As graduation season approaches, many young professionals will be entering the workforce with high hopes and big dreams. Following my own graduation, I read Meg Jay’s book, The Defining Decade, Why Your Twenties Matter, to gain perspective on how to navigate this stage of life and its many transitions.
Her book emphasized how young people work so hard preparing to be a professional while not really executing once they are there. Many students start out strong in college only to find themselves caught in a lull upon entering their twenties. There are many firsts that accompany this stage of life, professionally, personally and financially. Sometimes the success that was strived and worked for as a teenager doesn’t come together in the expected way or time. Many young people respond to this by using their twenties to “explore their options.” This means no commitments and no solid plans so they can easily move on to the next best thing.
Being in my early twenties, I see this non-committed approach from many people my age. Even further, I hear this advice from experts. However, Jay’s book challenges this mindset that the twenties are a stepping stone into adulthood. She declares that this stage is the defining decade of our lives because it establishes our foundation for success.
Preparation for the future you anticipate begins now, not when you think you’re ready for it. We are only going to grow if we have the courage to start. Not applying for a position because you’re young and still learning is not going to make you more qualified. Staying in a job that pays the bills is not preparing you for the one you really want.
Jay’s challenge to twenty year olds is to begin making choices now and start shaping the future you hope for. I would extend this advice to people of every decade. We are never at an age where we stop planning and making goals for ourselves. Having the courage to take steps now is the only way to make those plans a reality. So, what is truly the defining decade? You’re in it, whether you are 20something, 30something or beyond.