Here at Red Diamond, May has passed in a blur of candles, cake and more than a couple of renditions of Happy Birthday To You. We’ve celebrated not one but two landmark birthdays recently: our Director Emma turned 40, with Simon following suit a couple of weeks later. But after the celebrations died down, we found ourselves in a reflective mood – namely, about what big birthdays mean for our careers.
In our 60+ years of combined headhunting experience, we’ve come across countless executives at critical stages in their career. Generally, we see female progression and earning potential take flight between the ages of 40 and 50, whereas for men things start slightly younger – around the ages of 35 and 45.
At this point, many senior figures have the required industry experience as well as the profile and confidence to really make strides within their chosen field. If children were part of the plan, you’ve probably taken the plunge and become accustomed to the new rhythms and demands of family life by the time you reach your late 30s or early 40s. Chances are, you’re entering a new phase of life and are ready for a new professional challenge.
Of course, a shift in mindset isn’t always centred around age. Other life events – a significant work anniversary, a new financial year – can have a similar impact. What serves as the catalyst is almost irrelevant; what really matters is that we’re prompted to think about our professional direction and the speed of our trajectory. And in our line of work, we’re lucky in that we interact with so many candidates at this stage in their career; individuals who are brimming with ideas and confidence and who’ve honed their advancement strategy to perfection.
But as well as a chance to take stock of achievements and plan our next successful move, big birthdays and other life events can also have a more negative side. If our personal and professional expectations don’t measure up to our reality, it can cause disappointment, fear and pressure – particularly for a generation who can see and compare achievements to others’ at the click of a button or the swipe of a screen.
So what happens if at the age or stage where you’re ‘supposed’ to be making serious headway, you feel like you’ve failed, you’re trapped, you’re in the wrong job or even the wrong industry?
First things first, it’s never too late to make a change. “But I can’t afford to retrain!” you might cry, but it isn’t necessarily a case of going back to square one. If you’ve built a career as a Finance Director within one organisation, for example, and your passion is starting to flag, a similar role within another company or related industry could be the boost you need. Or a sideways step – into, for example, Operations – could provide the change you seek if you have some overlapping experience, a plan and some good advice.
And the other crucial thing to be aware of is that if you’re unhappy at work – and we’re talking deeply, fundamentally unhappy here rather than having an ‘off day’ – it’s going to show. However you try to hide it – and it’s astonishing how many people bury their heads in the sand in the hope that it will disappear – it won’t go away. It’s a lose-lose situation, both for your employer and for you. Don’t let fear keep you where you are. You owe it to yourself – and to the company you work for – to get some advice, get some support in place and make some changes.
Stuck in a job rut or looking to shake up your senior team?
Get in touch with the executive search experts by calling us on 0845 643 2615 or via our contact page to arrange a coffee – and maybe even a slice of birthday cake.