I wanted to talk with you about Career Stages.

Our work life goes through career stages of development similar to our personal life. At times we are at turning points, at other times we are at building stages. 

Career stages of development are not linked to specific ages.  At any time, we can ask questions concerning whether or not we are on the “right track”. Whether or not we would like to explore new possibilities, expand or retract our work responsibilities, or start something brand new.  These may or may not be stressful or result in change.  This can happen at unexpected times (e.g. with organisational downsizing).

I used to talk about the traditional career stages

Career Stages 1: College- University (18)

  • The most important decision at this stage is to assess your abilities so you know what is easy for you.
  • Also start thinking about your interests, personality, family, values and even life goals.
  • The adults that are most satisfied with their work lives are those who, as teenagers, were encouraged to follow what they enjoy, and parents who followed this advice themselves

Career Stages 2: University – world of work (22-25 years)

  • Most people make decisions based on who pays the most, which gives me a secure career track but the central question to ask is “who am I and what do I want from my career and how can I put myself in a position to do what I do best?”
  • Students typically don’t pay any attention to the question of what to do after university until within months of graduating, many go on to do a post grad qualification just to put off making a decision.

22 – 28 Building Stage: Early Career

Career Stages 3: Age 30 transition – 28-33

We reassess at this point, are we getting what we want? Do I want to do this for another 10 years?  Should I change careers, get a new car, have a baby?

Am I really using my important talents? Are there some talents that I have but am not using yet?  Is this what I want to be doing? If my career keeps going in the same way it is now, where will I be in 10 years?  Is this where I want to be? Why? What do I want to add to my life to make it fuller?

33 – 40 Career Building

Career Stages 4: The midlife transition (38-45 years old)

  • Midlife can be a catastrophe for people who have never thought about their careers. People can get derailed, have affairs, get divorced, drink, drugs, gamble, start own business, change jobs
  • One of the worst outcomes is to do nothing, this may seem sensible but the feelings don’t go away
  • As well as talents, the most important consideration is around values – does what I am doing seem worth doing?

45 – 50 Generativity – being in a relationship in which one gives up much of the control. For example, serving as a consultant or mentor to others.

Career Stages 5: Age 50 transition 50 – 55 years’ old

  • Attending to one’s own spiritual life seems to assume greater and greater prominence.Living a life that is meaningful is the only way to come to terms with the end of life. The alternative to meaning is despair.
  • You need a balance between being and doing, relating and producing.

55- 60 Integration

Career Stages 6: Pre-retirement transition 60-65

  • For too many retirement is a time of aimlessness and emptiness, people die from lack of meaning.
  • The pre-retirement transition should build on what has gone before, it should be an expression of all a person has learnt, believed in and wanted to accomplish. It should also be new, think about what you want to continue to do, what you want to drop and what you want to add.

Career Stages 7: Age 70 transition – 70 – 75 years’ old

The most important career transition at this age is to do with what you can give back to the world. By this stage you have a huge stock of knowledge and experience but what can you do with it?

I’m now focusing on a different model of career stages


Career Stages

The Five-Stage Career Development Model

I came across this model from Bruce Blackstone Hazen and it resonated. I think we should focus less on going through specific stages till we reach our age 70 transition and think more about stages within work. We don’t need to progress through every stage, which are not related to our real age or seniority. The focus is more on the extent that we seek mastery, leadership and/or greater complexity.

Many people only pass through the first two stages, others will develop through all five stages and then return to a previous stage.  No approach is better than another, we make choices based on a wide range of factors, covered later within this guide.

Career Stages 1:Test Training

As you start a new job you need to check out whether you really like the job. You should have done your research but it’s always different when we are actually doing the job. We want to make sure that this is a job or career path where we want to progress.

Career Stages 2:Develop Specialty

At this stage we know this is a job/career that interests us and we want to start to build our professional reputation. We may also start to think of an area of specialism. For some the area of work we are first employed in is not a great fit so we can seek out another area within the same organisation. A graduate entrant or trainee solicitor who circulates around departments can find the area that fits them best.

Many will be happy with their work and seek to develop a reputation for high quality work and to increase their profile both inside and outside their organisation.

Many people stay in this Stage for the rest of their career. For example, a postman who enjoys routine, loves working outdoors with minimal supervision, and enjoys interacting with customers. Other people may decide that it’s time to move on and return to Stage 1.

Career Stages 3: Lead Specialty

This is the stage where people take on positions of leadership. This is different to being a manager.

If you take responsibility for supervising others, you have become a manager. As a manager we do less doing, and many people find they prefer active involvement than managing. If someone has a tendency to micro manage their direct reports they may need coaching to take a different view on their role. Some leaders prefer to return to a specialist role, moving back into this stage with maturity and a clearer understanding of the role of leader.

You could also become a thought leader, focused on developing your professional reputation through research and sharing this knowledge.

A thought leader is usually related to your work, but it could also be about an area of knowledge. You could write a regular blog or a regular vlog on a topic of interest. When I discussed this with Ivo I suggested that he could start by writing about areas of interest and from this develop a specific area to focus on.

Some people stay in this Stage for the rest of their career. Other people may decide that it’s time to return to Stage 1 or 2.

Career Stages 4: Lead More Complexity/Beyond Your Specialty

At this stage people are taking on a more strategic role. They work beyond their department/ area of specialism and focus on wider business issues. Again not everyone is comfortable at this stage, some prefer to stay in their area of professional expertise. For them they are happy to return to stage three.

Career Stages 5: Move Up/Out/Reboot

This is the stage where you can decide to choose a role that allows you to lead more complex work or to decide to start again in a new career path.


What career stage are you out and how will you use this information?

Published On: October 2nd, 2017 / Categories: Career Management /

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