This post will be helpful for people want to climb up their corporate ladder and become professional managers. If you are an entrepreneur, you may also get some useful ideas. But the path will be slightly different. The advice is given by the trainer while I was in his training course on Business Analyse Essentials. I didn't research on the exact figures mentioned below, as I think the idea or the advice is more important here, even though the numbers below may not be 100% correct.
Contrary to our believe that people join workforce after graduation in their late 20s and work from companies to companies until retirement at their late 60s, the trainer warned us that we should plan our career only till age 45.
According to national workforce statistics, mid-tier management will hit their career plateau in their late 40s. They have been working on the same project or assignment for over 20years. There is nothing challenge for them in day to day work. However, due to lack of traits, such as strategic planning and thinking, necessary network, for higher management positions, they are unlikely to get promoted to the next level as well. As their pay raise and motivation drop, they become less valuable and less favorable to the company compare to the younger generation who are much cheaper and very energetic.
Then 3 likely path will happen 3 years after they hit their plateau. First, they get really fed up with the job they are holding. Depends on their skills and outside temptations, they will quit their well paid but boring job to drive taxi, selling properties, or open up a small coffee shop. This kind of explains my observations on many taxi drivers have strong technical knowledge. They are the retiree of previous senior engineering from different industries. (Of course, this post is nothing about happiness which can be perceived from different angles. I am discussing and sharing about the career decisions.) Second, they kind of make peace with themselves, or comprise with the reality that they have to pay off their loans and children’s education fees. They stayed in their current positions, doing nothing but 9-to-5. They tolerate the struggle of waking up every weekday morning and the stress from younger professionals making their way up. They didn’t expect promotion and receive salary increment that hopefully justifiable to the inflation. Third, they because too expensive but not as valuable to the company. When economic gets bad, they are retrenched. Bad news always comes at the wrong time.
Age 45 is the age they separate corporate professionals apart. A few well prepared are moving up and given more prominent roles to lead and decide the destination of the rest that are unprepared. Indeed, according to an article from Forbes. Late 40s to early 50s are the average age of CEO for top American corporates across industries.
Hence, the trainer urged us, especially young fresh graduate to start thinking and planning, not for what you want to do after retirement at age 65, but where you want to go at the age 45. According to him, that is the point where your career ends or flys. There are 2 alarms bells 5 years ahead of each before you reach 45 sounds at age 35 and age 40. As he explained, the first 5 years after graduation, most people are just exploring the workforce, pay off the study loans, and setup their own family. Young professionals try to build up their skills sets and create basic professional networks. They do not have a clear understanding about either the industry or their interest. Hence, before 30, they are simply trying to adjust their student mindset to a professional one.
A few years in the job and with some savings and a stable relationships, people start to pay more attention to their career. Higher position, better pay, more exposure. People start to value their progress based on what they get and feel satisfied whenever they make progress based on those materialized rewards.
This is the trap that most people fall in. People are brought up to follow different kind of curriculums and targets set by others until age 25. After that, people are put into their own boat and become the captain themselves. They are so used to the direction pointed ahead of them for the first 25 years, they forget to find their own campus when they start their own sail. They benchmark themselves against their pairs or their pays last year. Everything looks up and right on their chart. As the sea is so widely open, captains without a campus enjoy their daily progress but lose their directions and they start to circle around from the starting point. 20 years later, when they hit the plateau, they realize the course they have sailed but lose the energy and patient to stay focus again. So once again, they boarded on others boat and become one of the sailers.
The alarms at age 35 and 40 are a good indicators that the captain need to review their courses. Unfortunately, many captains didn’t hear the alarms until the final bell. The trainer thinks, though it is a bit late to wait until any one of the alarm triggered, captains still have chance to master their own boat if they can take immediate actions. What they need is a campus and constant adjustment of their course towards their target. The ship cannot be turned overnight. Years of effort is required to steering it to the correct course.
He suggests that we set our destination (bold and big) at age 45 and put milestones every 5 years in order to reach where we desired. We then try our best to shorten the time from one milestones to the next.
So final take aways
- Your career destination is at age 45
- Set milestones along the way and try the best to shorten path from one to another.
- Don’t fall into the trap of daily up and right charting
As entrepreneur, I don't really want to be the head of department or regional officer of other people's company. But the general principle applies to me as well.
In the sea that I will sail, not only do I need to adjust the course according to our campus, but prepare to fight with the storms.