Part 1 of 3: Work, The Defining Decade

Posted by
Jeff Black On Jul 8 , 2013

defining decade

Do you know which decade is “The Defining Decade?”

It’s your twenties, Meg Jay, PhD, author of “The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now, says.

Her book is absolutely amazing, so amazing in fact, that I read it in just a few days.

Jay wrote the book after noticing a trend with the twenty-somethings she had been working with for more than a decade. Twenty-somethings would come to her because they felt lost, unhappy and unsure of what to do their lives.

She breaks the book into three sections: Work, Love and the Brain and Body.

I’ll be honest I skipped to the love section first, but in this review I will provide you with a little glimpse of the work section.


Jay begins the first section on work with a story about a girl named Helen. Helen was having an “identity crisis.” All her friends were getting jobs, and she was still babysitting. Her parents wanted her to go to medical school, but Helen decided to get her degree in art.

Obviously, Helen was depressed, but she didn’t want to get a real job.

“But this is what I am supposed to be doing (partying and having an identity crisis),” Helen says in the book.

Helen said everyone said this, which I believe to be true. According to everyone, your twenties is the time to be having fun, but no one tells you one day you’ll be waking up a thirty-something and living at home with mom and dad.

Finally, Helen came in Jay’s office one day and told her about two jobs she had interviews for. One was for a barista position at a coffee shop and the other was a low paying job in a mailroom of an art design studio.

Helen was leaning toward the barista position. Jay was shocked.

“You need to go to that interview at the art design studio,” Jay insisted.

“Why?” Helen asked.

“Because it will provide you with identity capital,” she replied.

Identity capital is all that good stuff that goes on your resume and gets you a job. At this point, Helen had no identity capital, which meant no experience to get her on her way toward a career later in life.

Helen got the job at the art design studio, and now she has moved into a career.

Lesson: If you do not prepare for a career in your twenties then you will not wake up one day and have one in your thirties. Get a job that will give you experience, i.e. amazing identity capital.