I was so excited when Forever Twenty Somethings asked to feature me in their new interview series, #AdultingGoals. Years ago, Forever Twenty Somethings was one of the first publications I wrote for so it’s always fun to reconnect. I spoke about my advice — and used the platform as a chance to talk about something personal as a way to hopefully help other people.
Our first profile is on 29-year-old Elana Lyn Gross from New York City. She writes and does all things Internet. In addition to working full-time for mllnnl, she runs her own lifestyle site Elana Lyn and writes about career, wellness, and lifestyle. You’ve probably read her stuff because she’s been featured everywhere… TIME, Fortune, Forbes, Women’s Health, Fast Company, Business Insider, Mashable, Refinery 29, The Huffington Post, Brit + Co, Alley Watch, and more. Check out her interview below to see why she is #AdultingGoals.
Meet Elana Lyn Gross:
Title: Account Manager and Content Strategist at mllnnl, journalist at the internet, founder of Elana Lyn
College: The George Washington University, 2011
What did you go to college for? What about it prepared you for the real world? What didn’t?
I studied criminal justice and psychology in college. I learned how to think critically, research people or topics and come to conclusions, ask the right questions, and write well. I use all of those skills today with journalism and marketing. My classes prepared me for the real world but being able to intern throughout college let me learn about different types of workplaces, discover what I was interested in, and have a lot of fun in the process. I studied abroad at Oxford and exclusively took courses where I’d get an essay assignment and write and defend a paper weekly. I gained a lot of my writing skills that year!
What was your transition from college to the real world like? What about it was easy? What did you struggle with the most?
I grew up in New York City and came back after college, so I didn’t have to get used to a new city and had a support network because I had family and friends nearby. The biggest struggle for me was working as a paralegal at a law firm where I worked late nights and weekends doing work that wasn’t creative or writing-based. Although it was difficult, it ended up being a blessing in disguise because I started a blog to take ownership of a project and have a creative outlet. My blog gained some traction and led me to make the switch from law to marketing and journalism.
At what point did you stop referring to yourself as a “recent college graduate?” What signs led you to realize you were officially adulting?
I felt more confident in my career once I had experience in a field and knew I had tangible, industry-specific skills. That’s probably when I stopped thinking of myself as a recent college graduate. I lived at home to save up money after graduating so when I moved out and moved in with a friend (albeit two blocks and two avenues from my childhood home) I felt I was adulting.
You run your own website and have a successful freelance writing career on the side of that side-hustle! Can you talk about what that is like? What’s hard about it? What’s the most rewarding?
I run Elana Lyn, write for a variety of publications, and work full-time at a marketing firm. I feel fortunate to have a full-time job doing interesting work with talented, motivated, creative, and kind people. It’s so important to work with people you trust and respect. You can be more creative, take more risks, and produce better work. I also like the challenge of creating and implementing the content strategy for different brands and working closely with the client to make sure we are exceeding their goals. I love Elana Lyn and journalism because I can explore a wide range of topics that help people feel more confident in their personal and professional lives. There’s nothing better than getting emails from people saying how my articles have inspired them or helped them navigate something. And they even help me! The other day I was dealing with something at work and looked through five or six of my past articles for advice! It can be hard to carve out time to write, but I treat Sunday as a workday and get most of my side hustle work done then.
What is your definition of “success?” Do you think you’ve achieved success?
I love Maya Angelou’s quote: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” To me, success is equated to self-worth and feeling confident in your personal and professional life. It’s doing work you enjoy, using your strengths, and feeling like you help other people as a result. You can help other people by lifting as you climb and focusing on collaboration, not competition. You can volunteer. You can be a great manager and colleague. There are a lot of ways you can help people. I write actionable advice that helps people achieve their goals. I hope I never feel like I’ve achieved success. I think it’s good to always aim high.
What has been the *best* age of your 20s so far? Why?
28. I felt confident at work, confident in my personal life, and learned a lot about self-worth and respectfully standing up for myself.
The worst age? Why?
27. I was dealing with depression and anxiety. Luckily, I eventually got the help I needed and started feeling better. There is so much stigma around depression and anxiety, which likely makes people feel isolated and lonely because they don’t reach out. It’s so important to have a strong support network, including a therapist.
What’s the biggest change you’ve experienced in your 20s?
I’m learning to become my own best advocate.
If you could give your college graduate self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Keep things in perspective. Try not to stress the small stuff.
Images via Alexis Mera.