If I Were 22: You Wouldn’t Recognize Me!

Just looking back at this picture of myself there’s a clear indicator that I’m not even remotely close to “doing what I was planning on doing” back in 2004. At the time I was pretty determined to be working on my second or third album and world tour for my (mostly) instrumental psychedelic rock band by now! To note, I also have a funny memory from a meeting with a community college advisor at the time. I was looking through some classes to take for an upcoming semester of general education classes, and when she explained the description of an introductory Industrial-Organizational Psychology class I thought to myself that it sounded like the most horribly boring class I could take at the time (I opted for financial accounting instead). How I got from that meeting to eventually going on to grad school for I-O psychology and working in a few varied, but related roles since is quite ironic, considering my initial disgust with the idea of such a sub-topic of psychology. And I do enjoy industrial-organizational psychology still. In fact I spend a lot of discretionary effort working on an innovative approach to one of the discipline’s major subject matter areas, i.e., the assessment of cognitive and personality individual differences.

If I Were 22… What do you know now that you wish you’d known then?

I know that no matter how we envision the future and attempt to shape and mold it into this vision, there are so many unknown variables that it’s simply impossible to get everything right. Now this might just be true for me (doubtful), but I’m not advocating a tone of advice that says, “don’t even bother”. I am saying that it might not have been as important to achieve the ideal version of myself (professional musician), as it was to develop into someone who is adaptable and flexible. I think this skill-set or trait is the most important modern-day ability for being successful in the face of constant change, and to become amenable to the rapidly swift increasing speeds of technology. When I was twenty-two I probably used email about 1/100 of what I do now (like most). Additionally, if I would have known how important technical skills and technological prowess is in the labor market now, I might have focused more on those areas instead of King Crimson’s discography. Then again, I’m pretty sure the me at 22 would have still chosen music over coding, even knowing what I know now.

What advice would you give to a young person entering the working world today?

I taught a few upper-level psychology courses at my undergraduate institution over the last couple of years, and I’ve had the chance to deliver this message to several soon-to-be college graduates. This advice has been delivered not only those who plan on entering the workforce, but also those planning on post-graduate study, and it’s difficult for them to take in a lot of the time. However, I always qualify it with the fact that it’s only anecdotal advice from my own experience. It goes back to “what I would have liked to have known in my past” in that it involves these same aspects ofadaptability and flexibility. I say “don’t ever find yourself complaining about your situation and uttering the words, ‘but I didn’t go to school for XYZ’ when you’re faced with work that is seemingly not in your wheelhouse”. There is an abundance of college-educated people entering the workforce, and when these newly minted millennial employees find themselves reporting to superiors who may have been gaining on-the-job experience during the time they were in class, there is always a possibility for rough waters in the leader-subordinate dynamic. Just take everything in your career with a humble stride and always stay focused on adapting and developing into your ideal future “you”. But also keep your options open, because you can easily go from “professional drummer” to “industrial psychologist” to “marketing account manager”. And do any of us really know what’s next? #IfIWere22

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