Privilege Blog

Career Risk Changes With The Decade

Over the last two weeks I have been writing about my thoughts on how to address your career. You know what? It’s exhausting. You can’t Polyvore career advice, or Flickr it, or quip it. It’s a huge topic, and in order to do any justice whatsoever, there’s a bare minimum that has to be said. Plus I have to muster my declining testosterone and get all square-jawed. Phew.

But I’m almost done. At least for this go-round. There’s one more really important idea.

Your risk profile changes over time. Getting off the sofa, literally or metaphorically, has a different impact at each decade of your life. Being 20 is not the same as being 30 which is not the same as being 40 which is not the same as being 50.

Risk is cheap when you are in your 20’s. It may not feel that way, my saying so may not lessen the usual panic, but I can promise you from the vantage point of 52 it’s true. Risk is still manageable in your 30’s, although less so. It gets much more expensive in your 40’s, especially if along the way you have decided to have children. At 50, it appears that in fact risk gets cheaper again. Probably because said children are usually on their way to their 20’s.

So. Here’s a little cheat sheet on why we might do work stuff in each decade. Leaves out the blood and sweat and tears and joy but we are all struggling with information overload these days. So.

  • In your 20’s you are doing stuff to learn. It doesn’t matter too much what, as long as you do it with your eyes open.
  • In your 30’s you are doing stuff because this might be it (whatever it is). If it isn’t it, notice that fact.
  • In your 40’s you are doing stuff because you are really good at it (whatever it is). If you aren’t good at it, you could probably do better.
  • In your 50’s you are doing stuff because you have something to offer. Yes. In your 50’s if it’s been all about you up until now, that will change.

And as yet I don’t know why I will be doing stuff in my 60’s. With any luck because I like the way it feels. But probably in order to have enough money to retire on without worry when I hit 70.

And of course, if you didn’t get around to the tasks of your 20’s when you were actually 20, have at it later in life. After all, as they say, 30 is the new 20. I think if you push it 40 can be the new 20. But 50, mmmm, not so much. Still, that gives us a lot of time. Happy Monday everyone.

9 Responses

  1. Well, you might be able to make 50 the new 20, what with getting awards from high schoolers :).

  2. "that gives us a lot of time"……never even think you always have time. That phrase scares the bejeebus out of me.

  3. It seems like this week 50 is the new dead. How many people died this week? However, regardless of my real age … I'm forever Twenty Four At Heart. : )

  4. at almost 4, I feel like I look like the new 60, yet in my heart I still believe I am the old 20, and then I look in the mirror and think I am crazy of course I am the ugly almost 40,
    but then I see someone who is 40 and I think, no way, i look totally look like the old 30 but I dont know what any of this even means

    I love what 24 at heart said Made me laugh out loud!

  5. Thank you. This was very helpful this morning. I'm always pushing myself a lettle too hard, worrying that by 29 I should have it all figured out. It seems like some people around me do…

    But maybe I'm ok.

  6. Meg you are clearly fine. More than fine. According to Twenty Four I am in deep trouble however. Laura is right. That line should be patented. I like to stick my head in the sand and pretend I have another 70 years. The awards from teenagers only fuel my delusions.

  7. That line *should* be patented. I've been chuckling over it all day.

    All of you should reflect on what a early 20's friend told me over deep conversation in a bar this week. She said, "God, I always think, I CANNOT WAIT to be at least 45. Because I figure that by 45 I'll know who I am. And that's really all I want."

  8. I hope that I'll figure out what field I want to go into.

    My father says I should know by now. Mummy just suggests medicine- constantly.

  9. I didn't figure out what field I wanted to go into until, wait, tomorrow? Kidding, sort of. I found a good career slot in my mid-30's. I can't imagine knowing what you want to do as a grownup at 17. Or at least I can't imagine knowing it and not changing your mind at some point. Although I'm sure it's possible. As for knowing who you are, yes, 45 is a good goal. But please please please enjoy the process of finding out, not just the moment of knowing.

Comments are closed.