Calm Down — It’s Just a Career

Where Does Coasting Fit in Your Career Life Cycle?

According to Indeed, the career life cycle categorizes your professional life into five stages:

  • Exploration. Typical age range: 21–25.
  • Establishment. Typical age range: 25–35 years old.
  • Mid-career. Typical age range: 35–45 years old.
  • Late-career. Typical age range: 45–55 years old.
  • Decline. Typical age range: 55–65 years old.

It’s a broad-brushed stroke that uses age to describe trajectories, common goals, and corresponding behaviors. And while having a general framework for your career makes sense, given the future of work, it’s a little naive to imagine starting at age 21 and trending upward for the next thirty-four years.

That’s why I prefer to think of careers in seasons instead of linearly. In some seasons, you lean in, as Sheryl says, embracing your ambition and accelerating your growth; in others, you coast and conserve your energy for important reasons.

By the way, for those of you who reacted to the word coasting, don’t panic. I’m not talking about quiet quitting or slacking off.

If you’re mid-career or senior-level, you’ve earned some concessions for your stellar performance and contributions. You have IP and maturity that gives you an edge. Coasting refers to taking your foot off the gas while leveraging the expertise and network you’ve already built.

It’s important to note that you can still do incredible work during a coasting season (in fact, many women’s B+ effort is more than enough), but your boundaries are non-negotiable.

You might eliminate unessential meetings or travel, hand off projects to give others a chance to grow or shine, and generally be more definitive about your time and contribution. In short, you know your priorities and worth and aren’t killing yourself to prove something.

How long the coasting season lasts depends on you, but for most high achievers, coasting doesn’t feel as good as leaning in, but it’s an effective reprieve when you come to a crossroads.



Kristi Andrus life & biz coach travel-obsessed mom

Life coach for women who want it all! Writes about family, parenting, travel, business, and personal growth.