There are many “golden years” or milestones in your life and most are measured by your age. From the time you hit your teens, people talk about having reached a turning point. On a personal level though the high point is probably when you first embark on your career path – or when you reach its end – retirement. While the age for retirement is fixed, people often ask questions like what is the best age to start a career? Or When should I start my career? Or even Can I start a new career at 30 or 40? So let us try and answer some of these questions.
What is the best age to start a career?
Typically, you complete your graduation around age 20. After that you have 2 choices – continue studying for post-graduation or begin working. That’s the norm. But then working after you have completed grade 12 or even grade 10 is not unheard of – nor is beginning work after post-graduation – around age 25 or older. So if you are asking whether you can start your career at age 30, the answer is an unequivocal YES.
Looking at the flip side – the employers’ perspective – thousands – indeed lakhs and millions – of students graduate each year. Any employer will naturally select a 20 something year old over someone who is 30+ with little or no experience. So the dilemma lies not in the age but in the employment landscape – the demand and supply in the employment sector. Besides, a youngster of 20 or so still lacks clarity – if only because he has his head submerged in books for years.
Taking this thought a step further there are those employers who prefer to hire experienced candidates – which means they will not hire fresh graduates, thus pushing the employability age to over 25 or even 30 and hiring people who have completed at least an internship if not post-graduation.
Here’s yet another perspective. On the family front, as you graduate your parents and extend family begin preparations for marriage. This means that even as you are taking your first baby steps career wise, you are also stepping into a whole new world on the personal front – and riding those two boats together can be tricky.
But back to our original question – what is the best age to start your career? We haven’t yet found an answer to that – or have we? Should you wait until you ae 30 or should you jump right in at 21 – or even 18 – soon after you graduate? Let’s look at it a bit more in detail.
Advantages of starting your career at 30
As we said, soon after you graduate your family will begin talking about marriage and family. It has been scientifically proven that the 20s is the best age for childbirth – because you are at your healthiest at that time. Besides, you get plenty of time to experience the joy of raising your kids before you begin worrying about their future. Trouble is people jump into jobs and start families at almost the same age which leads to stress and early burnout. Those who decide to wait on the marriage path, face problems later when they do decide to take that step.
Looking at it from this perspective it makes perfect sense to put your career on hold until you are 30, well qualified, and done with the “family business”. That way you also get a chance to consider your options and craft your career strategy.
Now a look at the flip side.
Disadvantages of starting your career at 30
If being able to raise a family is the biggest benefit of starting your career at 30, it’s also the biggest disadvantage because you’ll lose the most productive years of your life and have to settle for less on the work front – at least that’s what most people believe. Here’s a typical scenario –
You choose to study further and find yourself at a disadvantage experience wise because your peers began working earlier. So you go touting your MBA or PG degree only to find the best positions have already been taken. And by then you probably have a boatload of responsibility because your parents are retired and you’ve started a family.
Yes, youth is strength we get it. But think of a landscape where everyone began work at 30. Would you still want to spend your vicenarian years (twenties) working?
Now think of those families who are under financial duress and can’t wait for the next generation to begin contributing to the family income. What would you say to the youth from these families? And coming from an impoverished – and likely illiterate – family these young people would be at a definite disadvantage as compared to the MBA and Ph.D. grads they would end up competing with.
Coming from another perspective – the twenties are the most vulnerable years of life considering the many opportunities to be led astray and fall prey to foul play. If you decide to put off working until you are 30 what would you do for those 10 or so years? Even if you do decide to pursue your higher studies or start a family you’d still end up with significant time to kill.
And last but no way the least – whether you are getting married and raising your family or studying further – or both – how would you fund your activities? Would you expect your parents to finance you and your family? Would it be possible for them to not only support you and your family but also educate your children in the early years of their life?
So the long and short of it is that there are distinct advantages to waiting until you hit 30 before you begin your career – but the downside is overwhelming too. So how do you decide? The simple answer to that is you decide based upon your own circumstances, your career strategy, and your desires.
But there’s one way you can have the best of both worlds. Consider once again the life of a typical youth in India. He completes his graduation and suddenly he’s thrown into the corporate world where he works for about 40 years shuttling between designations and jobs. Then just as suddenly spewed out when he is 60 to make room for a new generation – he’s told to go home and put up his feet – he retires. Along the way, he’s accumulated a spouse, a couple of children and a boatload of responsibilities which he continues to fulfil until doomsday.
Now think of this same youth who graduates and takes up a part time job or internship while he continues to study. He’s funding his own education – that’s a big advantage. He might even consider work from home while he studies.
Meanwhile he’s also exploring his own self and having fun with his girlfriend or wife. As he approaches 30 or 35 he is absorbed in a permanent position and continues to work, steadily climbing the corporate ladder until he is about 45 or 50 at which point he goes back to part time work – either from home or working a few days a week and spending time with his now grown children guiding and aiding them in their career and life.