Are Young Professionals Forgetting to be Young?

Photo cred: Davo

Yet another interesting discussion sparked by the bright minds in #u30pro.  My friend Jon Klar shared,

“I think social media is making it much easier to grow up too fast. Young professionals need to remember to be young while they can”.

Social media platforms have allowed me to tap into so many resources that wouldn’t have been available to me otherwise.  I learn new things from thought leaders, I connect and engage with professionals that I never would have had access to, I’ve developed mentorships, I’ve shared my own ideas with a large audience and the list of benefits goes on...

…but is it a double-edged sword?

I’m 22 but I don’t feel like it. My ’09 graduation feels like it was a lifetime ago.

I now work full time, run #u30pro, maintain my blog, engage with my network regularly and more…  I have more things going on since I graduated about 7 months ago than many people I know who have been working for years.  Without social media, I wouldn’t have so many opportunities, but I also wouldn’t have so many responsibilities.

I don’t think I’d have it any other way.  I’m in a phase of my life where I am very career focused and I’ve set many high goals for myself.  I realize that I have to make some sacrifices in order to achieve those goals.

…and I’m still enjoying my personal life.  I still go out on weekends.  I still hang out with my friends regularly. I still get my share of video game time in there.

And when I look at many of my old high school buddies and what they’re doing, I don’t feel envious of the extra time they have to “be young”…I feel lucky to be gaining so much experience so quickly. I feel like I’m spending my time wisely.

In 10 years, will I look back at my 20’s and wish I spent less time building my career?

Am I growing up too fast? Are you?

(Perspective of those who have been there and done that are welcome and appreciated)

25 thoughts on “Are Young Professionals Forgetting to be Young?

  1. I agree, sometimes I feel like I’m 21-going-on-40. While it’s great to be driven, its important to slow down and not let life pass you by. That’s my goal in 2010. Work just as hard, play more.

    1. Agreed. And I don’t like when I get caught up just idling, doing nothing online…just being online and on twitter for the sake of it. That’s what I need to cut out and go out and do different things.

      I think I just need to get out of NY =\

  2. I think its all about balance (and our generation excels at time management and multitasking). Social media has allowed young professionals to engage more frequently and take on extra projects such as blogging that may help further our careers. But as long as we make sure that we’re still taking time to do the stuff that we love and have fun, I think it’ll benefit us in the future. I think the challenge will be not worrying/thinking about career-related stuff when we’re having fun.

      1. Haha maybe it’s easier for some! I guess it’s natural that what we spend so much time doing will drag into our personal lives. Maybe the important thing is that we do take time to do the things we enjoy.

  3. David, I have been struggling with this issue for a while. I am pushing 30 (shhhh!) and have been very career focused since I graduated from my undergrad back in 2003. Networking has always been very important for me, and social media has increased my network tremendously in the last year. Apart from my career, and going back to get my MBA full time last year, I have been bartending every weekend since I turned 21. My whole life has been work, work, work, with the hope that someday I will get to retire. I am now realizing that it is important to relax once in a while, make sure that us young professionals don’t get burnt out. A lot of us are very career minded, highly motivated, and willing to work long hours. We sometimes need to step back and realize that we are still under 30. However, creating relationships, making connections, and having 500+ contacts on LinkedIn will never be a bad thing in the future.

    1. My take is similar. I’m 31 now and still try to be as ambitious as I was entering my profession 10 years ago, but at that time I did already feel like I was 40, as my job was to replace someone who was retirement eligible, and all my peers were at least a generation older. I got my Masters desgree in 2002. But looking back, I didn’t keep up a blog, have hundreds of linked in contacts to keep up with, or twitter to follow every waking moment. Balance is key and today’s 20 somethings have more to challenge their work/youth balance than ever.

  4. I wouldn’t say we are growing up too fast. Getting involved in a career and gaining professional experience as well as life experience are part of being young/growing up.

    We all choose to balance our career and life differently, and that shows much more about our personality than it does about our ability to be young. I’m lucky to enjoy my career right now and I don’t mind letting it sneak into my young personal life.

    1. It does have a lot to do with our personality… I guess if we weren’t the type of people to focus so much time on our career…well we wouldn’t be doing it. haha

  5. I can see this from both ways. I’m 25, but my roommate just turned 24 and recently graduated from college. Although that one year age difference doesn’t seem like a lot, I’ve already had two jobs, while my roommate just started his first. The one thing I noticed, and laughed at, was the fact that when he first started working, he would be the first one in the office and the last one to leave. He said he would never gain weight at the office.

    I remember saying and doing all these things, too. However, I know, for the most part, they don’t last. And I was correct. 6 months later, he’s no longer the first into work, etc.

    That being said, he’s simply found a way to be the best at work, while enjoying life and not having his job take over his fun. Robyn is right – it’s a balance. I don’t think there is a correct answer to this question, because most of our generation has found something our parent’s generation never found – a passion for what we do.

    1. That’s true I guess. We’ll see how long I can keep up this pace. Then again, I’m not really working a traditional job or pursuing a traditional career.

      I’m sure things start to become clear over time. We can’t plan everything out.

      And along the lines of passion, we can follow the Gary V model of being so passionate about your work that it doesn’t feel like work…you’d be doing it even if you weren’t paid! In which case, I guess you’re living your younger years to the fullest…

  6. I don’t think it’s a matter of young people being young. After all, older generations would say we are taking way too long to grow up, considering what they were doing when they were our age.

    Instead, I think it’s like Sheema said: balance. I’d much rather find a sustainable work/play/life balance that I can use throughout life than play now and work hard later.

  7. I think it’s important to know that to some people, their job *is* fun. I wouldn’t have chosen PR if I didn’t think it was fun. I wouldn’t do Twitter and blogging and social media if I didn’t think it was fun. So yes, even though it is work/career related stuff you are spending your time on, it’s stuff you enjoy. (Don’t get me wrong, I get super stressed sometimes and complain about my job – but I’m human. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it!) It’s not like you’re sitting home and doing math homework or something boring. So yes, even if you are giving up your time for other things like partying or clubbing or whathaveyou, you are doing another thing that gives you enjoyment. And sure, it’s a lot to juggle and sometimes that gets stressful, but I’m sure at the end of the day, you think it was worth it. It was…fun.

  8. Great post, David. I hear ya! I feel that people like you and I aren’t like many of our other *younger* friends. For one, they don’t work in the same industry we do – it’s fast-paced, nonstop, cut-throat. It doesn’t ever slow down. We have to be constantly reading and connecting in order to stay up-to-speed with everything that’s evolved (which is also the nature of our industry). Not only that, but most of the young people I know don’t LOVE what they do as much as we probably do. Marketing/social media is more than a job for me. It’s my favorite hobby (along with connecting with others). So most of the time it doesn’t even seem like work because I enjoy it so much.

    Don’t get me wrong. I most definitely work hard, play hard (you have to). But right now is the absolute best time to set up the foundation for your entire career and life. Sure, if I planned on being just a cog in the machine or a fly on the wall, I could clock out at 5 and unplug from the world. But regardless of the industry, I think even the best of the best are working their asses off in their 20s (look at Bill Gates or any other successful entrepreneur). It just depends on what your personal goals are.

  9. The Gary V model – EXACTLY! Our generation has so many options out there for careers – why NOT pick something that doesn’t even feel like work because you like it so damn much. Great analogy.

  10. I’m gonna have to go ahead and disagree with myself. Unfortunately I don’t think this is a question that any of us living through it can answer. Yes we all think we’re doing the right things, but the truth is that we can’t know until we see how it plays out.

    Maybe in 20 years you will be successful and your life will be filled with love, or maybe you will be destitute and alone, or more likely we will all be somewhere in the middle. I’m too young to know where my life is going, or maybe I’m just too short sighted, but I hope that however I end up I can at least look back without regret.

    While I may not know anything about the future of my life for sure (I would be lying to myself if I thought I could even see all the variable, much less predict their outcome), I do have a few sneaking suspicions:

    1. Bettering my career is not the same as bettering myself
    2. Whatever responsibility I have now will only be added onto. As much as I have to do, there will never be a time in my life in which I am as free as I am now to do whatever I like.
    3. My sense of what I find valuable will be different than it is now, most likely in a way that will make me want something that I did not find in my youth

    I feel lucky to have a job that could be my career if I so chose, and I am glad to work longer hours than anyone else in my office, but I have to admit I am always questioning my decisions. Can I really measure my youth by how often I went out drinking? Is financial security worth not seeing the sun 5 days out of the week? Did I really just *not* spend time with someone I love because I’m too busy or tired? Is there a lamer excuse for not doing something spontaneous than “Sorry, I have work tomorrow”?

    I guess I don’t really have a point, and I definitely don’t have any advice to offer. This is just a reflection on my own insecurity with regard to the future. I guess in the end we’re all just people, and we do what we do and that’s all that we do. I’m inclined to agree with you guys that working hard and being responsible will never come back to bite me, I guess i’m just not as sure about it.

  11. Great post, definitely something I’ve thought about. The thing it always comes back to is that I enjoy what I’m doing. Hell, I love it. For the reasons you listed and so many more. Ultimately that’s what matters to me right now. I’m happy with the balance in my life.

    I’m happy, that’s what matters.

    Now time for some NBA Live 10.

  12. I think our generation has made it a goal to have our work reflect our personal passion and life goals.

    The sacrifice? Your work life and real life become intertwined, and it becomes hard to think about one without the other.

    The plus side? We get to do what we are passionate about. Or at the very least try. For right now, that’s good enough for me.

    Thanks for the post bud.

  13. Such thoughtful comments in reaction to a thoughtful post.

    Are we growing up too fast? I don’t think so. The way I approach the fast-paced lives many of us are living post-graduation (whether that’s one month or three years) is that the “learning curve” out of college can be steep. Especially in our industry.

    Think of all of the skills you have today that you didn’t learn in school, all of the people you know and connections you’ve made. We’re experiencing for the first time how the business world works, traditional or non-traditional. We’re learning how to be professionals. We have managers and mentors who give us ownership over our ideas and projects, which allows us to grow tremendously.

    In 10 years, I hope every ambitious, former young professional looks back and is proud of themselves for following their passion and working like crazy to get where they are.

    I heard a great quote yesterday that might be perfect along with this post: “Just work four times harder than anyone else. That’s the only way to be successful in any job.” -Lauren Hutton

  14. When was the last time you spent a day at an amusement park, riding roller coasters and eating cotton candy?

    When was the last time you spent the day at a beach, jumping the waves?

    When was the last time you swung on a swing set or played in a sandbox?

    … and when was the last time you spent a month away from the internet, using it only for researching things on Google?

    I didn’t know you are 22. I thought you to be 28 at least. Knowing this, I’m very surprised you’re using the web…and wonder how your youth would differ if you didn’t.

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