Q & A: Where to Take Your Career in Your 20s, 30s & 40s

If you’ve ever taken a look at your career and tried to measure the distance between where you are and where you “should” be, you’re not alone. Here are a few questions we’ve received from visitors that address this subject.

Question #1:

“When I graduated college at the age of 22, I found a job as an assistant to a marketing firm executive. I fetched coffee, made PowerPoint presentations, and arranged travel plans, and I assumed that I would eventually be promoted to an associate position. That was five years ago, and I’m still here. Am I doing something wrong?”

Answer:

It seems like your boss is happy with the job you’re doing as an assistant, so if you wait for her to step in and change things, you’ll be waiting forever. Arrange a meeting with her (don’t just blindside her in a hallway), and list all the reasons why you’re perfect for an associate position. Ask her if she can promote you herself or at least support your efforts during this transition. If she says no, it’s time to start polishing your resume and looking for work with another company.

Question #2:

“After a layoff, and then a long job search (I’m embarrassed to admit how long), I was offered a position as a mid-level employee at a tech firm. I’m doing standard coding work for $30,000 a year. At first I was just happy to be working again. But now I’m looking around and realizing two things: everyone at my level is about 25, and I’m 36. Also, my former classmates and siblings are all making twice as much money as I am. I know that my job loss set me back, but what do I do now? How can I get my career back to wherever it’s supposed to be?”

Answer:

Gratitude is an essential part of a healthy and functional life, so it’s good to be grateful for an offer after a long search like yours. But if you’ve been in your current position for a few months and you realize it isn’t enough for you, get moving. Keep this job, but discreetly start searching for another one. Find a position that’s a better fit for your experience and skill level. And in the meantime, try to rein in the urge to compare yourself with others. That’s a game you can’t win, so stay focused on your own needs and challenges. Keep your eyes on the road.

Question #3:

“I’m 47. When I graduated from college, I mapped out my life and my career. And on my map, I had reached a FAR more advanced level by this age. I haven’t done anything wrong, as far as I can tell. I’ve executed every task that’s ever been asked of me. I’ve stayed late and come in early, I’ve trained new employees, I’ve shown leadership, and I’ve been promoted three times. But I should be at the executive level at this point and I’m not. What happened?”

Answer:

Real life happened. At this point, it’s time to do two things: first, stop staring at the road behind you. And two: focus on the present and the future. If you aren’t where you want to be, stop brooding and take action. Determine exactly where you’d like to see yourself. Then start combing through your professional network, drafting your resume, and getting busy. Establish reasonable expectations, then don’t stop moving until your life looks the way you want it to.

Time for a New Resume

Where “should” your career be at this stage in your life? Nobody can answer this question except you. And once you’ve made your decision, a strong resume can help you take the next step. Visit MyPerfectResume for easy-to-use templates and tools that can help you get moving.