BT: How do you suggest they track their progress toward their future goals? Are milestones like 21 and 30 important? (来源：英语论坛 http://bbs.englishcn.com)
MJ: Absolutely. Milestones--21, 25, 30, New Year's, birthdays, reunions--are important because they trigger self-reflection. Am I where I wanted to be by this age? Did I do what I said I would do this year? If not, why not. And if not now, when? A savvy 20something who interviewed me recently told me about a question she was advised to ask herself as she moved through adulthood: "If you keep living your life exactly as it is, where will you be in 3 years?" If you don't like the answer, now is the time to change course.
One way to keep yourself honest about the future is by making a timeline. At what age would I like to be out of this dead-end job? By when do I hope to be married? How old do I want to be when I try for my first child? It may not be cool to have a timeline, or to admit to having a timeline, but you don't have to etch it in stone. It's just a way of thinking about how your life might, or might not, be adding up.
BT: About 25% of recent grads are unemployed, and 25% are underemployed. What is your advice for those who simply can't find a job?
MJ: Yes, half of 20somethings are un- or underemployed. But half aren't, so my first piece of advice is to figure out how to get yourself into that group. Most often, the way to do this is through what is called "the strength of weak ties." The strength of weak ties is from sociologist Mark Granovetter's work on social networks. What he found was that new information and opportunities usually come from outside of our inner circle. That foot-in-the-door at the company where you want to work isn't going to come from your best friends--your strong ties--or you would already be working there. That job lead is going to come from weak ties, or from people you hardly know. Email your aunt's neighbor or that old professor or your roommate's friend from college.
That's how people are getting jobs--especially good jobs--even in a tough economy. Most 20somethings hate the idea of asking outsiders for favors, but those who won't do this fall behind those who will. 20somethings who sit on the sidelines because of a bad economy will never catch up with those who figured out how to get in the game.
For those 20somethings who already have jobs but who are underemployed, it is crucial to remember that not all underemployment is the same. Be sure you have a job that is allowing you to earn some form of identity capital. Maybe you have a low-rung job at a hot company that adds value to your resume. Whatever you're doing should make the next thing you'd like to try seem more possible.
BT: How can 20somethings reclaim their status as adults given all the cultural trends working against them?
MJ: Don't let culture trivialize your life and work and relationships. Don't hang out only with people who are drinking the 30-is-the-new-20 kool-aid. I cannot tell you how many emails I have received from 30somethings since The Defining Decade came out, ones in which the writer says something like, "I used to roll my eyes at my peers who were determined to meet benchmarks--graduate school, real relationships, decent-paying jobs that reflect their interests--on time or early. Now I'm envious and admiring of them. Now I'm working twice as hard for half the result." Don't shrug your shoulders and say, "I'm in my 20s. What I'm doing doesn't count." Recognize that what you do, and what you don't do, will have an enormous impact across years and even generations. You're deciding your life right now.