I sometimes marvel at the boldness of 30-year-olds who publicly claim on LinkedIn to be “life coaches”, “career advisors”, “success consultants”, “senior experts” and the like. The factor of time (and thus: age) cannot be ignored when the matter is the development of mastery and seniority! Knowledge, as many of you know, can be acquired through mere studying and cramming. Mastery, on the other hand, takes time to unfold!
So it is objectively and realistically odd when “younger people” are adamant about being mentors or senior advisors, just as it is when “older people” highlight to be “always curious, always learning”. My take on the nature of a sustained, and likely decade-long career as entrepreneur and/or single practitioner is that you must evolve within your portfolio of roles. Use these indicators for that:
- It is natural to raise your fees over time (every year, ideally!) which will force you to offer more value-adding services to your clients over time (every year, ideally!) and slip into different, more valuable roles over time.
- It is natural for a professional beginner to have one or several mentors, but then, when you get into your 40s and 50s it is natural to have mentees yourself — to help others grow and make use of your own connections.
- It is natural, over the years, to spend less and less time at/with clients, and more and more time on projects that allow you to work “from your desk” or from your home.
Do not invert these things! If you are 40+, do not behave like or position yourself like a 25-year old beginner. I frequently hear of colleagues my age who charge the same day-rates as 30-year-old peers. On the other hand: If you are 30, do not fool yourself that you are “senior, senior”. Everybody knows you are not. There is a consultant around that age from nearby Wiesbaden who likes so claim that she “did many organizations transformations” with clients — even though she worked in a corporation, in an HR position, throughout most of her career.
My point being: Ignore the dynamics of aging, seniority, mastery and career advancement at your own peril! Instead: Put your career into the perspective of time: Because you want to have a long life, and a long career, don’t you? Ask yourself these questions: Are you really doing “age-appropriate” work with your clients? Do the roles you market yourself for suit your actual profile and level of mastery? Or are your clients implicitly staffing you into “pleasing”, “non-threatening” tasks or projects? Has your fee profile, client profile, project profile and reputation matched your age, recently? Have you taken steps to get into the kind of work within, say, five years, that you might want to actually do within five years? Are you preparing to do your work differently, in five years, work that suits to your age, likely energy/health and levels of mastery? Are you doing more and more “actually impactful” and, ideally, Beta-related work?