Personal Journey

The Book Every Twentysomething Needs

I borrowed a book from a recently graduated friend titled “The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter- and how to make the most of them now”. The book has been recognized by, Kirkus Reviews, and Rachel Simmons (the author of The Good Girl).


The Defining Decade is written by Meg Jay, PhD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in adult development and twentysomethings. It has 3 main sections: work, love, and the brain and the body- so it basically covers all areas of life as a twentysomething. 

The section of the book that I found most empowering, and therefore the section of the book that I will be commenting on, is the section on work. As I was reading, I noted a few pages that really stood out to me that I’d like to share with you so that hopefully you are inspired to read the book too- it could be absolutely life changing for you.

Without further ado, here are a few lessons I’ve learned from the section about work:

  1. Prime Time. While the twenties are a time to explore and have fun, it isn’t a time to party life away and live in your parent’s basement. Several people that Jay mentioned treated their twenties as a time of discovery, hopping from one job to another. They have a resume that once resembled freedom, but then became embarrassing and suspicious. When so much has been left to do, there is an enormous thirtysomething pressure to get ahead, get married, pick a city, make money, enjoy life, get a promotion, and have kids (p. xxvii). In fact, this is perfectly described by the Friends episode where Rachel turns 30 and realizes that she doesn’t have a serious boyfriend let alone someone she’d consider marrying so that she can have kids while the body is still in prime time. The twenties can still be fun while planning for a successful life.
  2. Identity Capital. What is it? Identity capital is “our collection of personal assets” (p. 6). It’s how our resources and individuality assemble over time. Some identity capital goes on resumes (like degrees and jobs) while others are more personal (like how we look and how we solve problems). Jay describes that so often twentysomethings act like they’re in an identity crisis, that they’re supposed to be “finding themselves” while they’re so young. She continues to point out that crisis and capital can and should go together. One can experience exploration while also making commitments. Jay emphasizes that the “fun” twentysomethings tell themselves that they’re supposed to be focusing on during that decade usually turns into excessive free-time, a spotty resume, and lost time.
  3. Weak Ties. Weak ties are the people that you meet or are connected to through others but are not close to. They could be friends of friends, current or past coworkers/professors, or someone down the street. Weak ties provide you with something fresh, while strong ties (like family and friends) remain fairly constant. These weak ties are what help you branch out to other people. Strong ties may feel comfortable, but weak ties tend to offer so much more in the workplace because they have fewer overlapping connections. Jay describes weak ties like bridges that you cannot see all the way across, so there is no telling where they might lead. Next time you need a work favor reach out to a weak tie- you never know where it might take you, because often times it is the person that we know the least well who will be the most transformative.

Jay’s book isn’t about whether thirtysomethings should settle with the next job that comes their way or keep looking for something better. Her book is about not settling for spending your twenties with no/low-criteria. They’re about being choosy about the right things (p 79).

Besides, work and good relationships don’t wait until we are ready for them. You have to act on them.

I’ve only mentioned 3 lessons that Jay discussed. There are so many more.

Go pick up a copy sooner rather than later- you’ll learn why. 



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