Employment Considerations for Early and Mid-Career Stages

As we begin to think about career paths, industries and employers, we usually assess available opportunities on a number of factors, including:

  • The Short and Long-Term Earning Potential
  • The Location of the Job and Whether a Job Requires Relocation or Long Commutes
  • Opportunities for Skill Development
  • Career Networking Opportunities
  • Psychologically Motivating Work, including the autonomy, meaningfulness and challenges the job provides
  • Job Security and Benefits
  • Schedule Flexibility
  • Time Demands

You should consider this full range of factors - as opposed to fixating on only one or two- when you make decisions on which careers to pursue, and which industries and employers you target.

For example, some careers that offer good starting pay and security may not provide opportunities for career advancement and future earning potential (e.g., education, nursing). Others may have lower starting salaries, but provide the networking and skill development needed to move up the ladder (e.g., public relations). Some jobs pay well, but have poor job security and benefits (e.g, sales, consulting). You may need to consider moving to pursue the best opportunities in certain industries (e.g., Charlotte, NC for banking).

The relative importance of these considerations will differ depending on your priorities your financial situation and family responsibilities.  These factors tend to vary depending on your age and your stage of career development.

Early Career Considerations-

Those just starting out in a career, and who may be younger (e.g., in their twenties) and have fewer financial responsibilities (i.e., not married with children) should be willing to trade off some security, worklife considerations and short-term financial gains for longer-term considerations.

If you are starting out, you may want to prioritize employers that can provide you with job training and career development opportunities as well as positions that can open doors for you in terms of professional networking. Valuing these longer-term career and financial considerations may mean that you relocate for the opportunity, sacrifice job security and be willing to work extremely long hours.

For example, a young accountant just out of college may want to move from her hometown to a large city, pursue employment at one of the Big 4 accounting forms, and pay her dues by working extremely long hours involving frequent travel to clients. In five years, this accountant will have built up her professional skills, made many professional connections and be well-positioned for either lucrative career advancement (partnership track or management) OR for making a different set of decisions as other life priorities may begin to be more important.

Mid-Career Considerations-

Most people in mid-career are struggling to balance time devoted to their careers with time devoted to raising a family (and others also need to care for their elderly parents).  Financial commitments are high, but tend to be long-term and predictable- for example, making the monthly mortgage payment, saving for retirement/kids’ college. At this stage, job stability, quality health insurance, and time with family may become more important than maximizing work hours and earnings.

Finding employers who are willing to be flexible in terms of where and when work gets done becomes a very important consideration for working parents with young children. Relocation and business travel becomes more difficult.

For example, at this stage, the mid-career accountant may decide to leave the big accounting firm and find a job as an internal accountant at a smaller company closer to home. The financial sacrifice (albeit with good salary and benefits) is probably well worth the reduced stress and commuting costs and the increased time with family. Her professional network and fully developed skills should be maintained for if/when she wishes to accelerate her career again.

In summary, the relative importance of different aspects of jobs and careers will vary over time and across your career. Be sure to consider a wide range of factors as you make decisions about which careers and employers to pursue

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