Are you a 20something trying to find your place in society? Trying to find a job? Trying to figure out what kind of job you want in the first place? Feeling depressed because you’re in your 20s and still living at home? I come to you today with a special treat!
Liz Funk is a New York based author, journalist, blogger, speaker and an all around awesome, bad ass 20something woman. She’s launching an incredible new 4 part ebook series titled ‘Coming of Age in a Crap Economy’ (available on Amazon and BN.com) . Chock full of interesting facts, statistics and real life stories, Liz has written an incredible guide for us 20somethings trying to navigate the job market today, or even create your own income independently! She does an incredible job of making you feel inspired, motivated and ready to get off your ass and do something. And what makes it better is that she IS actually 20something, so she totally understands the plight of the quarterlife crisis. After reading her book, I was so inspired I actually went ahead and bought my life changing ticket to London. So, yeah, it’s amazing! I had the marvelous opportunity to interview Liz, and I’d like to share it with you!
What was your first inspiration for writing Coming of Age in a Crap Economy book series?
I got the idea to write the book in the public bathroom at the beach in Santa Monica, of all places. I took a six-week vacation to Santa Monica in January/February of 2010, as a way to nip my quarterlife crisis in the bud (I had been pretty devastated by the realization that my dream of being a writer in New York City wasn’t really possible anymore, because of how the recession had decimated the media industry) and because I wanted to explore the possibility of moving to LA. Between February of 2010 and now, I have had so many experiences—good and bad—that made me want to serve up a really honest, no-holds-barred look at what it’s like to be in your twenties in an economy that was essentially hit by a hurricane right as today’s 20somethings were graduating and trying to get settled in their 20s and to reassure other young people that they’re NOT alone and that the way to rock the recession is to create your own opportunities in the face of there being few structured ones.
What advice do you have to offer 20 somethings who feel lost and can’t find jobs in this economy? Do you think that trying to be self sufficient and work independently is a good route to go?
Yes, definitely! Looking for a job these days sucks. Most of the twentysomethings I talked to who were in the middle of job hunting expressed that they felt like their resumes were being “sucked into a black hole” and that job hunting for a long period of time without success is pure misery. The next book in the Coming of Age in a Crap Economy series will go over the state of job hunting, but for now, I think that 20somethings need to focus on making job hunting fun—do it with friends, or give yourself rewards for every 10, 50, and 100 cover letters and resumes you send out. But I think that if young people have been job hunting for a prolonged period of time, aren’t seeing results, and are miserable, then it’s definitely time to branch off on their own and start working for themselves. The trick, when you want to be a sole proprietor in a bad economic climate, is to figure out how to use your skills to address a community need. This isn’t the best time to go out on your own as a freelance writer or graphic designer or fashion stylist, but it’s an awesome time to market yourself as an SAT study party host where you bring pizza, soda, and flash cards to groups of a dozen kids whose parents can’t foot the bill for Kaplan classes. Or to open a consultancy that connects small businesses about to close their doors with 20somethings who only shop if there are awesome deals advertised directly to them! If you go this route, working can actually be really energizing, as opposed to being a huge drag when you’re writing your umpteenth cover letter and not even really expecting to hear anything back. It’s about finding meaningful work that you have control over.
In your book, you mention a young woman by the name of Ophelia who moved from NYC to Paris to find work and explore herself. Do you think this is a reasonable option for 20 somethings?
Yes! That’s Ophelia, from the great blog, the Eternal Intern! She was so interesting to talk to and I definitely recommend checking out the blog that she writes with two other world travelers who have interned in France, London, New York, and LA to learn more about their stories. I think it’s definitely feasible to leave the US and travel if you’re out of work in your twenties, with a few conditions: 1) If you’re leaving because you can’t find a job, you have to be positive that you’ve explored all possible opportunities, like freelancing, starting a small business, or creating some kind of enterprise or small organization with another young people, 2) You should probably have some means of making steady money from the US while you travel, like ads on your blog or ghostwriting someone’s twitter feed or, best yet, writing a travel blog for some publication, so you go to Europe with a financial safety net, and 3) You should probably have concrete goals to work on while you travel (whether it’s “learn French” or “Get to know myself” or “Get ideas for novels”) so you don’t land at the airport in some foreign land and freak out because you have no concrete purpose for being there. But yes, I think traveling is a great way to kill time in the bad economy and personally, after speaking with Ophelia, I’m exploring my options to go abroad for a bit! I think it’s also really interesting to explore living in places where the cost of living is lower, not just Paris (which is substantially cheaper than New York, but not cheap, per se) but India and Vietnam and Japan.
Most 20 somethings are expecting to have their own apartments, nicer cars, being able to afford fancy dinners and happy hours with their friends. Sadly, the norm is that most of us are living with far too many roommates, parents, family members, buying food from the 99cent store and buying Charles Shaw wine. What are some tips you have for 20 somethings to help shake the feelings of inadequacy?
Oh my God, this is SO true. Sometimes I want to punch Kate Hudson in the face for the completely unrealistic depiction of 20something life that she serves up in How to Lose a Guy in a 10 Days and Raising Helen and Bride Wars. I think at the end of the day, young people have to acknowledge that the media has really sold us a false bill of goods about what our 20s are supposed to be like and we need to learn to find the fun in living on the cheap. Surround yourself with other people who have good spending habits and realistic expectations about where you’re supposed to be in life and you’ll probably find that contentedness has an osmosis effect. And it’s worth mentioning that people who belabor the fact that they drive a shiny new Acura or that they pay “x” sum for their spacious one-bedroom apartment may not be that happy, so definitely don’t use those folks as a measuring stick.
Yeah, eating cheap food and drinking terrible wine isn’t fun, but try to make it upscale: buy funky plastic square plates and bowls from Target so even Ramen looks like haute cuisine and drink wine out of a proper wine glass (even if it’s a one dollar wine glass that you got on clearance from Ross).
Finally, try to make room in your budget, whether it’s $10/week or $10/month for a little bit of luxury, whether it’s Thai takeout or a lipstick from Duane Reade or a little trinket from an antique store.
What are some smart tips for saving money and getting out of debt?
I’d say, Make a budget. Know exactly how much you need to pay every month for rent, utilities, your phone, your insurance, etc. Then figure how much you need to pay on your credit cards and student loans every month. Then figure out how much you want to spend on food and entertainment. What’s left over (hopefully there’s something left over), you can decide exactly how you want to use it. It’s so important to have a clear picture of your finances so you can avoid getting into a hole and so you can make concrete plans for the future!
And now, Liz has given me the awesome opportunity to give away a free copy of her new ebook! There are only two simple steps you must complete to qualify.
1. Be a fan of The Wanderlust Project on Facebook
2. Leave a comment at the bottom of the page with your favorite tips on how you save your hard earned dolla dolla bills. (I really have to get on the grind since I have a big trip coming up and I’d love to hear your tips!)
Entries close at 11:59PM EDT on July 21.
EDIT: I had a massive brain fart and announced the winner a day early. I blame driving around for an entire week playing tour guide to my mom and sister. I’m so sorry to all those that entered later.
PS. There are no affiliate links in this post. I just think Liz is wonderful!