How do you know when you’re officially an adult? When is it okay to quit a job, and when should you stick it out? How the heck do you figure out what you want to do with your life?
This week, we’re tackling all of these questions and more with help from the ever-wise Julie Lythcott-Haims—author of the New York Times bestseller, How to Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success and Your Turn: How to Be An Adult.
As the former dean of Stanford University and as a mother of two young adults herself, Julie has a lot of experience with offering guidance to young people about how to navigate adulthood. Listen to hear Julie’s advice on figuring out who you are as a young person, navigating your career path when you’re not even sure of what you want to do with your life, and how to help the young people in your life make this tough transition into adulthood.
Highlights from this week’s episode
From the Julie Lythcott-Haims interview
On how to get started on a career path even if you don’t know what you want to do with your life:
[A]dulting does not come with a lockstep plan, unlike childhood, which was K through 12, and then for many of us, college, which really felt like a ladder and every rung was laid out. Adult life does not have that ladder. If it does, it probably feels tedious and often feels like a ladder you don’t want to be on, but you realize in hindsight. So what we want to try to convey is, look, it is a wide open landscape of possibility and it’s all about trying to figure yourself out. So dig deep and ask yourself, what would I really like to do? What am I interested in? What are the environments in which I thrive? What are the topics that keep me up at night? Being curious about yourself and how you want to show up in the world? Yes. Do the deep digging and also start anywhere…Why? Because any job you have gives you data on yourself in the workplace, that particular industry or type of work. And you’re going to gather that data and it’s going to allow you to dig deep into what you want. So it’s this iterative process back and forth, do some work, learn about yourself, learn more about yourself, choose different work. And that’s kind of the way we find ourselves in our later 20s into our thirties, maybe even into our forties, finally homing in on, OK, this is my why, this is what I want to be doing with my life. And it takes a lot of trial and error. And that’s totally normal.
On how to know when to leave or when to stick it out with a job you don’t love:
So if you’re being harmed, harassed, if you’re really feeling frightened, genuinely in your workplace, quit. If you discover that you have quit the last three workplaces for that reason, go get some therapy and figure out why you’re feeling so maligned and scared in the workplace. OK, this is a continual knowing of the self. Generally speaking, it’s not a great idea to shift more frequently than every 18 months because your resume looks like you can’t hold a job. So you do want to try to stick it out is my point. With the caveat being, if the environment really is toxic and terrible and so on, then you must leave.
On how to best help the young people in your life transition into adulthood:
How to help is not to do it for them. It’s to stand off to the side with a smile, say, I love you. I know this is hard, but you do hard things, smile, walk away…We have to evince, “I know it’s hard, but I love you and I think you can.” It’s that “I think you can” that’s missing from modern parenting because when we step in and handle it, we’re basically telling our kid, “I think you can’t. So I’m going to do it.” So as parents and believe me, I’ve got a 22-year-old and a 19-year-old and I am constantly trying to pattern my over-parenting into healthy parenting. And so it’s excruciating because we know we could do it. We know we could go have the conversation with the difficult person who we’ve tried to return this thing at the store and we’ve got to go talk to this person. “Oh, I’ll take care of it for my kid.” No, no, no. Your kid has to have those experiences because life is going to get more challenging, not less. So it’s: smile, love, evince confidence, and walk away.
To hear more of Julie’s tips on how to grow the hell up, we recommend listening to the full episode. It’s worth the 30 minutes.