It's pretty common in your 20s and 30s to feel like you're treading water financially – dealing with the immediate bills and expenses and not thinking too far beyond the next year or two. But this is the ideal time to think about the financial objectives you want to achieve. The best rewards don't come without risks, and there's no better time to start setting goals and taking chances.
While you're young, why not invest in your dreams, start a business, or travel to places you've always wanted to see? Get yourself in the game and start playing.
Here are 4 risks you can take while you're still in your 20s and 30s.
1. Start Investing
Do you have some cash set aside for a rainy day? If you do, that's great – but is it sitting in a checking or savings account? If you want to be able to retire comfortably someday, you need your money to grow. That typically happens by investing in assets that grow in value or pay interest. Financial experts typically recommend that people start investing in their 20s — but if you're a little behind schedule, it's not too late to catch up and start setting aside funds.
If you're living paycheck-to-paycheck and find it hard to save, consider taking a look at your tax deductions. Having more withheld from your paycheck each month could yield a nice refund at the end of the year. That's another way to build a nest egg and get started.
Once you're ready to look at stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or other investments, consider putting a portion of your money into a growth portfolio. These funds are higher risk, but also offer higher potential returns. Fortunately, in your 20s and 30s, you're likely decades from retirement and can afford to wait out a holding period of up to 5-10 years. Consider putting some money into stocks for clean tech, marijuana, cryptocurrency, or any other burgeoning industry that's shaking up the world's financial markets. The eventual reward for such risks can be a sizable payoff.
2. Move to a New City
Life is all about change. It can roll over you, or you can roll with it and reap greater advantages in the process. Are you stagnating in your career? Have you always dreamed of faraway places or a different lifestyle? Now's the time!
If you're craving a respite from brutal winters or you want new career opportunities, consider moving somewhere with a milder climate and thriving economy. Changing jobs is one of the fastest ways to increase your pay, and living somewhere with a low cost of living makes it a lot easier to save. For instance, you can get a lot of bang for your buck in a city like Atlanta, which not only has pleasant weather, but also a strong job market with good incomes and surprisingly affordable housing.
Whatever direction you decide to take to invest in change and improve your life, remember this: Change will find you, no matter what. Better to be prepared and make the adjustments happen on your own terms than to be taken unawares.
3. Learn New Skills
People change careers much more easily and often now than in previous generations. If you don't love what you're doing now, start planning about your next act. Invest in your skills and passions to give yourself a brighter economic and professional future. Whether you sign up for a coding boot camp, master cloud computing, get your real estate license, or pursue an advanced degree, this move might require some sacrifice in the short run, but the rewards can far outweigh the risks.
On the other hand, if what you really want is to stop working for someone else altogether, why not leap into the world of entrepreneurship? There are grants and loans for small businesses, and there's a wealth of examples and advice to be found online.
Once you've established your business, you'll have to actively promote yourself if you want to get on the fast track to bumping up your retirement fund. Be sure to join some local business groups, attend trade shows, and network all you can. Once you get going, you'll be able to reap the financial rewards that come with owning your own company.
4. Redefine Success
The FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early) counsels you to think differently about your money, lifestyle, and goals. By changing your habits and stashing away money now, you'll help guarantee that later in life, you won't be chained to a desk — but you will have the power to make choices about how you spend your time.
This also can mean your life path might not follow conventional norms. Maybe you don't buy a house, live in the 'burbs, drive an SUV, etc., but instead identify a lifestyle that involves the things most important to you. For instance, traveling the world is a dream many people have but neglect to achieve; they get too caught up in the everyday responsibilities of life. But with the right money moves in your 20s and 30s, you can feasibly travel the world now, continue to earn a living, and even save money.
To get started, think of the different ways you could transition your career to fit your goals. The gig economy is rapidly changing the way people work. Will your employer allow you to work remotely? If not, consider becoming a freelancer. (A significant percentage of your peers — 43% of people aged 22-34 — currently work as freelancers.) Consider buying a home to use as a vacation rental while you're gone; it's a great way to set up a second income while you travel and prepare for the future.
Whether it's traveling or relocating, saving or starting a business, If you get going now, you can better position yourself to achieve all you've ever wanted — financially and otherwise.
New York Life Insurance Company understands that changing careers may not be easy, but it can definitely be worthwhile!
By joining the team at New York Life, you'd be able to enjoy both professional growth and personal fulfillment by helping others protect the ones they love. In fact, watch the video above to hear from employees who have experienced this firsthand while working at New York Life!
If you're interested in applying for a career at New York Life, click here to view their PowerToFly page and see all of their available opportunities. Don't forget to click "Follow"!
A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.
Scott Morris, Skillcrush
Face it: there's almost nothing worse than the looming feeling of a career dead-end. Every fiber of your being is telling you there's no future in your current situation, but with a full calendar, getting a new job seems easier said than done—especially if you're looking at a full-blown career change. Who has four or more years to spend getting a new degree or certification, much less the money to spend on another round of student loans?
I reached out to a group of career coaching professionals to get their take on career upskilling without another degree. Is there any way to leave a dead-end job without going back to school? The short answer— "yes!" It's not only possible, but practical, too. Read on to hear what these pros had to say about taking on a career transition‚—minus the crushing debt or debilitating classroom hours.
Before You Resign, Try to Save
When it feels like your job or career is hitting a dead-end, the first thing you should do is assess whether or not it's salvageable, says Andy Chan, founder at career coaching center Prime Opt. Rather than jumping into the job market immediately, Chan suggests talking to a manager about making a change to your current duties. It doesn't mean telling your manager you hope to leave your job—the goal is to see whether they can offer you new tasks in your current position, or whether they might even be able to put you in a new role on the same team. If it isn't possible to come up with an acceptable solution after transparent conversations with your supervisors, that's when it might be time to look elsewhere. Ultimately, Chan says to think about the future development of your career path and ask yourself, "Does my career path have a ceiling? Is my current position limiting where I can go, career-wise?" If your answers are "yes," Chan says it might be time to start considering a new job or an industry change.
Commit to How Awesome You Are
If it's truly time to move on, and you're hoping to escape a dead end job without the cost and time burden of more college, career coach Carlota Zimmerman says it's important to realize there's no one-size-fits-all-secret. "I've had clients who've gotten new jobs through LinkedIn, others who were introduced to a company that was hiring by someone in their knitting circle, and still others who got an interview after talking to a fellow college alum at their alumni association Christmas party," Zimmerman says. "Commit to the process, commit to the belief that you deserve a job you love, commit to the belief that you have something to contribute. Commit!" she says. Zimmerman adds that this is particularly crucial if you've been in a dead-end, depressing job for years. "It's akin to being in an abusive relationship," she says. "You have to learn—all over again,—to believe in yourself and your abilities. The worst thing you can do is half-heartedly attend one networking group, speak to no one, and go home deciding, 'Oh well, I guess my boss is right, I'm a loser.'"
If you're in a toxic workplace where you aren't getting the encouragement, challenges, and opportunities you need to be happy and fulfilled, it's easy to overlook just how draining that unhappiness can be. Before formulating the specifics of your plan for career change, it's important to take some time, reorient your perspective, and go all-in on the commitment Zimmerman describes. Your dead-end job may have sapped your enthusiasm a long time ago. Recapturing your drive and reframing your self-worth is the first step toward something better.
Up Skill on Your Lunch Hour
Once you've kicked the tires on your commitment to career change and reoriented your POV to one where you KNOW you deserve a better job, it's time to take practical steps toward making that job a reality. You might have put off career change in the past due to the fear that a lack of relevant degrees would make your transition impossible, but Career Counselor Rebecca Beaton says that—despite the myth of degrees being a barrier to entry—today's employers are less interested in whether or not applicants have x or y degrees, and are more focused on skills specific to the roles they're trying to fill.
What's more, Beaton says that plenty of skills necessary for either entering a new career or improving your marketability in your current one, don't require a fortune and excessive amounts of time, to acquire. Skills like programming languages, spoken languages, software suites, and management techniques can all be learned at your own pace during chunks of downtime—say, during your lunch break, or while you're waiting for a dentist appointment.
According to Beaton, once you have a general idea of what you want your new job or career to be, then it's time to review online job postings and learn what specific skills are required for that line of work. After you identify the skills you need, Beaton says there are thousands of free or cheap online courses that can be found through sites like Udemy, Coursera, EdX, or Pluralsight. Online courses like these will give you a good foundation in the skills you're interested in learning, but Beaton says they'll also serve to give you a better idea of your fit within a particular career path.
"If you thought you wanted to become a web developer but took a coding course and hated it, you might want to consider a different avenue," says Beaton. However, if you love your coding class, you can take it a step further and invest in something like an online 3-month bootcamp program. After you've taken a course or two and decided you're on the right path, Beaton says the best way to solidify those skills and generate experience for your resume is to do some actual work for a client using the skills you've been learning. "Find someone you can work for, probably at either a reduced rate or for free," says Beaton. "It's a great way to start building your portfolio."
Through this process of researching job listings, building on your skillset, and putting those skills to work in practical situations, you'll be firmly on the road to career change, sans massive student debt and four or more years of your life spent languishing in classrooms.
Don't Be Shy
Developing relevant skills is a big part of career change, but those skills won't do you much good in a vacuum—making connections in the industry you're hoping to break into is just as important. Valerie Streif, Senior Advisor at Mentat, a San Francisco-based organization for job-seekers, recommends setting up informational interviews with people working at the kinds of jobs you're interested in. That way, you'll be networking and meeting potential future colleagues while learning more about the skills you need to sharpen as you make your career move.
Streif says the best approach is to send a warm outreach email to your interview prospect and ask if you can take them to lunch. If you're at a loss for who to reach out to, talk to any current industry connections or acquaintances you have and see who they can put you in contact with. Then, Streif says, when the meeting happens, take notes and make sure not to be too pushy or to outright ask your interviewee to help you get a job. Focus on listening, gathering information, and establishing a connection with your interviewee as a future professional contact.
Resume Coach Robyn L. Coburn says that attending industry-specific networking events is also a must when laying the foundation for a career change. Sites like Meetup, Eventbrite, and Eventful are good places to start searching for relevant events in your area. While Coburn knows that networking feels daunting at first (and for some people, it never stops being scary), the key to making it easier is preparation. "Instead of thinking of networking as a job interview, think of it as a fact-finding mission," Coburn says.
Coburn also suggests preparing two or three questions about the job or company you're interested in that require more than a "yes" or "no" answer, and to be ready to ask the people you meet. Much like an informational interview, this is a chance to listen, get better insight into your career of interest, and start getting to know people in the field. And remember, you don't have to speak to the CEO of a company you want to work for, in order for a networking event to be successful. Coburn says that simply connecting with one new person who works in the field is enough to make the effort worthwhile.
Don't Sell Yourself Short
So you're building skills in your downtime, and making connections to learn more about the industry you want to break into, but when you're ready to make that final leap you'll need to package yourself in a way that stands out to potential employers. What can you do to polish off your resume and market yourself in the best way possible?
Streif says DO fill your resume with transferable skills—anything relevant you have previous experience with, alongside any skills you've familiarized yourself with in preparation for changing jobs—but DON'T add fluff.
"This is something so many people struggle with, and doing it incorrectly won't help your chances of making a career move," says Streif. "Trying to make up for a lack of experience with excessive, meaningless words like 'effective communicator' or 'team player' isn't going to fool anyone. You need to be creative, think of the SPECIFIC projects you've completed in your current role, and brainstorm how those responsibilities transfer into a different role or how they'd help you complete tasks in a new one. Specificity is key!"
Beaton says that your resume is also a great place to circle back and present any test work you've done while building your skills, even if you did it for free. "The fact that you worked for free or cheap isn't relevant to the employer," says Beaton, "the main thing is that you have the right skills and you know how to use them. Beaton says it's also important to include the results you achieved for your client (or employer) using those skills. For example, if you took a course to learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and did some free SEO work for a friend, you might put something like 'Optimized full five-page website, resulting in a 200% increase in traffic and website appearing on the first page of Google for two primary keywords."
Marketing yourself effectively is as important as any aspect of your job search, so don't sell yourself short—everything relevant to your future job counts, and it's up to you to advertise it proudly.
Leave on a High Note
Finally, Coburn cautions, never complain about your current job or company during your transition process. "If you are asked why you want to move on," says Coburn, "express your reasons in terms of your own growth or needs, rather than due to not liking your company. Coburn suggest the approach of, "It's been a great place to work, but I've reached as far as I can go there and I want to make a contribution in a larger organization with more opportunity to advance," or, "It's been a great place to learn about the industry from an industry leader, but I'd like to find a smaller company where my skills and experience will make a difference in the day-to-day operations," depending on the type of company you're applying for.
Maintaining a positive relationship with your current job while you work toward a career change is also critical, Coburn says, because it's important not to leave a job you have without securing your financial situation and—hopefully—your next position.
"Remember," says Coburn, "the currently employed person is always more attractive to employers than someone who is out of work." By the same token, Coburn says not to accept a new job offer out of desperation—a surefire way to end up in another unsatisfying employment situation. Instead, take your time and really consider any new job opportunities that come your way—how will it address your current job unhappiness and how will it help you grow your career moving forward? When the right job comes you'll know it, and—through upskilling, networking, a solid resume, and a positive commitment to change—you'll be in a prime position to make your move.
Our VIP Lunch & Learn With Khafilat Adewole
Khafilat Adewole is both a remote Project Manager in the Global PMO at Cisco Systems and a Project Management FlexPath tutor at Capella University. Khafilat holds a Master's Degree in Computer Science and is working on obtaining her doctoral degree in Project Management from Capella University. Her research is focused on leadership skills and virtual team management.
On Friday, June 15th, Khafilat sat down with a small group of PowerToFly VIPs and provided valuable tips for working in remote Project Management as well as advice for a successful transition to remote Project Management roles. Would you like access to exclusive chats with successful women like Khafilat?
If yes, then click here to become a PowerToFly VIP and join our community of women here to empower one another.
Q: What are some tips for transitioning into Project Management without having certifications?
Khafilat Adewole: If you don't have any certification and you want to become a Project Manager, you should look within your current organization for hidden opportunities to get your foot in the door. Assuming you work on a team, you should express interest in tracking your team's progress and work side-by-side with current Project Managers to learn the tools they have mastered and apply them to your current team. Once you've mastered these tools, you can use this data to show management how you've effectively navigated a successful project management experience.
Q: How does remote Project Management differ from in-person?
KA: It is so different in the sense that when you are co-located, meaning that you and your team are confined in the same space, you can walk over and track your team's progress. You can easily navigate roadblocks, and you can identify impediments as they're occuring. I want to say it's faster in the sense that you're able to build relationships in person. For example, if you're new to my team, I would say let's just chat through things, such as what experience you bring to the table and what issues and challenges you might be facing. In a virtual environment, it's different because you're not able to establish that trust from day one. Now, based on my research in managing remote teams, one of the biggest issues or challenges that remote teams face is developing trust and collaboration. If you do not trust someone, negative issues may occur, such as miscommunication, that could impact the project. Video chatting is key to circumventing these issues. From day one, you should get on the phone and talk with team members the same way you would in a traditional space.
Q: What's the hardest part about remote Project Management?
KA: The hardest challenge is missing the face-to-face interaction that you would have in person. But that can be easily circumvented by using technology. We need collaboration tools to make remote Project Management work.
Q: How can someone level up their career as a Project Manager?
KA: It depends on what your ideal career path is. You have to identify a niche—for example, if you're going to be a financial or technical Project Manager. Identifying the objectives you're trying to meet is key in determining how you're going to level up. It's important to know that certifications will help you get through the door, but you also need experience. So, understanding what objectives you're trying to meet and creating a roadmap to get you there, is very important. Doing a lot of trainings and focusing on what niche you actually want to show mastery over is another way to do it. Building your communication skills, such as being able to communicate hard questions, will help you build confidence as you level up your career.
Q: Why did you want to start working remotely?
KA: Well, for me, I have a family, and spending time commuting wasn't the best option for me. Also, working as a remote Project Manager completely frees me of the distractions of a typical office. I feel I'm more productive working in a remote environment - I'm able to meet my deadlines and timelines and (thanks to technology) am able to communicate effectively with my remote teams.
Q: What are your tricks for transitioning to remote?
KA: Determining your personality type is key for deciding if remote work is for you. If you're the type of person who likes to interact with people daily and need face-to-face interaction, then remote-work is probably not best for you. However, if you feel that it's a good fit, then you should identify what industry you want to work in and what technologies you're comfortable supporting. Soft skills are also very important to success in a remote team environment.
Q: What "cons" have you experienced working remotely?
KA: When I first transitioned from face-to-face work to remote, I struggled with building connections with members of my team aside from my deliverable expectations. Once I realized that I needed to connect with my team on a more personal level, I started leveraging technology to help me achieve those interpersonal relationships with my team members. It's more than just understanding how they operate on a day-to-day basis, but understanding what was going on in their personal lives that could impede (or foster) their success. Once I did this, our team efficiency sky-rocketed.