person. Learn how to use LinkedIn, build your profile and consult with a career coach on how to connect effectively with professionals in your areas of interest. Converse with thought leaders on Twitter, follow and engage others on Instagram. Building credibility in these spaces will take some thought and time over time but it will pay off, giving you national and even global connections that will last a lifetime.

4. Take time away from your search. Give yourself a break. Honor how much you’ve accomplished up to this point in the search process by building in celebratory moments. Take yourself out for a treat (mine would be ice cream as many of you know), go to the movies with friends, watch your favorite Netflix show or go for a walk. In the adult game/race, you are better off being the tortoise than the hare to begin with. As you gain momentum and clarity, your confidence builds and the question no longer feels like one. You’ll have the answers.

As you move further into your adult life, you will face similar challenges in navigating transition, building good habits now in reflection, branding, listening to what you need and celebration are strategies and tools that you can always have in your toolbox and will never rust.

Meghan Godorov is an Associate for Spelman Johnson, a higher education executive search firm. She is also an independent career consultant, helping individuals build careers that last. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest @meghangodorov or sign up for her newsletter at www.meghangodorov.com for freebies, great advice and resources that help you navigate your career and anchor your future.

Featured image courtesy of Business Betties (c)