This article first appeared on NTUC LearningHub, an NTUC social enterprise.
Just as a larva must grow into a pupa on its way to becoming a butterfly, our professional journey is a constant process of metamorphosis. And while it’d be nice to just skip to our dream job at the end, we must experience, learn and grow from the lessons each stage imparts.
Let’s break down each one to discover the specific challenges and opportunities that they bring. By the end of it, you’ll be empowered to make better decisions and live a life without regret.
1. THE EGG: Starting out in your 20s
Fresh-faced, raw and idealistic, your 20s is a time to explore and discover the career you’d actually like to pursue. Think of it as shopping around to find the right fit. Volunteering, internships and “trial jobs” in particular offer invaluable opportunities to build your resume even if you don’t have actual work experience. Throughout these experiences, you’ll learn how to conduct yourself in a professional environment while picking up general office skills (e.g. Microsoft Excel) and soft skills (e.g. delivering presentations), which can be applied to other work contexts in future.
2. THE LARVA: Growing in your 30s
Just as a larva absorbs nutrients to develop its wings for flying, your 30s are for learning on the job, finding mentors and supercharging your career development. Saying goodbye to the days of job hopping, you establish a clear direction of where you want to go. Focusing your efforts, you start building momentum and creating strategies to grow in your field of choice. Taking a long-term view, you seek out certifications, credentials and advanced degrees to help develop your skills and scale the career ladder. These are often seen as the most productive and creative years so use them wisely!
3. THE PUPA: Serving in your 40s and 50s
Akin to a caterpillar securing its own habitat with threads of silk, we secure our careers in our 40s and 50s by consolidating our wealth of experience. While there may be a tendency to curl up in your cocoon and stagnate, remember that learning is a lifelong experience. There is always the risk of being replaced by the next generation and foreign labour so continue to update your skills and knowledge. Studying more advanced topics such as leadership and management will be particularly fruitful as you shift from the role of practitioner to teacher. Some professionals may also use this time to re-evaluate their aspirations. This may seem daunting; however, intelligent planning, upskilling and seeking out the right support will help you to make a successful career change in your 40s.
4. THE BUTTERFLY: Maturing in your 60s and beyond
After a lifetime of work and professional growth, it’s time to reflect on all that you’ve achieved and begin winding back your responsibilities. Historically, this meant retirement; however, many Baby Boomers have challenged this by continuing to work while exploring or revisiting their interests. Whichever way, take this extra time and space as an opportunity. Cultivate yourself, spice up your life with hobbies (e.g. photography, painting, carpentry) and use your experiences to mentor the younger generation. You deserve it!
As you can see, the four stages of career metamorphosis is a lifelong learning experience. No matter who you are or which stage you are at, NTUC LearningHub is here to support your career growth.