Written by Rebecca Fraser-Thill


You know what drives me insane? “Under 30″ lists. “Young movers and shakers” awards. “Rub It In Your Face That These People Got Their Acts Together Faster Than You” roll calls.

Under 30 lists are everywhere. Forbes has one, Inc. has one, GQ has one. Even “hot seller” Realtor magazine has one. And how many people are on each list? You guessed it:  30. The lack of originality astounds.

These lists make it seem like doing things younger means doing them better. Like there’s no point in trying when you pass the ripe ol’ 30 mark. Like we might as well throw our diplomas in the shredder and join Dancing With the Losers if we’re not markedly successful one-third of the way into our lifetimes.

Every time I convince one of my students that they don’t have to conquer the world by 25 (or 30, or even – gasp – 35) – heck, every time I convince myself that I don’t have to – one of these damn lists comes out and messes with our heads.

Why else would 86% of twentysomethings say they feel the need to be successful before age 30? It’s the ridiculous lists. And, I suppose, the youth-obsessed culture that eagerly produces and consumes them. But that’s not as much fun to blame.

For our sanity’s sake, let’s get some things straight:

The People on “Young and Successful” Lists are Freaks

The 20somethings lionized on “wow, look at ‘em doing so much so young!” lists are on there precisely because they’re non-normative. If they were like average people – or even like typical above-average people – the lists would be bloated and pointless.

These people are the 0.001% of the population who have managed to do something remarkable early in life. Trying to be like them is like trying to look like Gisele Bundchen or Tom Brady (or, most likely, their offspring…can we say genetics?).

We’ve accepted that we can’t all be gorgeous, or pro athletes, or live a life of luxury. Yet we somehow feel that we all should be making our mark by 25 or 30. How unrealistic is that?

“Earlier” Doesn’t Mean “Better”

Malcolm Gladwell did a pretty convincing job of striking down the “earlier = better” notion in his article Late Bloomers and book Outliers.

“Genius, in the popular conception, is inextricably tied up with precocity—doing something truly creative, we’re inclined to think, requires the freshness and exuberance and energy of youth.” – Malcolm Gladwell

He goes on to assert that someone can be a prodigy – an individual who demonstrates remarkable abilities at a young age – and yet do little with those abilities in the long run. Prodigies simply develop earlier than their peers, that’s what makes them stand out. Once their peers catch up, many prodigies blend into the background.

So those people on the “I’m Young and Awesome” Lists? They better watch out because we’re coming for ‘em.

Age of Success Varies by Field

Another reason Under 30 lists are ridiculous is because what’s remarkable in one field is ho-hum in another.

Physicists, poets and chess masters tend to create their best work early in life. I think I’m safe in saying that most of us are not those things. That means that the fields we’re in have mid-life or later peaks. In fact, the more “ambiguous and unclear” the field’s concepts are, Max Fisher writes in The Atlantic Wire, the later important work is produced.

So figure out what’s the norm for your field, not what’s the remarkable exception for some other field (which is what’s usually portrayed on the youth-centric lists). To focus on the latter is to pile meaninglessness on top of meaninglessness.

Time Pressure Paralyzes

Here’s the true bottomline to the entire “young is amazing!” issue:  the more time pressure a person perceives, the worse their performance is. In other words, our obsession with succeeding young may be the very thing standing in the way of our success.

Granted, time pressure findings are usually found in laboratory psychology studies in which there’s short-term pressure on a concrete task. But I’d argue that these findings are applicable to long-term time pressure, too. As one researcher on the topic, Michael DeDonno, said, “If you feel you don’t have enough time to do something, it’s going to affect you.”

Notably, it’s our perception of not having enough time – not the actual amount of time we have – that makes us perform poorly. To combat this, DeDonno told Science Daily, “Keep your emotions in check. Have confidence in the amount of time you do have to do things. Try to focus on the task and not the time. We don’t control time, but we can control our perception. It’s amazing what you can do with a limited amount of time.”

Stop aiming to be a success by 30 and you just might become one. Or, at the very least, you’ll be freed from a life spent obsessively tracking birthdays, leaving you mental space to instead focus on your life’s work itself.

But, hey, what do I know? I already went over the youth hill. Which is a relief. Life’s much better over here on the “I’ll Never Make a 30 Under 30 List” List.

A little bitter, perhaps. But better.

Want to explore this topic further? Then check out this panel discussion I participated in on HuffPost Live.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

Do you feel like age 30 is a deadline? Why do you think we have that idea in our heads? And how can we fight it?

Photo Credit: bicameral

Fraser-Thill_squareAbout Rebecca

Rebecca Fraser-Thill is the founder of Working Self, a site that helps young adults create meaningful work – that actually pays the bills! She teaches psychology at Bates College and is a career coach. Her work has been featured throughout the media, including on The Huffington Post, The Chelsea Krost Show, and Stacking Benjamins. Follow her @WorkingSelf.

Written by Melissa Anzman


There must be something in the water these days. The number of times I have had someone say to me that they aren’t really worried about making a sale or getting promoted because they “have a huge following on social media,” is driving me bananas.

I’m not sure when social media followers earned such a high ranking of influence in our society, but let me clear something up for you – followers do not equal influence or support. This is especially true when you are working in a traditional job.

Obviously your social media friends, followers or hoards (you know those requests you approve because the numbers count!), can play a role in your overall career, but they are not worth much at face value alone. Since their value is vastly different in a traditional job versus any type of business you start, I’m going to break their value down separately.

Social Media Peeps in Traditional Jobs

It seems ludicrous to think that social media followers can influence a promotion or new job… and for the most part, you’re right. The number of friends you have in any one outlet, is not going to be an active influencer in your overall success. I hate to break that news to you… well, honestly, my old-self can’t believe I have to. But I digress…

Your promotion-ability within a company, is mostly driven by your capabilities, delivery and likeability at work. Being able to put together and showcase the hard and soft skills. Getting the right influencers on your side within the company will always pay off more than having outside people talking about your awesome.

The importance of having a “tribe” increases when you are seeking a position. And even then, the value of followers and online influence or clout, is more about your network and possibilities there, than your followers influencing companies to hire you.

Bottom Line: Just because you’re a big thing online or on social media, does not mean much to a traditional job prospect/outlet.

In fact, depending on the company and position, it could be detrimental to your chances of being the chosen candidate. I’m not saying that you should get offline – not at all. But you should be careful about how and what you do on social media. Or, if you’re careless, just be sure to put the privacy walls up and in place so you can set it and forget it.

The most effective ways for you to leverage social media when you’re a job hunter or in a traditional job is as follows:

Be on LinkedIn

This is the one social media outlet that having more connections can pay off for you during a job search and when exploring next-level opportunities. Your ability to follow-up with and connect with relevant people will get you the biggest bang for your buck online.

Have a personal website

Get your name as a url and showcase who you are and what value you can add to a company, online. It doesn’t need to be complicated. You don’t need to spend money on getting a graphic designer or anything fancy. But think of your web-presence and an online/interactive resume.

Showcase your talent, update it, make sure it’s user friendly, and allow people to view your resume and connect with you. Your website will likely not be the first thing potential hiring managers and companies will see, but it will add value to the conversation and make you stand out from other candidates. Just be sure that it improves the conversation and is relevant for the types of roles you are seeking. (If you must have a personal blog, do it somewhere else).

Follow the Twitter accounts for companies you want to work at

I’m still not sure how effective tweeting for jobs is, in general, but I do know that most companies will tweet out new positions when they become available. It’s great to follow the job-specific accounts for companies that match your “dream” criteria. Here’s the thing though – interacting with them won’t add much value to your candidacy (in most cases). In other words, the people responding to your tweets will have zero influence in your job candidacy… so save twitter for other things. One big exception – if you are applying for a social media position or at a social media company.

Social Media Peeps as Solopreneurs

Now we’re getting down the fun part… the part where social media seems to have a more direct connection with converting sales. Ah, got your attention have I?

Myth: The number of followers you have is directly related to the number of sales you will make. This is FALSE, so very very false.

It sounds like it will make sense – the more people who like what you’re saying enough to follow you, will automatically be your fan base and so on. After working with many business owners on the back-end, this is absolutely not the case.

Social media followers have a significant role in being a business owner – they provide social proof, give you a community or tribe of people, can help you land a publishing deal (if your following is significant enough), and so on.

But just because people like you onlie does not mean that people will hand over money to you.  

Number of followers isn’t important in the equation of success. It’s a tool – but it is not the most important one to get paid.

1,000 True fans are worth more than 100,000 followers.

Don’t believe me, here are some awesome examples from a few people you know:

  • Paul Angone has 2,700 facebook fans on his business page. Yet he still had a best-selling book on his first try!
  • Not to mention Jenny Blake’s success with her first book, Life After College – I have no idea how many followers she had at the time, but it was fewer than she has now and it was still a huge success!
  • And for me, I was able to sell books (still selling!) and a course with fewer than ahem, 750 followers (and really, I may have had 100 facebook fans at the time).

My point is, stop focusing on the NUMBER of people who make up your following. They are NOT going to be the ones who will buy things from you – they like you well enough, they enjoy the stuff you provide them with, but when it comes to opening their wallets, it’s not an easy sell.

Instead, focus on building fans and engagement… and most importantly, build your email list. The people who invite you and your messages into your inbox, are more connected with you – they are likely more engaged. They are the people who are closer to a sale.

And for the love of Nancy, stop telling me and every single business coach out there that you have a following so you’re not at all concerned about making money. That’s just insane – and it’s really annoying to the people who work very, very hard to make each and every sale. Oh, and if you stop this train of thought now, you won’t be in shock when you do have to make your first sale. :)

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below:
What’s one thing you will do today, to go after engaged influencers at work or engaged social media fans?

melissa anzman

About Melissa

Melissa Anzman is the creator of Launch Yourself.co where she helps high performers launch their career, business + brand to the next level, make an impact in the lives of others, and earn more income. She is the author of two books: How to Land a Job and Stop Hating Your Job, and the host of the Launch Yourself Podcast. Follow her @MellyMelAnz.

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