Once you've hit the big 3-0, you’ve likely figured out some of the “bigger” questions about your career, like what kind of industry you have the skills for and what type of job best suits your personality. But when you’re no longer a fresh-faced college graduate and have moved beyond entry-level positions, a whole new set of career questions comes into play. Being able to answer them may be critical to your future job success and personal happiness.
Here are five career questions you should be able to answer by your thirtieth birthday:
1. How much money do my peers make?
If you’re like most twenty-somethings, you probably accepted your first job offer (and maybe your second and third) without being fully aware of your market value. By now, you should have a fairly solid idea of what the market rate is for your position. You can check out crowd-sourced websites that feature salary information for specific companies as well as industry-wide ranges. It’s important to know where you stand in relation to your peers. Not just in case you look for a job at another company or if you want to ask your boss for more money, but especially if you think you’re being underpaid.
2. What job title do I want 10 years from now?
A future-oriented mindset is essential because it will help you figure out what you have to do today to reach your career goals. If you know where you want to be five or 10 years from now, then start making a game plan for what you need to accomplish in order to get there. That might mean studying people in roles you’d like to have someday, researching potential career trajectories or taking online classes to learn new skills.
3. Who is in my professional network?
By now, you should have at least the start of a robust and reliable professional network that you can tap into for all sorts of things, especially if you’re on the hunt for a new job. Build up your network by asking people in your industry out to coffee or lunch and stay in touch afterwards — the key to social networking is building relationships for the long game. Connect with them on LinkedIn and check in from time to time — you never know when someone from your network can give you the career boost you need.
4. What’s my company’s parental leave policy?
While millennials in the workforce are delaying parenthood later than ever, age 30 is when many begin thinking about starting a family. Even if popping a baby out isn’t in your three-year plan, it’s still helpful to know what your company’s parental leave policy is should you find yourself pregnant or wanting to be pregnant in the near future. Your employee handbook should include this information already, but if not make an appointment with HR to discuss. And if you’re in between jobs or looking to make a move, don’t accept a job offer without knowing the company’s parental leave policy.
5. What’s the right work/life balance for me?
When you’re 22 and fresh out of college, it’s natural to want to prove yourself and work long hours to impress your boss. But as you get older, and especially when kids come into play, maintaining a healthy work-life balance gets even more important. If you’re still coming in on weekends and answering e-mails at 10 p.m. at night, you might want to ask yourself if your current way of life is working for you and if you want to make any changes. If you do, finding a company that offers more flexibility and prioritizes work-life balance could be a better fit.
Dr. Brittany L. Stalsburg is a researcher, strategist, and professional writer. She is the owner of BLS Research & Consulting, a full-service opinion research and communications consulting firm based in East Haven, Connecticut. Brittany holds a Ph.D. in political science from Rutgers University.