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Life Advice That Every 20-Something Needs

Graduation speeches are nice, but are they particularly helpful? Here's the real advice we wish someone had told us in our 20's.


By Marshall Bright, Refinery29
 
Advice is a funny thing. We're all looking for it, but too often the kind we receive is either too generic or too abstract to be helpful. And while a good inspirational quote has its place, sometimes we really need the kind of wise words we can work with.

[post_ads]Take a piece of advice my boss gave me when I was stressing out about my professional trajectory: "You'll have so many careers before you retire," she said. It's not exactly going to be on a Hallmark card any time soon, but it was a lot more helpful to me than being told to dance like nobody's watching.

Recently, we polled Refinery29 staffers for the best advice they received in their 20s. Not surprisingly, what stuck with them is similar to what my boss told me: advice that makes you feel better but is also actionable. From writing thank-you notes to negotiating salaries, here's the best life and career advice you need at any age.
"Learn to do the following: interview, build your résumé, negotiate your salary. As a recruiter, I see too many recent grads who don't know how to do any of these things...and they unfortunately don't teach it in school!"

—Lauren Greenfeld, recruiter
"Know your worth. A lot of industries expect work for free when people are starting out. Sometimes it's worth it just to get the experience, but at a certain point you have to fight for more. I did work for free (an internship, some writing clips) that proved valuable as they translated into published work and jobs. But I think it's important to draw the line and then move on to paid work. You have to pay your rent!"
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—Erin Donnelly, London contributor
"Network, because it really is about who you know. It's not that 'who you know' gets you a job — it’s that having a wide professional network opens up potential opportunities you may not have otherwise known about. The more people you know, the more people who can tell you about jobs, recommend you for new jobs, etc.

"On social networks such as Twitter, start following people you admire or aspire to be like; then look at who they follow, and start following them, too. Reply to their posts, take part in conversations. When people told me this advice, I always thought it sounded snobby, so 1%. I'm going to make it my own way, I don't need anyone else's help! I thought to myself. My network is how I found out about the position I now love here at Refinery29, and an acquaintance on Twitter was how I found out about the internship that turned into a full-time roll at Wired before that."

—Christina Bonnington, technology editor
"You will have so many careers before you retire. And, in this economy and at our age, so many jobs even before you turn 30. Nothing is set in stone, and your first job doesn't really matter."

—Marshall Bright, editorial assistant, Living
"It's okay to not really know what you want to do with your life yet. Have a go at something, dust yourself off, and try again (as Aaliyah would say). Pressuring yourself to know your ultimate professional purpose will cause you to stop enjoying the present or absorbing the day-to-day lessons you could be experiencing. Every job you have will eventually make you what you are, no matter how trivial it might seem at the time."
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—Grace Gordon, brand experiences director
"Taking on too many responsibilities or too big a course load is usually a terrible choice, because it doesn't allow you to focus and truly absorb material. Case in point: I took four years of French language, and I'm not fluent, y'all. Pas du tout!"

—Jacki Huntington, producer
"Cast a wide net and evolve with the world. As technology advances, so will your field. Many positions you will hold in the future don't even exist yet."

—Megan West, senior social editor
"Ask for forgiveness, not permission. Identifying what you want and need is hard enough, especially at work. Go and get it and apologize later."

—Elisa Kreisinger, executive producer, video
"Your degree doesn't define you. Your degree teaches you how to think, and that can be applied to multiple fields."
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–Benish Shah, head of product marketing
"Always send thank-you notes — email or handwritten. You'll make a great impression and build lasting relationships."

—Torey Van Oot, senior reporter

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