Life Skills 101: 5 Ways to do Adulting Right

Adulting is hard without STEERus

By Loralyn & Amrit

Adulting, in simple terms, refers to doing all the stuff that responsible adults have to do. Like working, paying your bills, using your credit card wisely, cooking and cleaning regularly, saving money for a rainy day, having health insurance, managing interpersonal relationships, choosing a profession, job search,  interviewing for a job, childcare, maybe even elder care, and so on … Whew! That’s a lot of stuff. It also includes numerous other adult responsibilities required to live a meaningful and financially secure life.

Some equate the process of adulting with the development of “human skills,” aka “power skills,” or “success skills.” Here at STEERus, we call them “soft skills” which appears to be the most popular term – but that’s shifting, too. It’s currently unclear which term will emerge as the term of the art, but that’s another soapbox best saved for another day.

Adulting is growing up. Things you did as a kid (for the most part), need to stop. “Stuff” that your parents did, is stuff that you’ll now need to do. It’s a natural evolution progressing from childhood to adulthood. That’s not to say that it isn’t scary or overwhelming: adulting is challenging for many people. Building those life skills, workplace competencies, and resilience is an essential part of growing up that enables you to move on to the next stage of your life. These critical skills enable you to live independently of your guardians. Most students dream of “living on their own” and can’t wait to leave their childhood home – but it’s not always that easy to do so.

Getting older doesn’t make you mature or ready for adulthood. Sure, your body changes into an adult form but that doesn’t make you mentally, emotionally, and financially ready for adulthood. The way that you choose to live your life, how you respond in the throes of a crisis, the way you steer your everyday affairs, and the way you regulate your finances, social skills, and interpersonal relationships, define who you are as an adult.

What about the existing school curriculum? Does it help students become responsible adults? Does it provide sufficient education on adulting? Typically, the answer is no. Most students graduate with no “real world knowledge” about banking, credit cards, how to lease an apartment, do laundry, plan a menu and accompanying grocery list – all that stuff that adults take for granted isn’t part of the average lesson plan at school. Especially not in this era of STEM, STEM, STEM, where art and music classes have been discontinued in favor of squeezing in one more technical class. Home economics used to be a critical part of high school curricula, but those lesson plans have long since gathered dust.

Schools teach students how to solve complex mathematical problems. They show students how to write essays with structured format around an introduction, body, and conclusion. Teachers speak about mitosis and meiosis and the structure of DNA; they point to URLs online and tell the students to go watch and learn. In the interest of physical fitness, students are required to participate in gym class unless they have a condition that exempts them from doing so; in the Northeast USA where STEERus is located, students are required to head outside in the mornings for gym class even in the winter! After school sports are an option that fewer than 20% of high school students participate in by their junior year.

These are necessary skills. These are the building blocks preparing students for adulting. Nobody is denying that they are essential. They are foundational. When it comes to learning how to create a resume, most college and university career services offices teach offer that lesson. But that’s generally where it stops. Sure, some of the higher education learning institutes also offer one mock interview practice, but most don’t. Learning how to manage money and invest for the future is a lesson that only privileged students have the opportunity to learn from their parents: there is much inequity in financial literacy, and it needs to be addressed.

By the time students finish their schooling and move to college, most of the USA’s youth are ill-equipped to live independently. They don’t know how to upskill themselves to take care of their body, bills, and belongings. Why? Because nobody taught them!

Since most of the schools have all but ignored adulting, there is an increasing trend among students of attending adulting classes in their college. Learning from the tales of woes narrated by many young adults, some schools are organizing in-person workshops to impart at least some adulting knowledge to their outgoing students.

Why is adulting hard for many young adults?

There are multiple reasons. When in school, most of the topics that can help you become an organized and confident adult, are ignored, or at best, treated as an afterthought.

Life in college can be hectic. Between classes, lectures, endless hours in the library or in front of the laptop, relationships, and the student loan that follows the ship of your existence like a mythical Kraken well into your professional life, you do not get much time to develop your soft skills, even if you have an inkling about how important they are.

Most of the people are caught by surprise. By the time they realize they have ignored their adulting skills, it is often too late – they may be buried in debt, devoid of meaningful relationships in their lives, and completely at a loss when it comes to managing activities essential for survival. Like how to interview. How to look for jobs, what to do at a job, how to get along with a bad boss, how to manage competing priorities, and all this other adulting “stuff.”

Some essential adulting skills

Life is unpredictable. You cannot focus on a select few durable skills. Upskilling yourself is an ongoing process that will – and should – happen every day of your life. Nonetheless, getting a job, remaining in a job, and taking care of your finances are fundamental to living a satisfying and secure life. Here are 5 topics that can be covered for the purpose of preparing yourself for meaningful adult life.

Financial literacy

Suddenly having to manage short-term and long-term finances can be daunting for a person who has just become an adult. Financial literacy means having a basic understanding of money: how to save it, how to spend it, how to budget, how to pay your taxes, how to stave off mounting credit card debt, and even how to start saving for your retirement as early as possible. These are essential financial skills and lots of hardship can be avoided if these skills are acquired early on.

Preparing a resume and applying for a job

Most students aren’t trust-fund babies. That means you/they have to get jobs. A whopping 40% of students enrolled in college in the USA today work 32h per week or more. Balancing work and college, not to mention personal relationships, requires a lot of juggling.

Many students need to embark on a job hunt as soon as they join the college to address student loans. In most cases, having a well-formatted and informative resume is crucial. You should know how to highlight their skills, organize various sections, list their strong points, what to include and what not to include, and make their resume attention-grabbing. One thing that always shocks the students we mentor and coach is that different jobs require different variations on your resume. There is much debate raging about the value of a cover letter, but, it can make all the difference between getting an interview and getting overlooked.

  • CHECK THIS OUT: inside the STEERus Marketplace, via one of our tech partners, you can generate a digital resume that is blockchain-enabled so that you can always track who has looked at it! It’s FREE to you within our STEERus Academy.

How to interview successfully

Appearing for an interview involves being prepared, including having knowledge of common interview questions and answers. You don’t just “show up” and see how it goes. Prior to taking the interview, do some online research about the company and the person interviewing you. Read about what’s trending in that field. In the day or two before your interview, plan what you’re doing to wear and ensure that it’s clean. If you’ve got the COVID hair thing going, it might be a good time to consider a little extra grooming to look tidy for the interview. How you show up matters: first impressions count.

You also need to arrive at the interview prepared to ask questions. We’ve seen some examples where the hiring manager opens the interview with a single question, then asks the candidate to take it from there. It’s a very simple way to spot who’s actually prepared for the interview and wants the job versus someone who just showed up. If the interview goes well – and it can, if you’re highly prepared – you may get asked for references. Who are you going to call on?

How to constructively take feedback at your workplace

Taking raw feedback from a boss or from a superior can be difficult for some, especially in the beginning. Specifically, it can be really rough if you’re not doing everything perfectly, which, of course you’re not going to when you start your new job. In the adulting world, you must learn how to hold back your initial reaction, how to listen for better understanding, and how not to take all that feedback personally. What’s really hard is that you have to communicate to the feedback-giver that you have received what they said, that you’ll digest it, and that you’ll take appropriate action to make the suggested changes.

Note that this is a two-way street. If someone is yelling at you and behaving like a terrible boss that you see in the movies, that’s not right either. Your boss is responsible for completing projects, on time and on budget, and your work is critical to achieving that. Active listening is important when receiving feedback, even if it is negative. When a boss is chiding you about your lack of time management skills or turning in sloppy work, especially if it’s late, take it as your opportunity to learn and grow. Hear the feedback. Acknowledge it and do something differently next time.

How to balance multiple responsibilities

When you become an adult, you need to take on multiple responsibilities. This juggling act is often the most challenging thing for youth to transition into when it comes to adulting. Which priority is burning out of control? There are days when it will seem like everything is on fire – those are the hardest days.

There will be household chores. You may have a kid or two. A dog that needs to be walked. A cat that’s choking on furballs. You need to shop for groceries, cook, and clean the dishes. Laundry is essential – you can’t wear dirty clothes to work. You need to commute (or at least wake up for) to your job, get paid, and then pay your bills which should be less than what you’re earning. When that equation goes upside down, financial stress quickly becomes all-consuming and you’ll have to carefully consider what you can cut out of your spending. As much as you may want your daily venti Starbucks frappucino, you may have to do without until you find a way to balance your budget. You may need to help your parents or siblings with everything from a move to healthcare if they’ve been hurt. There may be other exigencies requiring your immediate attention. Amidst all that you may want to date, socialize, and improve your skills to create new opportunities for growth.

Is adulting always hard?

Adulting does not need to be as hard as it seems. It can be taught in schools just like any other subject. In fact, more than teaching, it is about inculcating life skills into your day-to-day activities. Adulting is more of a lifestyle than merely a pedagogic lesson because every individual student grows up to be a unique adult. It all begins with awareness – just acknowledging that you don’t know what you don’t know is a step in the right direction.

Do you want to become a better communicator? That will never hurt you. Communication is everything! You can have the best idea in the world but if you can’t share that idea, it will die a premature death.

Emotional intelligence and professionalism are two more incredible soft skills, aka success skills, that can make all the difference between you getting hired versus fired. Let’s not forget about critical thinking: making “dumb” decisions is something we all do, and will do throughout our lives, but we may not recognize how dumb those decisions are at the time. Raising our self-awareness about how we’re thinking and why we’re doing what we’re doing helps prevent “dumb moves.” With romance scams hitting a record high of $0.6 Billion in 2021 – up 80% from the year before – critical thinking is a future imperative.

So, how do you start adulting? Enroll in our Academy HERE. It’s free. And it’s easy to figure out with real-life scenarios and games to have fun while you’re learning. Adulting doesn’t have to be that hard. We’ve got your back!

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