Your 20’s are for learning and your 30’s are for doing

Last week, I made the familiar drive up to Oxford, Ohio for the 4th Annual Cradle of Marketers at Miami University. Jennifer Rooney and I had the original idea for the event when we were talking about all the amazing alumni from Miami that have gone onto senior leadership roles across our industry. And when I say amazing alumni, I am talking about industry leaders such as adam bain, marcconnor, David Schwab, Andrew Strickman, and Jeffrey K. Rohrs.

While alumni attendees vary a bit every year, one constant is a session we cover about the advice we wish we had been given when we were in college. My advice every year is simple:

“Your 20’s are for learning and your 30’s are for doing.”

This division of decades comes from own professional experience in a very concrete way. Right after graduating from Miami, I started at Procter & Gamble. One of the hallmarks of P&G has been the classic marketing and brand management training that you receive. For me, the P&G experience was like getting a MBA as I learned on the job about managing a business, forming partnerships, leading people, and a host of other topics.

And then in the summer of 2010, I turned 30 years old. Two months later, I quit P&G and started at Rockfish. And that same summer, we started up The Brandery. So my own career has fallen along the lines of:

  • Learning in 20’s = Procter & Gamble
  • Doing in 30’s = Rockfish & The Brandery

Graduating from college is just the first step in your career. I feel that too often, students are looking for the ideal dream job. But instead of focusing on the dream job on day one, they should be focusing on the the job that forms the path to get there. Your first job out of college — and frankly all of your jobs in your 20’s — are building blocks. They are a chance to learn your industry, identify the opportunities, and set yourself on a path to accelerate your career.

Your 30’s can be that inflection point in your career. You have put in your 10,000 hours and you have the foundation to really make an impact. I know personally the impact I have made in the first 5 years of my 30’s is magnitudes greater than the last 5 years of my 20’s. But that would have never been the case if it hadn’t been for the time I spent building the foundation of my career in the first few years out of school. And that is the very message I try to bring back to campus every year at the Cradle of Marketers.

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