What I Learned at 27

So, last week was my 28th birthday. I had a great time celebrating with family and friends and I haven’t even been able to celebrate with some of my closest gal pals due to everyone traveling! But, this post is related to a few weeks ago when my friend and I were at lunch and we got to talking about my upcoming birthday. I asked her what advice she could give me about being 28 since she’s a year older than me. She gave me some insight into what she learned. The other day, I got to thinking, “What did *I* learn while I was 27?”

Well, 2014 and the age of 27 was definitely a growth year. Those close to me know I had lots of downs and ups and loop-de-loops. But, looking back, it’s interesting what the outcomes were. So, without further ado, here’s what I learned while I was 27:

What you thought you wanted may not be what you want anymore. And it’s ok.
You may think you’re ready for or want one thing and then *BAM*, something says “nah ah ah, you didn’t say the magic word, nah ah ah…” (10 points if you know where that quote is from.) It’s ok to be thrown off your “game plan” a little. That means you’re listening to what you truly want…or don’t want. Embrace the uncertainty, live a little, breathe, and have faith that it’s all going to work out in the end. Easier said than done, I know. But, I try to remember it too!

There’s people in your life that truly want the best for you and will always be there for you.
It’s sometimes hard to accept that you’re worthy of true friendship and someone else’s time (see the next point below). But, you’ll find that you have people who will always be there for you no matter what…whether it’s an old friend, a co-worker, a family member, etc. Accept their love and insight and know that you’re worth it.

Make time for people who make time for you.
On the flip side, some people who you thought were there for you just may be “too busy” for whatever reason. True friends will make the time, no matter what. So, don’t fret about it and just realize that it’s best to make time for people who make time for you. And, are you making time for people who make time for *you*? (Another lesson that somewhat goes along with this is something that I learned a couple of years ago: You never know when it’ll be the last time you talk to or see someone. So, be nice, try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and try see the good in everyone.)

Set up work boundaries for yourself.
Sure, you could work 24 hours a day and the work would still never get done. But, hellooo, you have a life. Don’t forget to live it. Find when you’re the most productive (in the mornings? late at night? when other people aren’t awake yet?) and maximize your time then. When it’s been a long day and you’ve been productive, shut it off. “Be present where you are and be there fully.” That’s something I heard at a conference recently that really gives a greater meaning to the phrase “Must be present to win.”

Speak up.
Have a great idea for workplace productivity? Is there something you need/deserve? Feel like you’re not being heard? Speak up. Present a business case for your concerns- the current issue and the negative effects and then the solution(s) and the potential positive effects. Then there’s that saying, “The answer is always ‘no’ unless you ask.” If when you speak up and still are not heard and you’re feeling undervalued, then maybe it’s time for some bigger changes.

Find a mentor, be a mentor.
You probably already have someone who you go to for advice in your personal life and/or in your professional life. Having a mentor to chat with about dilemmas, advice, their insight, etc. is invaluable. Rely on this person to be your personal sounding board and offer to do the same for them. In addition, realize that YOU may actually be someone’s mentor without even knowing it. Realize this relationship and try to nurture it if you can. Helping someone by giving them advice or your perspective on an issue is actually very fulfilling and can lead to great things for both parties.

Take lots of coffee meetings.
Along the lines of mentoring, I’ve found that having coffee meetings are very fulfilling and valuable. It may be with someone you already know and you want to pick their brain about a career question. Or, it may be someone who is in an industry you’re interested in that you met through a friend. Reach out to connect (via email or phone call!) and meet for coffee! Helloooo Networking! Have the goals of the meeting prepared and questions ready to go to help lead the conversation. In addition, have what you can offer ready as well! Some of these random conversations have led to new sparks of inspiration, motivation, and knowledge!

Say “yes” to more things…and “no” to more things.
Try new things. Stop making excuses and try them! A new dance class, a painting class, read a different type of book, do a puzzle, etc.! Live a little. And, on the flip side, it’s ok to say “no” to things! You don’t have to be at every event or do things you just don’t feel like doing. As we get older, our free time is so precious so make sure you’re doing things that YOU want to do and that excite you and/or let you unwind and recharge!

Social media…update it.
Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date, add as much as you can, and connect with people there. (Did you know you can turn your LinkedIn profile into a resume?? http://resume.linkedinlabs.com/) Delete or make private old Facebook photos and albums. Manage your privacy settings often. Tweet meaninful things. It’s interesting that there are people who are listening, watching, and/or are waiting to meet someone like you.

Keep learning and finding inspiration wherever you can.
You are not your job. You are you. You have interests outside of your job but maybe they’re still professional interests. As well, you can find nuggets of inspiration everywhere. So, read books related to your interests and profession. Follow Twitter handles that post articles about your profession and/or motivational ideas. Go to conferences. Follow blogs. Watch TED Talks. Listen to podcasts. Did I mention taking coffee meetings? These things can expand your mind in so many ways and can invigorate you (and conversations). “The more you know…”

Have faith and be thankful.
Having faith that things will be ok, you will be ok, and that you’re worthy of good things is a saving grace. And, recognizing your good fortunes, blessings, the good people and things in your life while giving thanks for them often, keeps you humble and appreciating even the little things in life.

Well, those are just a few things I learned while I was 27. I’m sure there’s plenty more but I’m afraid this post has already turned into TLDR (too long, didn’t read)! Anyway, I hope to remember these little tidbits during 28 and to continue to expand on them as the years go by. Thanks, 27. It’s been real.