The internet and magazines are filled with articles about ‘essential career moves’ and showing off young individuals who are ‘ones to watch’ and that’s great, we all want to see young people succeeding! But the reality of being a young graduate has now manifested in a rat race to get ahead of peers and rival the corporate elite. Graduates who leave university nowadays (myself included) are filled with notions of becoming millionaires or CEOs of Fortune 500 companies by our late 20s.
There is a social and cultural pressure amongst young people to be succeeding in the workplace and that has translated to how the older generation view us in turn. This is a good thing, for the first time young talent is getting the recognition it deserves which has historically been ignored in favour of experience and ‘paying your dos’. People are starting to acknowledge that young people have fresh, innovative ideas that are born out of better more progressive educational and social systems than those which came before. But in light of all this positive change in favour of the Millennials and Gen-Z there is a palpable pressure to be hitting the top of your game so soon and anything less is well, falling behind.
When we read through those headlines and scroll through the Forbes 30Under30 list it can be difficult to witness the vast success of our peers in lew of our own. But what is most important to remember in the face of this, is that there are so many people we look up to who didn’t make it until a lot further down the line.
Julie Child didn’t write her first cookbook until she was 50, Vera Wang first entered the fashion industry at 40 and Viola Davis only started her road to fame at 43. The list of celebrities and business moguls who were still trying to get their break or failing at various careers in their 20s is endless. The concept that we should expect meteoritic success as college graduates is just unrealistic for most people. Of course, we should celebrate those whose hard work leads them to success at a young age, but we need to keep things in perspective that having your sh*t together at 25 is not going to happen for everyone and that is not only fine but totally normal. (Also – has anyone got their sh*t together – ever?)
Things like the 30Under30 list and the surrounding success of our peers is supposed to fuel our own fires, not make us doubt ourselves. Being in your 20s is a difficult time with lots of social and cultural pressures to contend with, but it’s important to put things in perspective and take stock of the successes you have achieved so far, however big or not so big. It’s about striking a balance between realism and optimism but ultimately about resilience and determination above all else.