IT Career JumpStart

Apr 23 2012   1:39PM GMT

Twenty-somethings Are in Their “Defining Decade”

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

I heard a fascinating story on NPR yesterday morning while showering after my every-other-day stint on the stationary bike. It’s based on a recent book by University of Virginia clinical psychologist Meg Jay entitled The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter — And How to Make the Most of Them Now. I haven’t read the book, but the interview with Dr. Jay is covered in an NPR story entitled “Our Roaring 20s: ‘The Defining Decade’” that captures most of the content of the interview I auditioned by radio that morning.

Jay’s point is that the decade from age 20 to age 29 is an important formative time during a person’s life, when all kinds of significant things happen and when the direction and content of life becomes more firmly established. She made some statements, in fact, that I found pretty surprising (I list them as numbered items, but the content is quoted from the NPR article verbatim):

1. 70 percent of lifetime wage growth happens in the first 10 years of a career
2. more than half of Americans are married or living with or dating their future partner by 30
3. our personalities change more in our 20s than any other time
4. the things that we do and the things that we don’t do are going to have an enormous effect across years and even generations

What with most Americans also leaving school in their twenties, and taking up full-time employment as well, these have to be some of the most important years of life for establishing work and life habits as well. That’s why I use this platform to urge my readers in their 20s who work (or want to work) in IT to take up the habits of lifelong learning and technical self-improvement. I don’t care if you decide to pursue IT certifications or not — though they are a simple, relatively straightforward and affordable way to collect a series of “merit badges” that attest to continuing and current technical skills and knowledge — but I do think it’s worth making plans to pursue and attain regular technical training milestones as part of a healthy and growing career.

It might also be a good idea to read Jay’s book, and to ponder the questions she suggests to people of this certain (and sometimes uncertain) age: “What is it that you want?” “Where would you like to be in five or 10 years?” and “What do you want your job to be?” These are very important questions, among others about marriage and family, that twenty-somethings can only answer for themselves, and should therefore ponder carefully.

I wish these readers clear heads, unusual prescience, and suggest that they cultivate a sense of adventure and wonder to offset any possible dread or trepidation future prospects can arouse. Though my twenties are long behind me (I’ll be 60 this August) I still remember those times as the most interesting and exciting of my life. May your plans be well-crafted and your results stellar. And also: Best Wishes from another “Old IT Guy!”

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