I recently rediscovered a TED Talk that I watched 4 years ago. The talk was given by Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist and writer. It’s based on her book The Defining Decade, Why your twenties matter - and how to make the most of them now. The video had a huge impact when I first watched it several years ago, and when I re-watched it, I realize it’s something worth sharing with all the twenty-somethings out there. I wish I had shared this when I first watched it because most of my close friends were in their mid 20’s then. Better late than never, right?
In the 14:49 minute video, Jay addresses professional growth and relationships. I’m only going to discuss the professional growth side in this post to keep it short and sweet.
“What do you think happens when you pat a 20 something on the head and tell them you have an extra 10 years to start your life? Nothing, nothing happens”
Meg Jay talks about the importance of your 20’s because this is the decade where you set the course for the rest of your life. Yes, you might not need to have your career figured out until you’re 30, but you can’t expect to start from scratch and then all of a sudden be in your dream job at 30 years old. You have to build towards it, and your 20’s is the time to do that.
For example, I know I want kids in my early to mid 30’s. When I have kids, I want to have a stable, good and well paying job so I don’t have much to worry about while taking care of a family. Imagine having to go from a starter job at 30 to a managerial job by 33. Around 30 is also the time you are likely planning a wedding and getting married too because that's a typical timeline for marriage these days. Plus, that starter job probably isn’t at your dream/ideal company. So you'll switch jobs a few times before landing something you love. All of that between 30 and 33? Sounds a bit exhausting doesn’t it?
Everyone’s timeline is different, so I challenge you imagine where you want to be at age 35 or 40, and really think about the feasibility of your timeline.
Here’s how I evaluate my timeline, it’s something I’ve been doing since I was about 22. Whenever I have been in a job for a while, I take some time to think about where I am professionally.
I’m 29 now and in my 11 years of working in full-time, salaried positions, I’ve held 7 different titles and worked for 4 different companies. The first job I had was as a Manager at a fast food chain - not really the role I was hoping for, but it added “identity capital” by giving me managerial experience. With each new position and company I worked for, I gained more identity capital, and I am currently in a job meets all the criteria on my checklist.
It’s very likely that I would have gotten where I am now eventually, even if I didn't start making career decisions at 22, but I knew there were certain things I wanted for myself when I was in my 30's and I worked hard to make sure I could have them.
“…but that’s what I love about working with 20 somethings, they are so easy to help”
If you’re in your 20’s, again, I challenge you to think about your 30’s and where you see yourself.