20 things 30-year-olds should remember

Perhaps you've read this Forbes article, "20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don't Get," which is full of well-intentioned advice from a 34-year-old.  There's some good stuff in there that 20-somethings, like myself, would be wise to follow. Things like, "Time is not a limitless commodity," and "Don't wait to be told what to do."

Advice, really, that people of all generations could use.

But then there are things I don't agree with, like "We're more productive in the morning."

Yes, for some people mornings are a time of great efficiency. But for myself, late evenings in the workplace spur creativity and innovation.

So, inspired by all the advice, here's a list, from the perspective of a 20-something-year-old, of 20 things that 30-year-olds (whose memories may be slipping in their old age) should remember.

1. You need to change your concept of "old"
Once upon a time you might have thought 30 was old. It's not. Neither is 40. Your 30s are not do or die. If you're not receiving a Social Security check, buck up and celebrate your youth -- or however much of it you have left.

2. Don't settle
People in their 30s face new financial realities and feel the pressure of settling down -- marrying Mr. or Mrs. Good Enough, having a child, buying a home. But settling = selling yourself short. When you settle for one thing, that mentality pervades into other aspects of your life.  

3. Don't take yourself so seriously
Yes, you have responsibilities. You can't be "entitled and lazy," to quote Time magazine on the millennial generation. But you don't have to be at the office at 6 a.m. every day working, working, working. Achieving a good work/life balance is important in your 30s -- just as it is in your 20s. And yes, you can and should have fun.

4. Don't say, "easy for you to say"
Are you thinking that right now? The experiences between 20- and 30-year-olds are inherently different (for instance, many millennials are underemployed and face more severe student debt than previous generations). But don't generalize and say millennials are all narcissistic and lazy. There are 20-year-olds wise beyond their years with a wide variety of experiences just as there are 20-year-olds who are, indeed, entitled.

5. Be helpful
People in their 20s need guidance -- and jobs (youth unemployment is a big problem) -- so instead of dismissing them or shaking your head or offering condescending advice, help them. You were 20 once, too.

6. Be open to help
Logically, a 30-year-old should be more experienced and wise about things a 20-year-old isn't -- work-related issues, relationships, etc. Share that knowledge. But also get help where you can, and be mindful of where you need help. There might be a social media or technology expert -- who is, gasp!, in their 20s -- sitting next to you that can give you advice, too. There's no shame in that.

7. Be humble
Yes, 20-somethings make a lot of mistakes. So do 30-somethings, 40-somethings, 50-somethings, and so on. Learning is a life-long process. Dishing out advice laced with condescension isn't all that helpful. Remember, you were 20 once. (Read: Looking to the financial future in your 50s

8. Don't be afraid of technology
You may be getting older, but you're not a recluse. Technology can benefit your life if you use it wisely. So keep up-to-date on what's out there -- new social media platforms, new devices, new ways to explore the world. The technical chops you're told to build in your 20s should continue well into your 30s and beyond. (Read: When will all the really, really cool technology actually get here?)

9. Go try something that scares you a little
Look, no one is saying to travel the world hitchhiking. But people in their 20s are more willing to try new things, go to different places.  So, just keep an open mind. It's still OK to be experimental.

10. Continue to pursue your passions
At 20 you had time to chase your dreams, write a book, travel the world. You still do at 30. The things that make you happy as a budding 20-something will still bring you joy in your 30s.

11. Remember to get enough sleep
True, you could sleep in more when you were in your 20s. In your 30s you might have a kid, responsibilities to attend to, work-related engagements. But being older -- and having more responsibilities -- is not an open invitation to get less sleep. (Read: How getting a full night's sleep is good for business)

12. It's OK to splurge on yourself
Yes, you have a family, a mortgage, loans to pay off. No one is saying to buy a new car or head off to Tahiti for two months. But a little something for yourself -- as long as it isn't financially reckless -- isn't going to hurt.
13. Spontaneity is a good thing
Having a plan, a budget, and being organized is important at any age. But it's equally important to not get stuck in a rigid, formulaic schedule that leaves little room for improvisation or spontaneity. Being spontaneous -- even once in a while -- might surprise you.

14. Don't be afraid to take risks
Yes, making mistakes was more acceptable when you were younger. But hopefully you've learned from those mistakes, have gotten more experience, and are still willing to take risks.

15. Be flexible
It seems like there's more aversion to change when you become older. But change isn't necessarily a bad thing. Be open to changing roles at work. Don't rule out new jobs. And remember it's OK to switch jobs, too.

16. Keep your old friends
Doesn't it seem like the older you get, the harder it is to keep in touch with your old friends? Don't lose the people you bond with in you 20s, they'll keep you grounded. (Read: How your friends affect your job prospects)

17. Make new friends
It seems like when you're in your 30s you stick to the same social circles. People you know at work, from the past, people at school. There isn't much of an effort to expand beyond the well-built social circle. It's important to find ways to meet new people and expand your circle of friends, and in turn your networking capabilities.

18. It's OK to still feel awkward
Turning 30 doesn't automatically make you wise or all-knowing. So there's no need to pretend that you've got it all figured out. There are plenty of awkward 30-year-olds out there.

19. Value your experience
In your 20s, you may have come up with a checklist of things you wanted to accomplish by the time you were 30. Reality check: Some or many of those things haven't been accomplished. But you do have experience to bring to the table -- that a 20 year old doesn't -- and you should value that. Many of today's youth are disconnected --  they're not in school and they don't have jobs. So share your valuable experiences.

20. Remember you were 20, too
Just cause it can't be said enough.

About the author

Daryl Paranada is the associate web producer for Marketplace overseeing all daily website content and production, as well as producing multimedia features -- including the popular economic explainer series Whiteboard -- and special projects. Follow him on Twitter @darylparanada.
Log in to post8 Comments

When I have interviewed people, I have been evaluating hiring them, and not their clothes. So long as the person were clean and reasonably respectful, sartorial elegance were meaningless...and I have interviewed contemptuous simpletons in fine suits.

Quite often, programmers don't understand people different to them, and since to at least some of them clothing style signifies nothing ('Think not after what ye shall wear...'), they can't understand how someone else might take offence based on how they dress. (I know better because ever since childhood I've understood that other people care about a multitude of things about which I don't, and so I must act in certain ways if I want to get something from them, both substantive, as in giving them something worthwhile back, and what seems silly to me, like dressing in a particular way, without _expecting_ to comprehend these actions for myself.)

My only real objection is to #12: any individual, small, splurge will not ruin you, but the habit of doing so, especially as a reward given yourself, can. (I am reminded of the alcoholic my father knew who only drank on 'special occasions', and so made note of special occasions twenty times per day.)

Not only is it bad for your notional purse, but if what you are doing is so unsatisfying in itself that you need to give yourself a reward in order to be content or nearly, eventually no reward might be high enough---and any of them obscure the fact that you should be doing something else.

#2: I would amend that to "Don't settle save when you must, and be wise about knowing just when that is---you shouldn't sell yourself short, but the world is incalculably bigger than are you, and really can put you in a position where you must settle or suffer greatly...and if you don't settle, accept the suffering pertaining thereto, not as 'just', but as simple, causal, consequence of doing the right thing as you see it."

At almost 62 I so much prefer the company of the 20 year olds to many of the 30 somethings. I appreciate that for the most part they are just more fun and enjoyable to be around, and just not as impressed with themselves as the 30 somethings who suddenly cannot remember what it was like to be 20 which is what makes most of them such a drag to be around. And as for a sense of entitlement... have you seen these 30 somethings with their offspring? Thank you 20 somethings for not taking it all so seriously. A good bit of wisdom for any age group not to arrogant to grasp it.

How about another?

Leave your fancyfone at home or silently in your pocket?

Rather universally, the 'folks in charge' aren't that impressed when all in the room, regardless of age, are all involved, looking downward toward their palms.

Someone who can actually pretend to be paying attention for more than just a few minutes has a real advantage.

People younger than me are lazy, narcissistic, apathetic, and entitled. When I was their age I was a superior to them in every conceivable way... and come to think of it I still am!

I read this twice, and I have to say, it is clearly written from the naivety of a 20-something, and this attitude is pervasive, especially for 20-something males. "Don't take yourself so seriously"? Perhaps if they took their jobs seriously, that might help. Hell forget showing up at 6.30. How about showing up on time? and working an actual 8-hour day? They come with an air of entitlement, including the ones that are "wise beyond their years". I would love to hire a 20-something that was hard working, but it is hard to take a person seriously when they show up in jeans and a tee-shirt for a job interview. Go buy a suit. Come prepared. I hope the author goes back in ten years and re-reads this article. Perhaps then he will realize just how narcissistic this article sounds. Oh and by the way, 30-somethings aren't a whole lot better, just harder working.

A 40-something.

I agree with your observation on the tone of the article (as a 20-something). My profession has no tolerance for people who don't take themselves (and their jobs) seriously. I often work with people in other professions that have less riding on them; I'm amazed at how little they tend to accomplish in a workday.

Another fairly narcissistic and quite naive comment:
2. Don't settle
People in their 30s face new financial realities and feel the pressure of settling down -- marrying Mr. or Mrs. Good Enough, having a child, buying a home. But settling = selling yourself short. When you settle for one thing, that mentality pervades into other aspects of your life.

When the author grows up a little and faces some more tough decisions, they will realize that it isn't "settling", it is "setting reasonable expectations". Plenty of people settle for certain things while continuing to push hard in other aspects in the hope of improving their overall lot in life. Some terms for a person who doesn't eventually settle at some point? Aimless, difficult to work with, or self-centered.

I don't think you are entitled to make this kind of comments, only because the article is about people in their 30s and you're not, and I quote "(as a 20-something)". You're just a 20-something who, for the tone of your comment, believes that is better than your pairs, and based on this article and the one that trigger this one, you lack of the experience necesary to know about this kind of stuff (it´s just a thing of the amount of years you've been on the earth)
Just some unrequested advise from another 20-something who works her ass off as a profesional, has lots of fun and sleeps not as much as she would like: Work is not everything, go crazy with life while you still have the strength and energy to do so. Be an idealist and don't set reasonable expectations, just keep pushing for your dreams. It´s not necesary to have it all figured it out by the time you're 30, that's just a social convention, and like other conventions, i'ts not mandatory.

I read the original Forbes 20 for 20 article and thought it was good. This article is even better. I'm 50 and, both in reflecting on myself at 30 and looking at other 30-year-olds, I think they definitely need to NOT take themselves, and life in general, so seriously. I see so many 30 somethings I just want to shake and shout "Chill Out!" The truth is you're just not as influential as you think you are. Do your best, of course, but understand that you can't control outcomes. And yeah, you were 20, too.

With Generous Support From...