Career Advice For Women At Each Decade

Oct 06, 2017 6 Min Read
Women Giving Career Advice
A Woman's Career Matter

As an executive coach, I work with a lot of amazing people, both women and men.

Over time, I have seen some themes that women tend to follow throughout their careers that can either hold them back or help them launch into meaningful work at a high level.

There seems to be a life cycle for women which corresponds to their careers. If an individual plays her cards right in each area, she is home free on the career front.

Yet, if she hesitates or lets fear and insecurities hold her back, then she will have to play a game of catch up later on. To help women in their careers, I would like to share my advice with you for each decade:


Infographic by Leaderonomics: Women At Each Decade

Women in their 20s

First of all, have fun. This is the time in your life when your biggest stress factors are likely school loans and perhaps dealing with doing the grunt work in a role, starting out in the work world. 

Apply to all kinds of roles. Go for the jobs that interest you as a priority and ensure you can learn from that manager. Ask lots of questions in the interview to determine the fit both ways.

Choosing the right role and manager is even more important than the company you work for.

You can work for a great company, but if you hate what you do and who you work closely with, it won’t be a good experience.

Don’t be afraid to move around. I know you need to have a bit of stability on your resume, but this is the time in your life when you will be more open to making career changes.

The older we become, the harder it is to change. We become more set in our ways. So be daring in your career here.

I held five jobs at five different companies between the ages of 24 and 29. 

I did stay in one of those roles a few years, but the rest were quick stints and then something else came along more senior that paid better, so I jumped for it. 

I believe that making these jumps was critical for me to land a senior executive role by the time I was in my late twenties. I was fearless in making these moves, and it paid off for me.

Women in their 30s

This decade is often the period of greatest change for most women. If you haven’t gotten married or connected with a serious partner yet, chances are you will in this decade. And, you may also have your children here.

This tends to be the decade where most people invest in buying a serious life home that leads to a substantial mortgage so there are some pressures here around earning money and also, wanting to spend time enjoying life.

You have done the grunt work in your twenties, and you may be feeling the need to slow down a bit more.

My advice to you is to listen to that voice inside of you that seeks more balance. It doesn’t mean you have to throw your career out the window. But you do have a lot more of the adult stresses now and more priorities.

So, it is time to put boundaries in place to help you gain more balance. You likely could do it all in your twenties. Now, your energy is starting to lessen as priorities pile up.

Make exercise each day a priority to help keep your energy up and commit some time to yourself each day.

In your career, keep moving ahead with fulfilling work. By this age, you have earned some goodwill and credibility that means you can ask for more flexibility in your role.

As long as you are performing your job at a high level, most companies won’t care if you come in late to see your child’s Christmas concert or go home early to help them get ready for Halloween.

Don’t be afraid to do what you want to do. Draw those boundaries. Then, know when it is time to focus on personal matters, and forget about work or else you will become resentful of your job, and likely want to throw in the towel. 

Remember, as a senior executive, you have more flexibility and control over your schedule than someone more junior.

Sure, you are busy, but make sure you are using this flexibility to make your career and life work best.

Don’t stunt your career growth here because you are afraid you can’t handle the next level. 

Read More: What Business Leaders Can Learn From Parenting

Women in their 40s

Take a breath. You have made it through the craziness of your thirties and all of the changes that have come with that. You are more established in your career.

It is likely that your kids are out of diapers and you are getting more sleep at night. You may be closer to actually owning your home, and you probably even have a nice car or two in your driveway.

This is the time to really get in touch with yourself again. Who are you after all of your life’s changes? What is important to you? How do you want to live your life?

Around the late thirties and forties is the age I find that most people come to me interested in building Mindfulness into our coaching.

First as a way to reduce stress, and then as a tool to help them to rediscover themselves now as a mature adult.

Do this self discovery. Take a look at my Coaching Careers to help you figure out your next steps. And then put your hand up for the roles that are going to challenge you. Don’t get tempted to settle.

You still have a long way until retirement so make sure you are leading an area at this point in your career that you love.

Women in their 50s

Take the lead. If you have been working progressively your whole life, you will be ready to take the lead within your organisation. If you are already here, congratulations!

If not, you need to tell the key influencers what you want and continue to build those relationships. At this point, you have likely gained a great deal of experience and education to support you.

Now it is about promoting yourself (don’t be humble, you’ve got great things to share) and get out there and build relationships. Put yourself out there full force and go for it.

Don’t forget to take care of your health and wellness along the way and manage your stress through mindfulness and exercise.

Related: Physical and Mental Wellbeing: Two Halves, Same Coin

Women in their 60s

This is a decade of career reflection and celebration. Look back and acknowledge your amazing career. Take the time to share your journey with others.

Put up your hand to mentor others. Think of the legacy you want to leave.

If you haven’t fully accomplished everything you wanted to do, identify an area or two of key focus and put your energy into leaving your organisation a much better place than when you first found it.

Take the time to have conversations with people and ask questions. As much as you have information to share, others also want to share with you. Learning really is a life long process.

Carey-Ann Oestreicher (pronounced O-striker) is chief engagement officer for Potential Unlimited, where she works with individuals and companies to help them reach their full potential. She was honoured with a Top 40 Under Forty Business Achievement Award and was also nominated as one of Canada’s Most Powerful100 Women™. To get in touch with her, e-mail us at

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