“So, want do you want to do when you grow up?”
I think this was the question that terrified me the most as a child. Whenever a well-meaning family friend would ask me that, I would freeze like a deer in the headlights and hope they’d have mercy on me and change the subject.
It was embarrassing. I didn’t know what I wanted back then, and I certainly couldn’t have imagined that I’d be working from my laptop today, not that many years later.
And that’s just it: I couldn’t have imagined it because it wasn’t an option when I was little.
The reality is, society puts a lot of pressure on young people to figure out their lives by a certain age, and it’s generally unhelpful — if only because, as I’ve learned first-hand, technology is fundamentally changing how people work.
And, of course, it often takes time and a lot of trial-and-error to decide on a career path — it’s not something that happens overnight.
Like most people, it took me years and years of making mistakes, trying new things, failing, and getting back up again to figure out what I wanted to do professionally. And even though I now have a much better idea of the kind of life I want, a part of me still doesn’t know what I’ll be doing ten years from now.
But you know what I’ve realized? That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s completely normal.
Think about it: we live in a constantly evolving world, and it’s not about to slow down. That means the world of work is constantly changing too. Discoveries are made, technology gets more and more advanced, and we are evolving right along with it.
In other words?
Those of us who are twenty-somethings need to realize the advice our parents and grandparents may have given us about going to college, and getting just one specific career might not apply as much as it used to.
And you know what? That’s worth getting excited about, especially if you aren’t sure what you want to do professionally.
When I was little, I had no idea that making a good living online would be possible in the future. But today, not only is that possible but here I am getting closer to making that a reality myself. In fact, one of my articles on Medium.com has already earned me four figures.
Does that blow my mind? Yes.
But at the same time, it shouldn’t. Not because I have some kind of unique talent (I don’t) but rather because the technology we have at our disposal makes it possible to create and share content no matter who we are — we just have to put those resources to good use and the results will come.
I used to read a lot of articles about earning income online, wondering if I would ever get there and trying to hack my way to success. But now that I’m finally making a healthy income doing what I would happily do for free, here’s what I’ve learned: hacking doesn’t work, but earning money online is completely doable.
Being your own boss is entirely doable.
So what does that mean for you? It means this:
You don’t need to work at a soul-sucking job for forty years if you don’t want to — you have tons of options now.
If you love doing something, like writing, don’t let others tell you there’s no money in it or that you should focus on getting a “real” career. That’s what people used to say to me, and I’m so glad I didn’t listen.
The fact is, there is money in writing — I know that first-hand, and I also know there’s money in a wide array of other creative pursuits.
The truth is, the world is full of opportunities if you know where to look — opportunities that simply didn’t exist before.
When my mom was growing up in the sixties, for example, one of the only ways of getting a high-paying, fulfilling occupation was to get good grades, go to a good college, get hired by a good company, and work your way up to a better position within that same company over time.
It was expected that you would spend the best years of your life working in a stuffy office and trying to solve the company’s problems in the hopes of getting promoted.
But even then, many women and minorities didn’t have the option of getting better positions over time, even if they excelled at their work.
And even by the time I was born, in the nineties, most people didn’t know how to use computers (which were the size of ovens and weren’t able to do a fraction of what your smartphone can do now anyway).
All this to say that the world of employment has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years, and there’s no reason why you can’t use these changes to give yourself more freedom and flexibility.
Here’s another example to drive my point home:
When my parents, who are both international correspondents, immigrated to the U.S. and moved into their current house in the late 1990s, my mom had to go to the local library and ask the librarian how to use a mouse, because even in her line of work computers were intimidatingly new.
Technology has made it possible — and even necessary — for people like you and me to throw outdated ideas about work out the window.
The reality is, at no point in history have you had more options. Here are just a few of the things that are now possible thanks to technology: You can move across the world and keep making a living with just a laptop and an internet connection. You can take enriching courses completely online from platforms like Coursera and learn from experts for a fraction of the cost of attending a traditional brick-and-mortar university.
You can start a business in your pajamas.
You can pay the bills by writing what’s on your mind. You can start a profitable YouTube channel on virtually any topic that earns you money as you sleep. You can create a podcast. You can self-publish your own book.
See where I’m going with this?
The sky’s the limit compared to what used to be possible — and that’s incredibly exciting. It means that even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do right now, you have more opportunities to dabble in different careers and build multiple income streams (without spending a ton of time or money) than ever before.
I’ve heard a lot of career advice from people who are much smarter and more experienced than I am, and this is the advice that has resonated with me the most:
Go in the general direction of the type of career(s) you think you might thrive in. Maybe doing so will lead to new passions, and maybe it won’t.
But in actively looking for your interests, you’ll be one step closer to figuring out what types of work excites you.
For example, I’ve always been pretty creative, and when I was little, I considered becoming an interior designer at one point.
Even though I didn’t end up becoming an interior designer, that desire to create stayed with me, and I eventually realized I love writing.
So, don’t underestimate the power of going in a seemingly general direction first. You’ll do yourself a huge favor by simply moving forward, one step at a time, rather than letting fear of the unknown stop you from discovering new opportunities.
Remember — it’s important to try things for yourself, and today’s technology makes it way easier to do just that. And when you do, you might open doors that will lead to other doors you couldn’t even see before.
You might meet people who end up becoming great friends or mentors along the way, and you might discover a path that excites you more than anything else and follow it to other opportunities and experiences you didn’t even know existed.
All this can come from dabbling in different subjects and connecting with new people. And the best part?
It’s all at your fingertips now. Take advantage of that.
We live in an unprecedented time right now, and the world will continue to change and evolve in ways we can’t even imagine in the years to come.
Of course, change can be difficult, but we can choose to harness the developments taking place to make our lives and the lives of others happier and more fulfilling.
We can use the new opportunities that remote work offers to be more present for our families and friends, and work on side projects that a typical 9-to-5 doesn’t leave much time for.
In short, we can finally have more control over our lives, rather than being restricted by fixed work schedules and demanding bosses.
Yes, careers are changing. But that’s not something to be afraid of — it’s something to embrace as a new opportunity to find work that’s truly meaningful and rewarding.
The reality is, there’s no limit to what you can do and learn and create.