Your 20s are a time in your life when you’re still relatively unburdened and flexible, likely without major commitments to a new family or geography. The years you spend in your 20s are a great opportunity to do and try things that you just won’t be able to try later in your life.
As you move forward in life, your responsibilities will increase and your freedom to hot swap major components of your life will decrease. It’s a natural byproduct of the human experience. That’s why you should take advantage of your 20s to learn about your passions and habits that will make your 30s and beyond more satisfying.
Here are 10 ways to take advantage of your roaring 20s.
1. Study or work abroad
Studying or working in a different country is much easier in the early years of your career. If you’ve always wanted to travel for work, stay abroad for long periods of time, or add an international flair to your resume, your 20s are the time to do it. You’ll have the energy and drive to make the leap, meet new people, learn new cultures, and live outside your comfort zone.
2. Hop jobs
Your 20s should be used to figure out what type of career you want. So go ahead! Hop from one job to the next, spending a year or two per job figuring out what it is you want to do. It’s expected of you as a young person to not know where you want your career to go. Of course, once you find the right thing, settle into it so you can become an expert and be considered loyal to an industry and to potential employers, but it's important to give your future self a career she or he actually wants to work with.
3. Find your passion
Part of job hopping is figuring out what drives you. In your 20s, you should learn what motivates you to get up every morning and do your job. Whether it’s a specific type of company culture or a cause that you want to advance, find out what things you're passionate about. And not just through your career! Volunteer or pick up a bunch of hobbies on a trial basis. Figure out what makes you tick!
4. Make a career pivot
As you move from one job to the next, you may figure out that you don’t exactly like what your skillset is allowing you to do. That’s okay! You’re in your 20s, and it’s the one decade in your life when you can easily make a large pivot in what you do and how you do it.
Not happy working in sales? Go ahead and learn how to develop web apps. Figured out that you really want to become a doctor? Take the necessary prerequisite courses and sign up for medical school. Like many other big changes in life, it will become harder and harder to do as you age.
5. Do something productive outside of work
Volunteer. Grab a few new hobbies. Start your own side-business. Join a professional association. Run a meetup. Doing any of these things in your 20s will show future employers that you’re serious about your career but will also network you with people who might become lifelong contacts and friends.
6. Build good money habits
Your 20s shouldn’t be focused simply on making and saving huge amounts of money. Go ahead and splurge on trips and experiences from time to time. But do focus on building good habits around the way you spend and save your money. Learn how to budget, open up a savings account, start putting money towards your retirement, and know exactly how much you can spend on extracurricular activities. Building this habit early will save you a lot of trouble and stress later in your life, when your regular life expenses become a larger percentage of your spending.
7. Know your benefits
Too many young people focus too little on the benefits they can take advantage of from their employer. Learn about your retirement plan and how much your employer contributes. Find out about potential unemployment benefits in case of job loss. Take advantage of your company’s health, dental, and vision benefits. Ask older employees or an HR representative for help in getting started. These benefits are usually tremendous values and an investment in your own wealth and health.
8. Avoid monotonous routines
Don't go to work the same way every morning. Don't bring a brown bag to lunch every day. Don't hang out with the same people at work every week. When you're older and more settled, you'll find yourself naturally developing routines and patterns that make you comfortable. While you're in your 20s, avoid the "same" and seek out new people and experiences to develop your palette for your social life, professional life, and everything in between. You might find yourself loving something unexpected.
9. Find ways to stay connected
Friends grow apart with age. Family moves away. Hobbies and passions are lost. All these things are true, but your 20s are an easy time to slow all these age-related inevitabilities. Travel to see college pals and spend time with family. Make time on the weekends to keep up with hobbies before you lose them forever. If you lose connection with friends, family, or passions in your 20s, you're very unlikely to pick them up in your 30s and beyond.
10. Focus on yourself
Until now, you've probably had to match up to the expectations of your parents, peers, and professors. Now that you’re in your 20s and starting your career, it’s time to focus on yourself. Excel at your job for your own satisfaction. Learn new skills because you want to, not because you have to. Get that next promotion or bonus because you have your own reasons for wanting more. Do this and you'll avoid relying on others for your happiness.