When I entered the workforce right after college, my age was a constant source of insecurity. Especially in management consulting, I probably looked ridiculous. At 23, I would be tasked to advise 50 year-olds on how they should run their billion dollar business while I had just learned what a balance sheet was. During my first week at work, an executive asked me exactly how many years of work experience I have, and I almost fainted. I didn’t want to admit that I was a newborn employee and probably useless at that point, but my company was still charging you hundreds of dollars per hour for my time.
Today, I’m a 30 year-old professional. While I still don’t have decades of experience under my belt, I do have some battle scars. And sure, being a 30 year-old professional has its own set of issues as well. Ok, if you haven’t already made it on Forbe’s 30 under 30 list at this point, then you’ll probably never make it. Or, sure, by 30, Steve Jobs had already started Apple Computers, which transformed the world.
Or, by 23, Jennifer Lawrence has already won at an Oscar and has been nominated for two more.
But before you start drowning yourself in self-pity, it’s okay. There are also several famous and successful people that started finding success at 30, such as Julia Child, Jon Hamm, or Harrison Ford.
So I’d like to dedicate this post to celebrating why it’s wonderful to be a 30 year-old professional.
1. You’ve gotten to know yourself better
By 30, you have a better understanding of your likes and dislikes. You hate micro-managing bosses. You should leave office happy hours after 2 drinks. You love a job with some international travel. You minimize the dislikes and maximize the likes to have a more enjoyable time at work and in life.
2. You have some street creds
You are no longer a newborn in the workforce. You’ve built a monster financial model; you’ve presented in front of important people; you’ve launched a new project. Whatever it is you’ve been there and done that, and you can speak about it from experience. All these experiences have created and shaped your wisdom. Yes, you are older, and you are just a bit wiser.
3. You can sense and cut through bullsh*t
One of the best perks about being a 30 year-old professional is your ability sniff out BS from a mile away. At 23, when a manager asked me to submit work by the end of the day, my first response was “Yes. Will do” to all requests. And then I would proceed to slave away until deep into the night, even if it was for something quite trivial. Now, if someone asks me for work by the end of the day, my first response is “Is this truly important and urgent?”. If yes, then I’ll put in the work. If not, then you save yourself some unnecessary sleepless nights. Learning when and how to push back has been incredibly valuable.
4. You are not broke
You’re a 30 year-old professional and not a broke college grad. You’ve managed to save some money and upgrade your lifestyle. You no longer wear cheap suits, which have been passed down from your overweight uncle. You can afford clothes that fit and look nice. You don’t need to milk that expense account or binge on free office food. You can afford your own. In fact, you can afford to go to a nice restaurant and recommend some to your co-workers. You seem more polished and cultured at this age.
5. Your network is more powerful
Networks are the lifeblood of business. It’s all about who you know and what they know. When I just graduated from college, most of my friends were broke college grads, trying desperately not to get fired in their first jobs at the bottom of the totem pole. Now, at 30, my network includes people that have launched and scale successful businesses, corporate vice presidents, big shot investors, surgeons, and high-flying lawyers. It’s amazing how a few years can make a huge difference not only in your professional development but also that of your network’s.
6. You still have so much to look forward to!
You’re 30 and not a dinosaur! You know enough to not put up with silly things, but you are young enough to learn new things. You can develop new skills, insights, and experiences to accomplish more. You have time to fail and get back up…many times. You have so much more potential to unlock and contribute, and that’s why being a 30-year old professional is nothing short of awesome.
For those of you in your late 20’s, I’d highly encourage you to read actress Olivia Wilde’s advice on turning 30. It’s hilarious and fun. Enjoy!