Starting Out

On my way to work recently I was listening to NPR as I often do. Because there’s so much bad news being reported in the media on a typical day it can get a little depressing. So anytime I hear an inspirational story it lifts my spirits.

As part of its Family Matters series, NPR interviewed Nicholas McDonald, a 24-year old in Capitol Heights, Maryland. Here’s a link to the interview.

Nicholas told his story about being part of a multi-generational family living under one roof. He explained that he had a rough childhood and that he didn’t have many good influences growing up. Now, unemployed and in his mid-twenties, he is feeling pressure from his step dad to find a job.

Nicholas’s story is one that is playing out in the lives of an increasing number of Americans. Because of the recession and the difficult job market, many college grads are moving back in with their parents. Even with a full-time job, young grads are finding their student loan burden is too much to handle without support from parents. They may feel hopeless because of what they hear in the media. Or overwhelmed because they have no idea what they want to do. Or pressured by the expectations of family and friends.

The first thing you should do is realize that you’re not alone. There are literally millions of young Americans going through the same thing. At 26, I still don’t know exactly what I want to do when I grow up.

Second, eliminate the negative people from your life. These people thrive telling you that you can’t do what you want. Surround yourself instead with people who will support you and lift you up.

Third, don’t feel guilty for wanting to take a little time off. After graduating from college, I took a year off to live in Europe and pursue my love of traveling. I heard from so many people who said to travel while you’re young, because before you know it you’ll be 30 and stuck in the office. Backpacking through a foreign land might be just what you need.

Fourth, don’t lose hope. You have skills and qualities that nobody else in the world has. Sometimes all you need is that last bit of effort to reach your goal. I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes by American writer Elbert Hubbard:

A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success. There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose.

Often, we’re all that stands in our way.

Finally, when you reach your goals and find success, sincerely thank those who helped you get there. These are your true friends who won’t count the costs when you need help.

As for Nicholas, he explains that as long as he’s contributing financially to his family he’d be okay still living there at 30. That may or may not be the case for you. But his example shows that by knowing what’s important to you and keeping a positive attitude, you’re likely find success.

19 thoughts on “Starting Out

    • Thank you, Justin! I couldn’t imagine graduating and trying to enter the workforce right now. Unless you have a connection it’s very difficult to get a job in this environment. And it certainly helps if you have family and friends you can depend on.

  1. Great Post Ryan. You know so many young people today don’t know where to turn with the economic crisis happening everywhere we look nowadays. I say research and plan,network take the time, and set goals. Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake, heck I’ve been to Uni twice now and finally love what I do! Cheers Mr.CBB

    • I’m happy to hear you’ve found your dream job! I agree with your suggestion about not beating yourself up. The most successful people I know and have read about have made so many mistakes, it would easily discourage someone who lacks drive.

      I’m not sure we should even call them mistakes – if your current actions don’t put you where you want to be, I would consider that part of the learning process. We learn as we go. The next time around, we know to try something different. This trial and error process is essential to finding success.

  2. I love it when NPR does this stuff. Family Matters is an amazing piece of radio. A lot of people are going through hard times and we all need to bind together to be the best we can despite circumstance.

    • Hi, Forest! Thanks for stopping by.

      I believe that right now we’re going through some of the hardest times we might see in our lifetimes. Unemployment, debt crises, chaos in the Middle East – all combine to make a perilous environment for wealth-building. It’s times like these that we have to get back to basics like spending less than we make, investing the difference and staying out of debt if we want a better future.

  3. I know exactly how this is. I live with BF’s parents right now… it is tough. I’m 24 and BF is 32. He gets really depressed living with his parents, even though they have a huge house and they are always telling us that it’s okay… we are lucky they understand, but you feel deflated thinking that you “failed.” He always tells me how he wishes we could afford to move out, but his burden of student loans prevent this from happening. We’re trying to do this until we decide to have kids, just to hopefully lessen the pain a bit.

    • My wife’s siblings are going through the same thing. They’re in their 30s, and the combination of student loans and lack of a good income keep them from moving out on their own. It’s great when parents are understanding.

      I know what you mean about feeling deflated. I mean, who dreams about living with their parents indefinitely? But it’s becoming necessary given the massive level of loans we’re graduating with. It seems like you are supportive of your BF, which will only help moving forward. Being on the same page emotionally is really important.

      • Definitely! I just can’t imagine if I had met him and he was living with his parents. We were together for 4 years before living with his parents, so we basically went through it all together. I just know that I’m about to be drowning in student loans too, and I know he will be supportive of whatever decisions I make too!

  4. It sure can be extremely frustrating being out of job. The pressures from his stepdad must make the situation even more depressing. Luckily when I went through my recent stint of unemployment I had money saved up and some side income still coming in. So I didn’t need to resort to moving back home. Still, it just starts feeling hopeless the longer it goes. You do really have to force yourself to remain positive and keep being persistent.

    • You were smart to save up money in case of a job loss. So many people are living paycheck to paycheck, where just one emergency puts them in dire financial straits. To add insult to injury, studies have shown that the longer you’re unemployed, the less likely you are to find a job soon. The key is to save up at least a few months’ salary before a disaster strikes.

  5. This is a very common situation. My husband got laid off for a period of time last year and it can be hard to not lose hope. The reality is that it is hard to find a job in a specific field, sometimes its good to take any job you can get (temporarily)

    • I’ve heard some people say they won’t take just any job if they’re unemployed. Maybe they don’t have an issue depending on their parents or the government for their well-being. If I were out of a job, you can bet I’d be out there looking for any job that would help me support my family. Doesn’t matter if it’s flipping burgers. Having at least some money coming in is better than depending on others, and allows you to maintain some semblance of independence.

  6. Unless your career is your main priority, then there’s nothing wrong with taking it slow and seeing what’s out there. I do think that by the time you get married and have kids, you should be able to stand on your own two legs and find a place of your own. Even if you’re single, don’t let it creep for too long. No one wants to be the 40 year old virgin still living in Mom’s basement!!

    • What a great movie! If you have money saved up or a spouse who’s working, you have the luxury of discernment in the job search. But if you’re the sole income earner or have a family to support, there’s a greater urgency.

      A lot depends on your lifestyle as well. If you require a large income to support yourself, it puts a lot more pressure on you to find a job. But if you’re frugal and live with no debt, you might find you can live off your savings for longer than you expected!

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