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5 Career Stages & How to Slay Each One Like a Boss

Have you ever heard of the five career stages?

No? You are not alone.

As professionals, we take an invisible journey from the moment we get our first job until the day we retire.

Each phase preparing us for the next.

Believe it or not, all those tables you waited on, the rude customers you helped, and the floors you cleaned taught you important lessons, however painful.

What you lack, as many of us do, is the right lens by which you see your experiences, which makes those moments worth having.

Knowing the career stages allows you this new perspective that will sift the nuggets of wisdom from where you are to propel you to where you want to be.

And because success takes more than a new outlook, we’ll also give you tips to rock each stage like a boss.

Let’s GO!


The exploration stage is exactly what it sounds like.

You are trying to figure out what you want to do with your life.

Family, friends, and culture are factors that weigh heavily on individuals during this phase. And while some sources will say this occurs in your early twenties, we could argue many adults will continue searching past those early years.

Pro Tip: Although internships are the go-to for college students to explore career options, volunteering is also a fantastic way to delve into different fields and gain valuable work experience. The best part, even adults looking into other work avenues can volunteer.



This step includes searching for and landing your first gig and can be thought of by its parts: position obtained and career development.

Entry-Level/Junior Positions

Most of us will enter the workforce in an entry-level or junior position with fewer responsibilities.

This is also when you find how you fit into the organization and how you jive with your co-workers.

Career Development

On the career development side, what you learned in school and the practicalities of the real world come into play. You may experience anxiety or uncertainty if your expectations are unmet, and you will undoubtedly make mistakes.

But take heart with the mistakes will also come small wins.

Pro Tip: Find a mentor you can ask for advice as you navigate your new job. And when it comes to review time, use the feedback to focus your skill development strategy.



Mid-career is make or break time.

By this time, you have outgrown your newbie stage and have been working at your position for some time, either with success or mediocrity.

Those who have found their workplace niche will be rewarded with greater responsibilities while the others face a dilemma: stay or go.

Staying might mean changes within the job itself: lesser responsibilities or more training. Going means redefining the definition of success and pursuing other avenues of work.

Either way, change is coming.

Pro Tip: Don’t wait until you’ve plateaued to check your work satisfaction level; make it a practice. Also, talk to your supervisor regarding other internal positions you may apply for or more challenging roles you may take within your job.



Late career is the sweet spot.

You no longer have anything to prove, having left your mark on your company.

There are little to no changes for you on the horizon, including the ability to climb the corporate ladder any further.

During this step, many give back by training younger employees- others by mentoring their successors in preparation for retirement.

Pro Tip: It’s never too early to plan for retirement by finding interests outside of work or talking to your financial advisor. When work life slows down, it’s past time for your new life to begin. Get busy living! Write a book, speak at a conference, take up skydiving and gardening. Do one or do it all.



This stage means retirement for professionals that have put in a decade or two at a job or within an industry.

Time to spend with the family and enjoy the hobbies they once loved.

For others, on the other hand, it could mean a new part-time job, freelancing, or starting their own business. This is especially true for those who retire young or are young at heart.

Pro Tip: Stay engaged during your retirement by volunteering and building a community to do live with. Keep your mind sharp and share your knowledge by teaching at community centers or lend your expertise to a mentoring program. Both of these will make for a happier, more fulfilling retirement.


Changes in the Stages

While the stages above may have been the norm twenty years ago, the entrance of millennials into the workforce will seriously impact them.

Millennials are notorious job hoppers, on average spending only 2.75 years in one job, which means they haven’t finished the establishment phase before they move on to the next job.

Either because they were unwilling to compromise or because the perception of their career journey was skewed from the beginning- keeping them in a constant loop between steps one and two.

Which is one of the reasons for this post.


The Stages of You

In today’s world, comparing our journey to others is very easy.

We are so distracted running a race that’s not ours that we miss the lessons our experiences can teach us- only to have to revisit them again.

And again.

The career stages are there to set appropriate expectations for the stages of you- where you are on your path at any given time.

Having the proper perspective on the progress of your career means that matching the pace of others loses its potency to get you off track- giving you the freedom to remain steadfast on the task at hand to develop your business acumen and reputation.

Take all the knowledge we’ve shared with you to slay each stage like it were your last and claim the future that is rightfully yours.

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