Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What I learned in the 20-29 age group

Meredith M won the Albion Fit cute shirt giveaway!  Email me Meredith.  Sorry it took me so long!!! 

Speaking of things taking long, I've been out of town a lot lately.  I went to Vegas for a bachelorette party.  And then to Palm Desert to retire go to a work conference.  Here's what it all looked like:

I'll be going to Sacramento this weekend as well to run that half marathon.  I think Page and Roserunner may be there as well!  To be frank, part of me is hoping that I get hit by a bus (and am miraculously unscathed except for on race day) so that I don't have to run.  I'm afraid to embarrass myself and I'm afraid of the pain of racing.


I had a twitter conversation with Jocelyn where I jokingly said that I needed to write a "guide on what not to do in your twenties".  This is mainly because she posts a lot of articles on similar topics.  Also, I screwed up infinitely bad a billion times between ages 20 and 29.  So I feel I'm an expert on messing up!  Not to say I know everything now, but you know...I'm learning I'm learning.   

Of course, this reflects my own experience of being an average college grad, not married, who graduated in decent economy (2005).  

Everything I learned while in the 20-29 Age Group. 
(second title don't do as I do, do as I say). 

This is your time to do everything random you ever wanted to:  Even without a bunch of cash, you can do a lot of cool shit in your twenties.  It's not too late to learn.  You wanted to join a roller derby?  Do it.  You want to learn a language?  Find some CDs to listen to (or Mp3s!).

Just because your coworkers dress in Forever21 club gear doesn't mean you have to:  Look at how the higher ups in your office dress and conduct themselves.  Then copy them.  If you're not sure if it's appropriate, it's probably not.

Professionally network.  And pretend it's fun: Take every opportunity you can to attend industry dinners or sessions in your job field.  Don't have your dream job?  Find someone who is and become their best friend.  Tag along to their industry activities.  This stuff can be painful, but just tell yourself you're just "making friends".  Be respectful and careful but have fun.  Personal connections are the best kind of connections.  Try to find a mentor.

Try to meet a ton of people, but be careful who you become close to:  This ties into the last pieces of advice.  All these activities will allow you to meet people.  Lots of people are awesome.  But many are not.  Don't be afraid to keep your distance from friends and coworkers who make you sad or upset. Try to surround yourself with people who make you happy or are a good influence.  Bottom line, if you hang out with a bunch of people you admire, you'll probably end up becoming closer to the person you want to be.

You're not too good to work at McDonald's:  No one is.  Just remember this, even if you never have to work in fast food.

Don't bring your personal life into work:  I spent endless hours over-sharing my relationship woes at work in my early twenties.  I cringe to think of the details I shared and am amazed no one told me how unprofessional I was being.  Ew.   This also applies to letting your personal life emotions bleed into your work life.  I still struggle with this, but if you pretend work is a "safe place" to not think about other shit going on in your life, it can take you far.

If he only wants to talk to you after 12 AM or when drunk, he's an asshole.  Erase his (or her!) number!!!!!  'Nuff said.

Things don't always work out.  It's seldom personal:  You know how you sometimes feel lonely or sad or unable to forge a good relationship?  Yeah, other people are like that too.  Don't take every failure or rejection personally - this can really be a soul-killer.  It's usually a combination of factors.

Don't drink excessively/do drugs:   McGruff was right (Edit...just realized this is the crime dog so this reference doesn't apply, oh well, there goes my trying to be funny...).  I'd argue that the chemical effects of these activities are only part of why you should stay away.  People who are into these things can be a generally bad influence (not always, but often).  Odd are, you're probably better off making friends and blowing off steam by joining a soccer league.

Help others:  Whether it's just helping a friend move, or becoming a regular volunteer at an organization you feel passionately about, get involved.  This helped me a lot in my early twenties.  If you feel you're directionless in every other area of your life, it can really help to start volunteering and feel needed.

Don't allow people give you less than what you deserve:  Both personally and professionally. Research average salaries in your field.  Know what you are worth.  Salary negotiate if possible.   If a friend or romantic connection is making you feel bad, try your best to move on from them.  People will respect you for it and confidence is sexy.

Remember it won't last forever:  This applies to life in general.   No matter how terrible or awesome the experience is that you're going through, if you wait a little bit, chances are life will have changed.   Hang in there.

Go get 'em.  (What advice do you have for me or others?)  


  1. I think these are all great tips. I just turned 30 and feel as though I learned quite a bit in my 20's. If I could change a few things, I would have paid a little more on my student loans and would have set up a ROTH retirement account sooner. Even if I was only contributing $100 a month, it would still have been helpful. Oh, and I would have traveled more!

  2. Love this! These are great tips!! I just turned 29 in January and on the eve of my birthday I wrote something similar, 28 tips to myself that I'd learned in my 28 years :) If you're curious, check it out: http://circletwentytwo.com/?p=3792

  3. I like this list...I've found that a lot changes between 22-25 and then 25-27 (my current age)...I thought I was an adult at 22...little did I know...

  4. Awesome - love all of this. thanks for sharing! all the best, Brit

  5. My favorite things on your list are the first one (DEFINITELY do random shit in your 20s--I joined the Peace Corps--can't do that now, that's for sure) and the one about not bringing your personal life to work (I did the same thing in my early 20s and still feel sheepish about it).

    In your 30s you will find that having confidence is easier (in all arenas), especially if you've done well cultivating those healthy relationships, avoiding alcohol and drugs and actually working when you're at work. You'll also be better at avoiding the assholes in your romantic life. My advice for the 30-39 decade: if you get married and/or have kids, don't forget your personal interests--you'll be a better spouse/parent if you have a life; if you don't get married and/or have kids (but wish you could), don't forget your personal interests and try not to be bitter or despairing (I know that's hard)--I met my husband when I cared the least I ever have about meeting my husband, and from I've heard, that's often how it works; and if you don't get married and/or have kids (because you don't want them), don't be a jerk about it to those who do--the person with the bratty toddler on the plane ALWAYS has it much worse than you do, trust me (I've been on both sides of that airplane seat). Mostly, though, my advice is.....be patient. I think that's good advice for every decade, and fortunately it appears to get easier.

    1. THANK YOU for the 30s advice! I feel like you always have such good insight :)

  6. These are great! Along the lines of some of these: value your relationships (friends and fam). As I get older I feel like it is harder to make quality friends and I wish I could tell my younger (and current) self to put forth that extra effort to not drift apart from some people. And put forth the effort to spend time with your family, visit or call them more often. I feel like the 20 are a very selfish time, which in many ways is good: self discovery, following dreams, etc., but we don't want to lose sight of people that mean a lot to us. I love the one about ppl who call after 12am. Amazing how long it takes ppl to realize this (myself included)! BTW, I am at 29 and holding until I look at least 25 ;).

  7. Since when is a college grad with a 4yr chemical engineering degree "average" :p?

  8. Oh I tell my college students that I teach that it only gets better in your 30's. You spend your 20's trying to figure out who you are and who everyone wants you to be and then you hit your thirties and basically tell the world to take it or leave it.

  9. This is a great list. I'm almost 50 now and I wish I'd read this list in my twenties.

    I would add two pieces of advice to your list.

    1. Start saving now, even if it's only $10 a week.

    Even though I had part-time or full-time work throughout most of my twenties, and even though I was well-paid as a lawyer beginning in my late twenties, I didn't get into the habit of CONSISTENTLY saving $ until my mid-40s. I also had some years, scattered here and there, when I made less money on working sabbaticals. Those years took a bite out of my savings so that I could enjoy living abroad. The result - I figure I'm probably going to be working until I die (not really, but probably until I'm in my late 60s) so that my husband and I can afford the kind of (fairly luxurious) lifestyle to which we've become accustomed.

    By contrast, my husband (we only met about 10 years ago), generally has made a LOT less than I have in his career (he was in the military at first then IT) and has a couple of stretches of unemployment. But he has always saved $, from the time he was 16, and he even managed to save small $ for most of the periods of his unemployment. As a result, when we met, he had twice as much in his retirement account as I did (even though I made about 3x his salary). He was able to afford to buy a house in his late 20s, and the profit he earned on that house made it possible for us to buy a house together when we got married. He also had a great credit record, despite the periods of unemployment, while mine is a bit spotty.

    If I had saved more in my 20s and 30s, then we could have been looking at retirement in our late 50s - or at the very least we wouldn't be looking at having to put aside almost 1/3 of our income from now until we retire.

    So - moral of the story. Save at least a little (and preferably more) whenever you are employed. Save it somewhere where it's very hard to access (preferably with penalties for withdrawal). Whenever you get a raise, save the increase for at least six months and see if you can get by on your old salary. (I usually treat myself by spending the increase that shows up in my first paycheck after a pay increase, but then I bank the next six months worth of raise. Sometimes, I continue to bank the increase and sometimes, after six months, I cut back to saving half the increase.)

    2. Focus on learning new skills or subjects throughout your career.

    I got this one from my dad. Beginning in high school, we would have a discussion each year where each of us talked about the skill(s) we wanted to add/improve and the subject(s) we wanted to learn each year. They weren't always strictly speaking career-related, but they often contributed to career success. We would think about what we were good at, and less good at, and try to pick something we were good at (that we could expand on - e.g., I'm good at languages so I might tackle a new one) and something we weren't good at (that we needed to master - e.g., my interpersonal skills aren't great, so this year I'm focusing on picking up on non-verbal signals). I still do this, and when I'm thinking about changing jobs or roles, I think about the opportunities to learn or get better at things. Aside from the fact that this helps you advance in your career, it keeps you stimulated, motivated and fresh.