Posted on: October 30, 2023 Posted by: Comments: 0

Have you had specific timelines for goals, whether personal or professional — such as be married by X age, get a new job after X years, or make partner or join the C-suite by a certain age?

The other day, I heard an HR executive say that people really need to be executive level by the time they’re 50, or else they risk age discrimination and the perception that they’re not really doing a good enough job to be promoted. I thought this was fascinating, both because it struck me as true and extra hard on women who might be taking their 40s to lean out as working mothers or elder caregivers — but it got me thinking more about goal timelines in general.

Have you had timelines and goalposts in your mind for work, family, and other aspects of your life? How did you set the timelines and goalposts — were you inspired by family members, friends, colleagues, or some other resource?

(Obviously, the saying is true — God laughs when you make a plan — so I’m not too interested in whether you’ve MET the timelines. I’m just more curious if you did have certain timelines, what they were, and how you set them…)

Here are some examples of ways this could look:

Timelines for Career Goals

Success milestones: Do you have a specific age by which you’d like to be at a certain level of success (such as executive level by the time you’re 50)?

Salary: Have you ever told yourself you wanted to earn $X by a certain age?

Retirement: Do you have a timeline in mind for when you’ll retire?

When to job hunt: Have you had timelines in mind for when you should look for new jobs? (I’m thinking of many people I worked with in BigLaw who had a clear timeline for when they would get out, either from the perspective of “I did my time and am now going to a lifestyle firm” or “I’m staying here until I pay off my student loans.”)

Timelines for Personal Goals and Dreams

Marriage: Have you had a specific timeline for when you’d like to be married?

Babies: Have you had a specific age by which you’d like to start having children (or stop having them)?

Money: Have you had specific benchmarks in mind for your savings goals, such as getting out of debt, having a certain net worth — or other financial goals?

Fitness or health: Have you had a milestone birthday in mind for doing something specific, like lose the weight or run the marathon?

My Own $.02 on Women’s Timelines…

I was fascinated by the HR executive’s point about “executive level by age 50” because I had never heard it described like that, and in general I’ve never thought about these types of things in that way.

To be honest, though, I kind of struggled with a sense of direction once I got out of school. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a career plan, because I had 15 different ones that I was actively networking and building paths towards… Looking back, it may have been that my plans were overly ambitious and (dunh dunh dunh) didn’t have a specific timeline.

Professionally, I remember working with people who had specific goals for advancement, particularly when I was in magazine journalism — they were laser focused on the title of Editor and job-hopped aggressively until they moved past the lower rungs.

I also definitely worked with people who had more lifestyle-focused goals, such as leaving the city by age 30.

In BigLaw, particularly, I definitely worked with people who buckled down to put in their time and get the experience until they could move to a smaller, more lifestyle-friendly firm or in-house experience. They didn’t measure the timeline by age, though, but rather “I have to be out of here by Year 4” or so. (This was actually really smart of them!)

On the personal side of things, I definitely had a timeline in mind for marriage and children… I wanted to be married by age 26 and have my first child by the time I was 29 because I’d read that breast cancer chances can be greatly reduced if you breast feed before age 30. Ah, plans! (I got married at 31 and became a mom at age 34.) I remember getting a bit stressed as those birthdays flew by… When I turned 30 and was totally single, it almost freed me in a way, because the timelines had been completely blown out of the water.

Readers, what are your thoughts — have you had timelines or benchmarks in mind for professional or personal goals? How did you create those timelines? If you’ve failed to meet certain benchmarks, have you adjusted the timelines or jettisoned them completely?

Stock photo via Pexels / Gustavo Fring.

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