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Career Mindset Among the Decades


We’ve all been there – graduating college or graduate school and knowing it’s all on us at that point to start our careers. Most of us had the energy and drive to hit the ground running. Of course, we were nervous, apprehensive, excited and petrified all at the same time but we found our first position. It may not have always been what we thought it was going to be or wanted it to be, but it all depended on the job market when we graduated. The key at this time in our life was to have big dreams for what we could do in our career and in our future career.


Then into the next decade we moved - the early 30’s. We may have decided that we wanted to see what our career could do for us and started the sharp climb of the career ladder, and while climbing we may have gotten married, started a family or already had a couple of kids at this point. It was a time when we started to feel like we finally found our career and started to see success. The hard work was paying off. We still had more dreams of climbing that ladder and we were excited about the opportunities that still were in front of us. We were experiencing the idea of work-life balance and many times work was winning over, but we were happy with success in our careers, so we kept moving forward.


The 40’s came in pretty quietly. We felt we were in a groove with our careers. We may have changed jobs since our 30’s and were sitting in a pretty comfortable place among our peers. We still had room to climb that career ladder but things were starting to slow down. We didn’t have the same energy about our careers as we did in our 20’s. We learned a lot along the way, dealt with the ups and downs of our careers. Our family life could be chaotic as the kids got older and were involved in more things. That work life balance was leaning more towards our family life but that was okay because we didn’t have the same enthusiasm about our careers as we did when we started out. We were still interested in climbing but not at the rate we were at in our 20’s and 30’s.


Then for many of us the 50’s hit, and we changed. We knew we were an asset to the organization. We just spent 20+ years working at our careers and climbing that career ladder. We could officially say we were an expert in our field, but things internally felt different. We might not be as interested in climbing that career ladder as we once had been. If we haven’t reached the top we are close enough. And at this viewpoint, we start to look around and wonder about pursuing other areas of interest in our lives. Don’t get me wrong we still love what we do and we do it very well but climbing that ladder, making more and more money isn’t everything anymore. Sure, we want to be compensated fairly, we want to do a great job, and be respected but we start to discover that there is more out there for us to do. It isn’t all about the career anymore. We may still have up to 15 years or a little more of our career left in us before we want to retire but when we think of work life balance we think more on the side of life.


What I have come to understand is that each of these decades are special in their own way. Every one of us, if we are lucky and stay healthy, will experience versions of the above. But hiring managers and recruiters need to appreciate that we are not all made to only want to climb that career ladder. So if you meet some one in their 40’s, 50’s or even 60’s who doesn’t show that strong ambition for climbing that ladder any longer understand we are still a strong, viable candidates. We will still be an asset to the team. We will still be reliable, trustworthy, and hardworking. We may just want to come to work, do the best job we can during work hours, not need to be paid at the highest level and still be as happy an employee as anyone else. Bonus, you get all our years of experience, knowledge, and skills to benefit your organization.


I talk to a number of people in their 40s, 50s, and 60’s who find themselves not needing to be so motivated with prestige and wealth but would rather feel like they made a difference in an organization, community or group of people. They want to be given a chance at any level of interest that fits their experiences, their life and their current needs. And they want that to be okay.

So, recruiters and hiring managers please take another look at these candidates, see all that they have to offer and appreciate them for what they bring to your organization.

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