For those of you about to start another year at school, here’s a list of things to keep in mind: Twenty things to do in college to set yourself up for a great job when you graduate.

1. Get out of the library.
“You can have a degree and a huge GPA and not be ready for the workplace. A student should plan that college is four years of experience rather than 120 credits,” says William Coplin, professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, 10 Things Employers Want You to Learn in College. Many people recommend not hiring someone with a 4.0 because that student probably has little experience beyond schoolwork.

2. Start a business in your dorm room.
It’s relatively easy, and Google and Yahoo are dying to buy your business early, when it’s cheap. Besides, running a company in your room is better than washing dishes in the cafeteria. Note to those who play poker online until 4am: Gambling isn’t a business. It’s an addiction.

3. Don’t take on debt that is too limiting.
This is not a reference to online gambling, although it could be. This is about choosing a state school over a pricey private school. If that’s still too tough financially, then consider starting at a community college or look into online degrees vs traditional ones. Almost everyone agrees you can get a great education at an inexpensive school. So in many cases the debt from a private school is more career-limiting than the lack of brand name on your diploma.

4. Get involved on campus.
When it comes to career success, emotional intelligence — social skills to read and lead others —get you farther than knowledge or job competence, according to Tiziana Casciaro, professor at Harvard Business School. Julie Albert, a junior at Brandeis University, is the director of her a-cappella group and head of orientation this year. She hones her leadership skills outside the classroom, which is exactly the place to do it.

5. Avoid grad school in the humanities.
Survival rates in this field are very close to survival rates on the Titanic. One in five English PhD’s find stable university jobs, and the degree won’t help outside the university: “Schooling only gives you the capacity to stand behind a cash register,” says Thomas Benton, a columnist at the Chronicle of Higher Education (who has a degree in American Civilization from Harvard and a tenured teaching job.)

6. Skip the law-school track.
Lawyers are the most depressed of all professionals. Stress in itself does not make a job bad, says Alan Krueger, economist at Princeton University. Not having control over one’s work does make a bad job, though, and lawyers are always acting on behalf of someone else. Suicide is the leading cause of premature death among lawyers. (Evan Shaeffer has a great post on this topic.)

7. Play a sport in college.
People who play sports earn more money than couch potatoes, and women executives who played sports attribute much of their career success to their athletic experience, says Jennifer Cripsen, of Sweet Briar College. You don’t need to be great at sports, you just need to be part of a team.

8. Separate your expectations from those of your parents.
“Otherwise you wake up and realize you’re not living your own life,” says Alexandra Robbins, author of the popular new book The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids. (Note to parents: If you cringe as you read this list then you need to read this book.)

9. Try new things that you’re not good at.
“Ditch the superstar mentality that if you don’t reach the top, president, A+, editor in chief, then the efforts were worthless. It’s important to learn to enjoy things without getting recognition,” says Robbins.

10. Define success for yourself.
“Society defines success very narrowly. Rather than defining success as financial gain or accolades, define it in terms of individual interests and personal happiness,” says Robbins.

11. Make your job search a top priority.
A job does not fall in your lap, you have to chase it. Especially a good one. It’s a job to look for a job. Stay organized by using Excel spreadsheets or online tools to track your progress. And plan early. Goldman Sachs, for example, starts their information sessions in September.

12. Take a course in happiness.
Happiness studies is revolutionizing how we think of psychology, economics, and sociology. How to be happy is a science that 150 schools in the country teach. Preview: Learn to be more optimistic. This class will show you how.

13. Take an acting course.
The best actors are actually being their most authentic selves, says Lindy Amos, of communications coaching firm TAI Resources. Amos teaches executives to communicate authentically so that people will listen and feel connected. You need to learn to do this, too, and you may as well start in college.

14. Learn to give a compliment.
The best compliments are specific, so “good job” is not good, writes Lisa Laskow Lahey, psychologist at Harvard and co-author of How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work. Practice on your professors. If you give a good compliment the recipient will think you’re smarter: Big payoff in college, but bigger payoff in the work world.

15. Use the career center.
These people are experts at positioning you in the workforce and their only job is to get you a job. How can you not love this place? If you find yourself thinking the people at your college’s career center are idiots, it’s probably a sign that you really, really don’t know what you’re doing.

16. Develop a strong sense of self by dissing colleges that reject you.
Happy people have “a more durable sense of self and aren’t as buffeted by outside events,” writes Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California-Riverside. When bad things happen, don’t take it personally. This is how the most successful business people bounce back quickly from setback.

17. Apply to Harvard as a transfer student.
Sure people have wild success after going to an Ivy League school but this success is no more grand than that of the people who applied and got rejected. People who apply to Ivy League schools seem to have similar high-self-confidence and ambition, even if they don’t get in, according to research by Krueger.

18. Get rid of your perfectionist streak.
It is rewarded in college, but it leads to insane job stress, and an inability to feel satisfied with your work. And for all of you still stuck on #6 about ditching the law school applications: The Utah Bar Journal says that lawyers are disproportionately perfectionists.

19. Work your way through college.
Getting involved in student organizations counts, and so does feeding children in Sierra Leone or sweeping floors in the chemistry building. Each experience you have can grow into something bigger. Albert was an orientation leader last year, and she turned that experience into a full-time summer job that morphed into a position managing 130 orientation leaders. A great bullet on the resume for a junior in college.

20. Make to do lists.
You can’t achieve dreams if you don’t have a plan to get there.

When it comes to career advice, it seems that everyone has some. The trouble is figuring out who to listen to. Most people field advice from friends, parents, teachers and significant others. John Clark, a music producer and sound engineer, even found information technology consultants tossing advice his way.

Before you tell everyone to shut up, consider the idea that there is no bad advice, just people who are bad at sifting advice. Which means if you want to figure out the career that's right for you, get good at sifting.

Rosalind Hoffa, director of the Amherst College Career Center says, “Approach many people and gather all sorts of information. No one has the absolute answer. So the best way to proceed is to explore and experiment.” When it comes to finding the right career, “Everyone has the answer inside them and unlocking it is the question.”

Clark reports that, “The best advice I ever got was from my parents. They told me to follow my heart. They also showed me where my talents are by recognizing a love for music and giving me piano lessons early.”

When sorting through input remember each person has their own perspective, including your parents. Someone who values power gives advice that leans toward the acquisition of power, and someone who values work-life balance steers people toward that. You need to know your own values to figure out how each person's input applies to your situation.

The advice Clark received in college was about performance, because at Tufts, where he was, that's what studying music is all about. Clark tuned out the advice and took pre-med courses with a big paycheck in mind. But sometimes career advice comes in odd packages, and for Clark, it was an award. The first piece of music he produced received national honors, and he realized he had talent for advising musicians artistically and arranging music.

If you know yourself very well, sorting through career advice will be a breeze. The problem is, how can you know yourself that well before you are 70 and your career is over? Even people like Clark, who were raised to focus on their inherent skills, still have trouble figuring out their true calling: After college he took a job creating PowerPoint presentations.

For some people, especially those with patience to spare and money to burn, trial and error will work. And even if you are surrounded by friends who are as lost as you are, you still might find them useful: Hoffa says, “Friends can be a great resource. Sometimes just hearing yourself talk it out with friends is helpful.” Eventually, Clark's friend told him to take an internship at a music studio.

A faster way down the difficult path of career self-knowledge is to take an aptitude test. Deirdre McEachern, of VIP Coaching, says that a career aptitude test can tell you where your strengths lay. She gives her clients the Highlands Ability Battery, which takes three hours to complete and generates thirty pages of information. Other popular tests are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Strong Interest and Skills Confidence Inventory, each of which you can administer yourself via the Internet, though McEachern recommends you have a professional help you interpret your results.

McEachern's clients are generally people in their forties who wish they had come to her in their twenties, but some clients are as young as eighteen. “These people come to me to get help picking a college major,” she says. “Highlands test results don't change after age fourteen. Interests and motivations shift, but one's natural abilities are the same throughout life.”

But McEachern cautions that aptitude tests recommend a wide range of professions. So you also need to understand “your core beliefs and values.” To do this, McEachern asks questions such as: “If you could solve one world problem what would it be? What are the most proud moments of your life? What makes you angry in the world? What are traits you admire in other people?” And she doesn't just write down your answer. She also listens for intangible things like tone of voice and rate of speech. From this process she recommends a career you'd be good at doing that would satisfy your soul.

For those of you who cringe at the thought of hiring a coach or even sitting down for a test, trial and error might be right for you. The more experience you have making career decisions — good and bad — the better you'll get at making them quickly, effectively and on your own. Clinical psychologist Jason Greenberg advises people to go with their gut more often. “People don't listen to their gut. They listen to their head and other peoples' advice. The greater impact a decision has on one's life, the less likely the person is to trust their instinct.”

But the advice never stops, really. And you need to learn to take it. Because the biggest factor in career success, after education, is how effective your network of advisors is. And here's a piece of advice about taking advice from Clark, who now has a thriving business in a career he loves: “Have some humility.”

If you ask most people if they like their jobs, they’ll say yes. Alan Kreuger — scintillating economics professor at Princeton, whom I interviewed this morning — says that this is not because people have jobs they like, but because people have cognitive dissonance and are hard-programmed to like what they have.

On the positive side, this hard-wiring to be happy means that we can get through our days. Life is really difficult, and if we weren’t predisposed to think it’s fun, we would all jump off bridges. But Kreuger says that the cognitive dissonance could harm us in our work world if we could actually make a better decision for ourselves.

And, of course, most of us could choose better. If nothing else, you could look at the reams of new research I spew on this blog and make a decision about your job based on that. And here’s a little more research. Three more ways to think about career happiness:

1. Many people want fame, but it’s bad for you.
An article in today’s New York Times (read it now, because you’ll need a subscription in a few days) says that fame is a key motivator for people. Forty percent of people think they’ll be famous, but in reality, only one or two people in a hundred achieves fame.

Additionally, seeking fame will probably make you unhappy. “The participants in the study who focused on goals tied to others’ approval, like fame, reported significantly higher levels of distress than those interested primarily in self-acceptance and friendship. Aiming for a target as elusive as fame, and so dependent on the judgments of others, is psychologically treacherous.”

2. Rich people are not happier but they say they are.
Kreuger and a bunch of other economists and psychologists developed a new way to find out how happy people are — instead of asking them, have them report how they are feeling at short intervals throughout the day. The findings, published in Science magazine: More affluent people say they are, on balance, happier and less affluent people say they are, on balance, not as happy. But in fact, day in and day out, ones level of affluence does not make one happier.

3. Keep your commute short and your TV off.
Duh. These are so obvious, but so few people really do it. Which is the core problem with all this research. If you want to increase your happiness, you need to make significant changes in your life. Sorry. It’s bad news, but it’s true.

But it may console you to know that when I was talking to Kruger about how few people make changes –even though the advice stems from strong, scientific, psychological research — Kreuger said that when it comes to following advice “the psychologists are just as bad as everyone else.”

We are entering the age of volunteerism. Generation X has shifted charity from the hierarchical, corporate-backed methods of the Red Cross and United Way, to a grassroots, episodic volunteerism of, say, tutoring neighborhood children. And Generation Y is donating more of their time to charitable causes than perhaps any generation in history. According Leslie Lenkowsky, professor at The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, 90% of college-bound high school students volunteer.

Young people are determined to make a difference; they accept only a mission that is close to the heart and take action only when they can get their arms around the whole project. These attitudes affect choice of both charity and career, and increasingly the two overlap in ways that finally dignify the word “synergy”.

Melissa Krodman graduated from Boston University with a communications degree and joined a casting agency in England. But she found that industry was no match for her values. She wanted to do something larger in media, but she wasn't sure what. “Also,” she says, “I was faxing and doing things where I wasn't learning very much.” So she moved back to the United States to regroup, and she volunteered at What’s Up magazine.

Bruce Tulgan studies the working lives of young people, and he sees Krodman's criteria as typical for recent entrants into the workforce. “Mission is especially important for both career and charity, but then they want to know what they'll be doing. They ask, What will I learn? Who will I work with?”

In many cases, volunteering can add both mission and key experience to one's work life. Enter episodic volunteering: short-term, project-based, local, and hands-on, this is the type of charity that can improve your karma as well as your career.

Aaron Hurst is president and founder of the Taproot Foundation, which provides ways for people to donate their skills to discreet projects for nonprofit organizations. He says, “In the first ten or fifteen years of a career people have limited money giving ability but can give a relatively significant donation of time and skills. The average Taproot volunteer donates five to seven thousand dollars in work, and they could have never given that much in cash.”

For some volunteers, time with a nonprofit can shine light on a true calling. Krodman explains that, “For a long time I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. Volunteering at What's Up gave me a much more clear focus. What's Up introduced me to media that inspires activism. That's a part of the picture I didn't have.”

Even those who know their true calling can expand their skill set by volunteering for challenging projects. Hurst says, “Experiential learning is the best way to teach adults, especially when it comes to soft skills like leadership. Law firms have used pro bono work as a great training tool, and now it's spreading to other industries.” Hurst gives an example of a graphic designer for Hewlett Packard who had used the same font and colors for five years. Volunteering was a good way to stretch his design skills.

One of the most frustrating aspects of an entry-level job is the lack of responsibility. Krodman points out that volunteering is a good way to gain responsibility fast: “In an organization where you have bosses and work for someone else there is a certain amount of climbing you have to do. At What's Up, I am my own boss and I get to do work that I would not get to do at a big corporation until years down the line.”

And no matter where you are in your career, volunteering is a way to build a network. A typical Taproot branding project, for example, combines a project manager, brand strategist, graphic designer, and copywriter, each from a different company.

This benefit is not lost on Krodman. She used the contacts she made through volunteer work at What's Up magazine to find her ideal job — one that provides solid mission as well as solid salary. But what would she do if she landed that dream job and didn't have to work at cafes to pay rent? “Volunteer more,” she says. “There's so much to be done.”

Sarah Kenny wakes up at 5am six mornings a week to get to Back Bay Yoga where she practices ashtanga — a genre of yoga known for acrobatic lunges, feet tucked behind the head, and almost fifty pushups in one session. After that, she goes to work as a senior operations specialist. For Kenny, both pieces of her life are important. “I am good at my job and I am good at yoga and I had to figure out how to balance both,” she says.

One of the most liberating moments in career planning is to realize that you don't have to get paid to do your favorite activity in order to be happy. One of the constipating situations is to think there is only one career that can be fulfilling to you. Get rid of the idea that the most important thing to a worker is work, and you free yourself to make work just one portion of a fulfilling life.

Kenny's success comes, in part, from the fact that she has structured a life that caters to two aspects of her personality — the organized, office manager type, and the athletic, live-in-the-moment type.

Paul Tieger, co-author of the best-selling career guide, Do What You Are, advises that you pick a career based on your personality type, which nearly ensures that you'll have passion for what you do. Tieger's book helps you to understand yourself very quickly in a way that allows you to nail down your personality type and then find many careers that cater to it. You can even give the system a free test drive.

What is clear form Tieger's system is that a personality is multi-faceted, and a career need only cater the dominant aspects of your personality in order to be fulfilling. The passion you have that you won't get paid for is something you can do in addition to your job, and in the best scenario, each portion of your life caters to a different aspect of your personality.

The key to making this sort of life work, though, is finding a job that leaves room for a life. Kenny, for example, will not work at a company that does not respect her yoga schedule. Leslie Cintron, assistant professor of sociology at Washington and Lee University, says that workers like Kenny are not aberrations, “We have a generation that is clamoring for more balance in their lives.”

But this is a different sort of balance than the baby boomers aspired to. According to Cintron, “Baby boomers were talking about issues that they had to deal with when women moved into the workforce and polices didn't acknowledge that fact. Today one difference is that men in their 20s also are saying they want balance. They want extra space to be able to develop themselves as individuals.” Another difference is that baby boomers asked, “Can we work and have a family?” The new generations ask, “Can we work and have a life?”

For some people, “having a life” means having time for friends or developing a connected relationship. Other people might seek meaningful pursuits outside of work, such as a particular sport or extensive travel. Whatever “having a life” means to you, take solace in the fact that you don't need to get paid for it, you just need to find an employer who will give you room for your personal passions.

Be bold when it comes to getting what you need. Ask yourself what parts of your personality you need to address. Ask your employer to accommodate your non-work needs. The new generation is rife with people like you. Management advisors across the country are warning companies that if they don't make the workplace flexible they will face a shortage of willing workers.

Trust yourself to identify your personality type and your passions, and have the confidence to require that your employer afford you space to grow. Cintron encourages asking, even if it looks like a risk: “There is a lot of untapped flexibility that might be offered if one makes that first attempt to ask.”

Tread very carefully near a company that will not give you enough control over your time to enable you to pursue passions outside the office. Having control over your time and your work are some of the most important factors in job satisfaction; it is almost impossible to be happy in a job that gives you no control.

How much money buys happiness? A wide body of research suggests the number is approximately forty thousand dollars a year. Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology at Harvard University, says once you have enough money to meet basic needs — food, shelter, but not necessarily cable “?incremental increases have little effect on your happiness.

Aaron Karo, comedian and author of the forthcoming book, Ruminations on Twentysomething Life, responds to the number with, “If you want to draw a line in the sand, happiness is having enough money so you don’t have to move back in with your parents.”

To someone who just spent four years in college living off nine-thousand-dollar loan stipends, an increase to forty thousand means a lot — moving from poverty to middle class. But it’s a one-time rush. After you hit the forty-thousand-dollar-range money never gives you that surge in happiness again.

Twentysomethings who are looking for happiness from their careers will benefit from research about their parents’ choices. Richard Easterlin, professor of economics at University of Southern California says previous generations have proven that our desires adjust to our income. “At all levels of income, the typical response is that one needs 20% more to be happy.” Once you have basic needs met, the axiom is true: more money does not make more happiness.

So then one asks, what does matter? The big factors in determining happiness levels are satisfaction with your job and social relationships. And in case you found yourself slipping back to thoughts of salary, according to Easterlin, “How much pleasure people get from their job is independent of how much it pays.”

Unfortunately, people are not good at picking a job that will make them happy. Gilbert found that people are ill equipped to imagine what their life would be like in a given job, and the advice they get from other people is bad, (typified by some version of “You should do what I did.”)

Gilbert recommends going into a career where people are happy. But don’t ask them if their career makes them happy, because most people will say yes; they have a vested interest in convincing themselves they are happy. Instead, try out a few different professions before you settle on one. For college students, Gilbert envisions this happening with part-time jobs and internships at the cost of “giving up a few keggers and a trip to Florida over spring break.” But even if you wait until you enter the workforce, it makes sense to switch from one entry-level job to another; no seniority and scant experience means you have little to lose. So it’s an ideal time to figure out what will make you happy: Use a series of jobs to observe different professions at close range to see if YOU think they make people happy.

It’s simple, proven advice, but few people take it because they think they are unique and their experience in a career will be different. Get over that. You are not unique, you are basically just like everyone else. Gilbert can, in the course of five minutes, rattle off ten reasons why people think they are unique but they are not. For example: We spend our lives finding differences between people to choose teachers, band mates and spouses, so our perception of peoples’ differences is exaggerated… And then Gilbert gets to grapes: “If you spend seven years studying the differences between grapes, no two will look the same to you, but really a grape is a grape.”

So your first step is to stop thinking you’re a special case. Take Gilbert’s advice and choose a career based on your assessment of other people in that career. You next step is to focus on social relationships, because in terms of happiness, job satisfaction is very important but social relationships are most important.

And by social relations, most researchers mean sex — with one, consistent partner. So consider giving your career aspirations a little less weight than you give your aspirations for sex. For those of you who like a tangible goal, David Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth College says, “Going from sex once a month to sex once a week creates a big jump in happiness. And then the diminishing returns begin to set in.” He adds, to the joy of all who are underemployed, “It’s true that money impacts which person you marry, but money doesn’t impact the amount of sex you have.”

Maybe all this research simply justifies the twentysomething tendency to hold a series of entry-level jobs and put off having children. Says Karo: “All we really want is to get paid and get laid.”

 

Yesterday traffic to my blog doubled. On top of the usual load of about 350 visitors, I had 350 investment bankers: At 1pm Dealbreaker posted a link to my guest rant, and in the next hour alone, 100 people came. No joke.

Of course, my traffic statistics were endlessly interesting to me throughout all this. But by the end of the day, all I could think about was how I have no system for capturing these extra visitors. I can tell from my traffic analysis that most people from Dealbreaker did not read other posts. I’m still thinking today about what would hook them.

As a former software marketing executive I think “squandered sales leads.” But then I think, hold it, I’m not even selling anything.

This reminds me of the time I worked at a Fortune 100 company during the very beginning of the Internet. A team of four of us (yes, that’s all it took back then) launched the web site and rumor had it that our site was the second online store — right behind Dell. A big deal, right? But no one in the company cared, probably because there was no strategy for making the web site huge, only a strategy for getting it up.

Now, like then, I am doing something large (read: consumes a large amount of my time) and I’m not sure why.

This is a career issue we should all think about. Here are the questions to ask:
1. What is your next career step?
2. What is your plan for using what you do today to get to your next step?
3. How can you let people know where you’re headed so they can help?

If you can’t answer these three questions then you don’t even know if you should be doing the stuff you’re doing today.

I don’t have great answers to those questions right now, but I realized from all this extra, one-time traffic how connected I feel to the people who do read the blog regularly. I realize that the community aspect is one of my favorite parts about the blog. So I know that when I have answers to those three questions, it will include the idea of community.

Meanwhile, I continue to post. And you know what? I know I have some affinity to those investment bankers, because below the Dealbreaker post about my blog is a post that I think is so funny.

Here’s a collection of interesting ideas from people who are talking about the value of business school:

1. Business school is not an effective means to self-discovery.

Most business school applications require that you tell what you’re going to do with the MBA. This is because most business schools think it is a waste to get an MBA if you don’t know what you’re going to do with it. If you don’t know what you want to do, you can’t rule out that you won’t need the degree. And business school is too expensive to use as a means to simply delay the real world.

2. Maybe you should try philosophy courses instead.

One of the most recent, and cogent critiques of business schools came from management consultant Matthew Stewart in the Atlantic (paid). “Most of management theory is insane,” he writes. “If you want to succeed in business, don’t get an MBA. Study philosophy instead.”

Stewart says that the three most important pieces of advice for business are also topics dear to philosophers:

Expand the domain of your analysis

Hire people with greater diversity of experience

Get good at communication

“As I plowed through my shelfload of bad management books, I beheld a discipline that consists mainly of unverifiable propositions and cryptic anecdotes, is rarely if ever held accountable, and produces an inordinate number of catastrophically bad writers. It was all too familiar. There are, however, at least two crucial differences between philosophers and their wayward cousins. The first and most important is that philosophers are much better at knowing what they don't know. The second is money. In a sense, management theory is what happens to philosophers when you pay them too much.”

3. Business schools are headhunters who charge a fee to the employee.

Stewart says the best thing that can be said about business school is that it is a way for companies to reliably outsource recruiting. McKinsey is a company built on this model. (But you can bet these companies don’t rely on middling business schools for this purpose.)

4. Common sense might get you further.

Charles Handy, a business guru who got way more press in England than the United States, eventually came down on the side of common sense — that business schools overemphasize academics and that’s not what you need to succeed in business.

5. Good networkers reach way beyond business school.

Many people say they go to business school for the network it provides. But be careful of becoming too dependent on that idea. Networking guru Keith Ferrazzi says that you need to be able to network independently of school if you are going to be good at it.

Certainly, there are good and bad things about going to business school. But think about this: If there were something you were totally excited about doing would you do it right now or would you put it off three years to go to business school? If you would do it right now, then you don’t need an MBA, you need an exciting idea.

Scott Newberg flew into Logan airport in the middle of the night. He went straight home to his office, and in the dark room the blue light of his computer glared — a screen full of unfinished work that piled up while he was gone. He sat down at the keyboard, and that's when he had the revelation. He gave notice. He has no other job lined up. He has no real plan for how he will make money. But the career he had was not fulfilling.

One of the contributions Generations X and Y have made to the workplace is the quarterlife crisis. It's not the midlife crisis, typified by a baby boomer in a Porsche obsessively speeding. The quarterlife crisis happens in one's twenties and more likely involves takeout pizza and obsessive IMing.

The journey toward crisis begins at college graduation, when the typical student has about ten thousand dollars in loans and no skills to land a decent job. Frank Furstenberg, professor of sociology at University of Pennsylvania, says the transition to adulthood is “more arduous today than it was fifty years ago.” Employers are not hiring people in their early 20s for staff jobs. “Employers hire temps for positions that don't require experience. Society can incorporate people only when they get some experience working and there is a better match between employee and employer.”

With little to lose, most twentysomethings use their post-college time as an opportunity for finding oneself, seeing what's available, and trying a lot on for size. (Which translates to more than eight jobs before turning 32.) The new behavior, which looks remarkably like flailing, is appropriate for the new workplace. Jeffrey Arnett, psychologist at Clark University and author of Emerging Adulthood says, “People have different personal time tables and it's nice that people can make choices that are right for them.”

Yet this new phase in one's career is unnerving in light of the stability of previous generations of people in their 20s. And if the job-hopping doesn't stop by age thirty, the stress intensifies to crisis.

Emerging adults “have high expectations for work. It is not just a way to make a living,” says Arnett. They want work to be fulfilling and to be an expression of their identities.”

This is true for Alexandra Robbins. She took the first job offered to her after college because she was “seduced by the trappings: Short commute, friends at the company, office with a door. The pay was fine, but the work was not rewarding.”

She realized that in the post-college world, people are judged by their answer to the question, “So, what do you do?” And she knew she needed to do something that could define her.

Typical of her generation, she does not claim to have extravagant dreams: “I never had a big dream. I wanted to make a living writing. Dreams that are too specific lead to missed opportunities.” As a writer she has become a sort of spokesperson for the generation of lost college graduates. Her recent book, Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis, chronicles the ups and downs of people like her, who finally found their way.

Like Furstenberg, Robbins sees that previous generations were more equipped to make the transition to adulthood. “We cannot gain a foothold in society until age thirty. But our parents' generation has twenty in their head. The crisis is a clash of generations.” Fifty years ago, people expected to find a job for life right after college and be married with kids by 24. But for the current generation, Robbins declares, “Thirty is the new twenty.”

Sure, GenXers and Ys have high expectations for work, and maybe they're unreasonable, “but the only way to find out is to try,” says Arnett. “Most people will fail. But by the time people are in their late twenties most have made peace with their dreams. Psychologically people tend to accommodate themselves to whatever they have.”

The problems start around age 27 or 28, when most people find a career. For people who do not feel settled, there is panic and what Arnett calls “desperate and dangerous” measures in order to reach their goals.

Which brings us back to Newberg, whose wife is about to give birth. His plan is to stay home with the baby while she supports the family. And he will write music for commercials, though he has scant experience in the trade. And he will “write some novels and shop them around.” He wants to support his family in five years but has not figured out how many novels or musical compositions he would need to sell to do that. Those people who are not turning thirty might bristle at Newberg's plan. But he says, speaking for many in his generation, “I don't want to be eighty and regret not taking this risk.”

The odds are that you will probably consider self-employment at some point: Eighty-nine percent of people in the United States who make more than $50,000 a year are self-employed, according to Entrepreneur magazine.

As with all decision points, the way to make the best choice is to know yourself. If you get bored easily, do a lot of different jobs. If you are a type-A hyperachiever, do one business really, really well. If you have a small tolerance for risk, keep a full-time job while you explore other options. All are great ways to make the shift to working for yourself.

One of the most interesting recipes for self-employment comes from self-employment evangelist Barbara Winter. Winter says that it’s easier to have five jobs that generate $10,000 a year than it is to have one job that generates $50,000 a year — the perfect scenario for opening an eBay business, renting out a room in your condo, writing press releases for your friend’s startup, etc.

This is, essentially, juggling five jobs, but Winter’s book describes ways of making it seem manageable: “The juggler walks out on the stage with ten sticks and ten plates, but doesn’t begin spinning them all at once. Methodically, the juggler positions the first plate on a stick and gets it into motion. Once done, the juggler moves on to the next, then the next, and so forth. Eventually, all ten of the plates are spinning away, each with its own momentum.” (This is how I feel about blogging — it’s like throwing another plate in the air for me.)

If you have spent some time in the workforce, consider becoming a consultant, which essentially is making a single, focused business out of yourself. “You should have at least five years of workplace experience before you go on your own,” says Laurie Young, founder of Flexible Resources, “because you are offering your experience.” Also, you need marketing skills to sell yourself. It takes a certain kind of talent “to show people you have skills they can use.”

Find a market niche that you can dominate. Otherwise there is no way to distinguish yourself from all the other consultants, no way to stand out. (Two good books on this: Small is the New Big, and The Long Tail.) Young did this herself, as a recruiter. She is a headhunter for people who want flexible jobs (she herself job shares the CEO position at Flexible Resources). If she were a more typical headhunter, she would not stand out above the crowd as well.

Alexandra Levit worked in public relations for Computer Associates and then struck out on her own, as a consultant in publicity and marketing communications. In terms of making the transition, Levit advises that you “try lining up a few jobs that you can have before you take the leap,” and be prepared to spend “about 30% of your time marketing yourself.”

Levit provides a snapshot of reality for all entrepreneurs when she says, “Don’t expect the drawbacks to be only financial. You need a lot of self-discipline to sit down in your home office and work without any external pressure. Working for yourself means you’re responsible for every aspect of the business,” and this means, ironically, even some of the annoying tasks you were trying to avoid by working for yourself.