How life stages may affect our career change decisions

There is a theory that we go through 3 phases in our career, with each phase coinciding with a life-stage, and which affects our career decisions. The 3 stages are Challenge, Balance and Authentic, and these stages occur at different times for women and men.

Career Stage Women Men
Early Career Challenge Challenge
Mid Career Balance Challenge / Authenticity
Late Career Authenticity Balance


As you can see from the table, both sexes start their careers in a ‘Challenge’ phase. This is when we are learning a new job, improving our skills, getting recognised and progressing. The Challenge phase tends to last until our early to mid-30s and this is where it changes for women and men.

Women then tend to move into the Balance phase, mostly (but not always) due to having children, experiencing changing priorities, and needing (and wanting) to balance work with family life. Women with families tend to reach their Authentic phase in their 50s. They may have seen their families grow and become independent and they view this decade as their last chance to achieve their career aims and ambitions. This can be quite a critical time for women and a point where support may be needed to help them identify potential roles and develop their confidence to achieve their ambitions.

Men, from around their 30s to 50s, aim to continue progressing their career, wanting to realise their ambitions and to build a strong identity through their role and position in an  organisation. This takes them from the Challenge phase to the Authentic phase.

Men enter the Balance phase usually at some point in their 50s. Having achieved success in their field they may aim to reduce their input and seek more work-life balance. They may have felt that through their demanding ‘authentic’ phase, working long hours to deliver work commitments, they have missed their children growing up or want to take their next decade a little easier. This can often be seen in men in this age-group taking a complete change in direction, or using their skills to set up their own business with the aim to improve their work / life balance, or following a dream. This is sometimes referred to a mid-life crisis but again it is a critical stage and one where men may need support to work through it successfully.

This theory is called the Kaleidoscope Theory. If this resonates with you and your career choices, you can read more about it here

I’m a qualified Career Coach. If you would like to discuss any aspects of career change, please get in touch and we can arrange an introductory call.