Advice for My 20Something Self

5 things I wish I’d known
Advice for My 20Something Self
Image: ZADOROZHNA NATALIA / SHUTTERSTOCK

All four of my children have graduated from college in the last five years, and they are thinking more seriously about their careers now that they’re in the workforce. As I see them taking big steps and asking big questions, I’m reminded of myself at that age.

Looking back, there’s so much I wish I could tell that younger version of me! Instead, I’ll have to settle for offering advice to my Millennial daughters, sons, and their friends as they start out their own careers.

If I could go back and give my younger self advice, here is what I’d most want to say:

Stay Centered in Your Faith

Life can feel like a whirlwind. Because there’s so much to learn and see and do, it can be easy to lose track of your relationship with God. But faith isn’t something to save for your free time. Let it permeate your life. Make this your top priority because it is the most important thing you can do right now.

Other things pulling on your time and energy might be perfectly good, but they are not of ultimate importance. No matter what you accomplish at work, no matter how handsome your spouse is or how smart your kids are, we live in a broken world and troubles will come. You’ll experience betrayal and disappointment, embarrassment and failure. Your kids will test you to the core. Faith will sustain you and guide you through the darkest and lightest of times. Build your life on a firm foundation of faith, and you will not fall (Matthew 7:24–27).

Get to Know You

You have the time now (you really do, even though it might not seem that way) to closely examine yourself and understand how God made you. Identify your core values so you can look for a company whose values align with them. Understand your strengths and choose a role that best utilizes them. StrengthsFinder 2.0 is one great resource for this, and there are many others. Learn what you’re truly passionate about so you can find meaningful ways to incorporate it into your life.

When I was in the corporate world full time, not every aspect of my job was especially meaningful to me, but I always enjoyed mentoring others. Now that I’m supporting women through 4word full time, mentoring is a huge part of my life, and I realize just how much it excites and energizes me. The more you know about who you are and how God made you, the more intentional you can be about how you spend your time (Psalm 139:13–16).

Invest in Friends and Family

Do not go it alone. God made us to connect with others so we sharpen each other and grow together. He uses the people in our lives to challenge us, support us, bring comfort, and, at times, speak his Word into situations.

However, just because we’re made that way doesn’t mean it’s always easy. It can be hard to know who to build friendship with at work or how close to get with colleagues. Other women at church might share your faith but still not “get you.” Family can be wonderfully dependable but also hard and often complicated. Some Christians talk about living in community as though it’s always a joy, but it’s often distinctly uncomfortable.

Yet it should be uncomfortable! You are a wonderful, beautiful, amazing child of God, but you are also a sinner who messes up, and you’re trying to get in close with other messy sinners. It won’t be neat and tidy. Do it anyway. You’re going to need those friends and family, more than you can possibly know, as you navigate life and career (Romans 12:4–8).

Don’t Rush Yourself

I know there’s a lot you want to accomplish, but you don’t have to do everything right now. Take your time to get there. Remember that life is long and there’s a time and season for all things (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Protect your ability to serve God and his calling on your life by putting up healthy boundaries around your time and learning to say no.

You will need to get very comfortable with saying no if you want to accomplish great things (and keep your sanity intact). Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms can be great tools for sharing and learning, but they also put a high premium on events and experiences that can be documented with a cute picture and sassy catch phrase. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it can create unnatural pressure to always be doing something exciting and sharable.

Don’t get so caught up in collecting experiences that you can’t enjoy some time to breathe and reflect on them. Choose to create time and space to experience peace in your day, even if that means missing out on some exciting events, valuable opportunities, or even worthwhile service projects.

Help Others Along the Way

God has called you to work, and he gave you skills and the drive to succeed. He called you to your workplace and gifted you in those ways in order to do his work. You are a representative of Christ in the workplace.

Don’t worry—you don’t have to shout the gospel from your desk every morning. That would be a good way to get fired, and it probably wouldn’t bring anyone to Christ. In my experience, the best way to share faith at work is to let your faith be known in an authentic, nonaggressive way, and then live it out fully.

Do excellent work. Be honest and dependable. Take special care in how you treat other people, especially those who try your patience. Notice the needs of those around you, and try to help where you can. Learn to listen well in order to better understand and respond to people thoughtfully.

As you get older, you’ll look back at your career and have a number of accomplishments to be proud of, but what you’ll value most won’t be the accomplishments, titles, or raises. It’ll be the people you’ve worked with and mentored and served whom you’ll remember and treasure the most.

Richelle Campbell contributed to this article.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Diane Paddison

Diane Paddison is a business professional and founder of 4wordwomen.org, local groups of professional working women committed to faith, family, work, and each other.

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