5 Things Every Woman in Her 40s and 50s Should Do For Her Career

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Kayla Heisler1.16k
June 23, 2024 at 7:37AM UTC

While the career moves made during your 20s and 30s are often carried out in the service of establishing a name for yourself, moves made during your 40s and 50s also have significant impacts on your career. Here are the important actions to take during these periods, according to 5 professional women who have been there.

1. Chase big wins.

After attaining a certain level of career success, it can be tempting to coast. But Dr. Jenny Grant Rankin, an author and lecturer, encourages women in their 40s and 50s to keep dreaming big.

“We women can get so bogged down in our current work responsibilities that we don't carve out time to pursue distinctions outside our workplaces, yet big wins skyrocket careers,” says Dr. Grant Rankin. “If you're a woman in her 40s or 50s, you have a lot of wisdom and experience that can land you a big honor.  Make your achievements prominent on social media, your CV/resume, in job interviews, etc. It will likely open many doors for you.”

2. Embrace change.

For those uncertain about undergoing major transitions later in life, career coach Helen Garland offers support.

It’s never too late to make a change! With our working life extending into our 70’s and the rise of portfolio careers and side hustles, the opportunities for you to make a change are there and so much more accessible than they have ever been,” says Garland.

“The key to career change is to find a balance of 3 key areas: first, the role or area of interest should light you up. What I mean by this is it gives you energy and makes you smile. Secondly, it does need to pay the bills at some stage. That’s the reality check. Finally, you need to learn the skills required for this role.”

3. Prioritize happiness.

As you move your career journey, gather data about what gives you the most energy. Once you decide what your most important values are, let them guide your decisions, according to Zia Holte, a freelance editor and writer.

“I'm 47, and I've just made a significant pivot in my working life. I decided to leave a Chief Marketing Officer position after 2 years in a growing start-up. Simply put, nothing is worth being unhappy for,” says Holte. “I quit to take back ownership of my life and vitality before it's too late. I'm moving back into full-time, freelance editing and writing. I will have full control of my time, schedule, and deadlines.

I believe strongly that there is no waiting for happiness - it's now or never. Choose what fills you up, not depletes you. I'd rather be poor, or at best live a less affluent lifestyle than go on as I was.” 

4. Find the right people.

Evaluating who she ran her business with made a major difference for Alicia Vargo, Speakeasy Wine & Spirits President and CEO.

“I am 55 years old, and my most important career move was bringing on the right partner. After doing so, we doubled our business in a year,” says Vargo. “We brand develop for family-owned wine and spirits businesses from all over the world. Life balance is important at this stage, as is choosing what to stress about and what not to. Being selective of the right partner can take your business to the next level.”

5. Build and maintain connections.

The hustle of getting out and meeting new people is often emphasized for those starting out in their careers, but Mavens & Moguls founder and CEO Paige Arnof-Fenn has learned that this practice continues to be important long after settling into your calling.

“I started a global branding and marketing firm 18 years ago in my 30s. In my 40s and 50s, I have made important decisions about the kinds of clients I work with and the types of organizations I want to be involved with," says Arnof-Fern. "You get to a point in your life and career where you realize you are associated with the company you keep and the legacy you leave behind.

Networking may sound old fashioned, but it still works. Most of my business comes from networking. You should network in person during the business day and online after hours. People do business with people they know, like and trust, so you have to get out there to build your reputation online and off.  I also recommend finding mentors. I have had great mentors and champions throughout my career. In my corporate life I had bosses, senior women or alums from my alma maters who took me under their wings to help me advance and show me the ropes.”

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Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.

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