Summary of The Defining Decade

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The media have embraced a “30-is-the-new-20” culture that treats ages 20 to 29 as an extended adolescence. Parents, professors, hiring officers and other onlookers view the 20s as a fun period for young people to experiment before they find real jobs, get married, buy houses or have kids. Many twentysomethings believe they’re supposed to have a good time while avoiding adult responsibilities. Instead, clinical psychologist Meg Jay urges people in their 20s to get busy and make the most of this critical growth period that, she contends, will define the adults they’ll become. Jay refers to case histories from her practice to discuss what people in their 20s think about career and relationships. She also explains how their brains develop. Jay may help managers and HR professionals better understand young entry-level employees, but her treatise lacks workforce practicality, such as tips to recruit or retain them. Yet, 20- to 30-year-olds may find her thoughts a useful prod. getAbstract recommends Jay’s work to those in the under-30 set who need motivation, and to the parents, professors and managers who deal with them.

About the Author

Clinical psychologist, author and speaker Meg Jay is an assistant clinical professor at the University of Virginia.



The Fallacy Behind “30-Is-the-New-20”

Many people in their 20s don’t understand why they feel isolated, anxious and confused. Society encourages them to live in the moment and not worry about the future. Although many twentysomethings are partying and “hooking up,” they yearn for a deeper, more satisfying life. They don’t know how to identify what careers or relationships they want or how to strive for them. As a result, thirty- and fortysomethings often end up regretting that they didn’t build their careers and families sooner in their lives. Many twentysomethings remain stuck in menial jobs or dead-end relationships out of complacency or fear. However, you can change your life before 30 – or after.

Finding a Path

At 27, Helen sought therapy. Friends who once envied her casual lifestyle now felt sorry for her. When Helen was in college, her parents pushed her to pursue a premed major. After two years of suffering through science classes, she fell in love with photography and changed her major to art. But Helen’s art never paid her bills, because she did not know how to leverage her “identity capital” to build a career. Identity capital can be something tangible...

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