I am going through a lot of transition. In June I started a job as a staff attorney for a reputable nonprofit in Maryland — and hated it. I got married in August and figured I would stick it out. But by October, I turned in my letter of resignation. My husband and I discussed it and decided that we would use this time to travel and I would write a book and work part-time. However, it is very difficult to find a part-time job as an attorney. I have looked all over.
In the meantime, I have been offered two great positions, one at the Department of Justice and another as an assistant public defender. Both of these positions are full-time. A part of me feels like if I accept these positions then I am abandoning my personal goals — to use my 20s to travel, make mistakes, and enjoy being young.
However, to not accept feels like abandoning all my hard work and flushing my career down the drain. I have earned three degrees, I have built a great resume, and I am excited about the idea of total domination in my field. Please help me. I do not know which path to take: professional or personal. —Lauren
If you’re looking to build on your degrees and your resume and embark on a significant career, take one of the positions.
Your twenties are the years you work hard, accomplish goals, make impressions, and develop a network — all of which will allow your thirties and forties to be the time your career really flourishes and provides the greatest return on your investment.
Additionally, you might want to have children at some point, which may or may not lead to jumping off the career track for some period of time. The more you accomplish in your twenties, the greater your chances of negotiating a mutually beneficial situation with your employer once you’re a mother. For instance, an accomplished attorney might well be able to work part-time while caring for her young children — with the option to go back to full-time work once the kids are in school.
In terms of making mistakes, think about it this way: If you’re really lucky, you’ll make a lifetime of mistakes — because we make them only when we’re trying new things and pushing ourselves. So there’s no need to limit that to just your twenties!
And the truth is, being young is as much a state of mind as anything else. So live your whole life as the “youngest” old people do: thinking about the new things you can’t wait to learn, things you can’t wait to do, and challenges you can’t wait to tackle — tomorrow.
As for travel, there’s no reason you can’t commit to taking great trips in your twenties while you’re working and before you have children. A month away may not be a reality while you’re working, but sampling lots of destinations in shorter trips now will give you a greater understanding of where you want to spend significant time exploring in the coming years.
Great careers don’t happen by accident. You build them. And your twenties are when you lay the strongest foundations possible for future business and personal success. If “total domination” is your goal — get working at it!
Christine Tardio is a trusted advisor and business coach to a dynamic range of women business leaders. She can be reached at thelookinglass.com.