THE BLOG
02/03/2014 05:48 pm ET | Updated Apr 05, 2014

Be Career Nimble Throughout Your Life

No matter where you are in your lifetime career journey, you need to remember that you always have options and you can design your career trajectory. It's helps to know where you are before you contemplate where you want to go because what you aspire to do in your 30's may be entirely different in your 40's, 50's, or 60's.

Jim Citrin, leads Spencer Stuart's North American CEO Practice and wrote eloquently in his book Five Patterns of Extraordinary Careers about three phases of your career. The Promise Phase, Momentum Phase and Harvest Phase.

I serve as Director of Professional Enrichment at Indiana University Alumni Association where we added three more generational stages based on the Citrin model to serve our alumni throughout their professional lives. With approximately 580,000+ alumni globally, my goal is to empower my constituents with age appropriate career resources so they can thrive.

Generational career navigation gives you an opportunity to adjust your professional development strategy based on where you are at any given time of your life.

Check out the IUAA 6 Phases of Lifetime Career Engagement and the customized generational wisdom to help you embrace your age and professional life now.

Aspiration Phase, ages 18-24. Individuals are in preparation for college, careers, and lifelong learning. The aspirational generation will be making impactful decisions about their future, possibly for the first time in their lives.

Absorb the wisdom of your advisors, teachers and family members. Remember, your first job is not your forever job. This is a small step on a long career journey. Focus on your employability and start to build significant professional relationships.

Promise Phase, ages, 25-34. Now is the time to discover your individual potential and what you will be able to contribute to your workplace in the future. Take stock of your values, interests, personality, and strengths and discover how to put your unique talents to best use. Begin to recognize your value-add by developing skills and experiences. Be sure your professional toolkit (resume, portfolio, LinkedIn profile, interview & networking skills, etc.) are in great shape and always at-the-ready.

Seek out the wisdom of a mentor or sponsor in your organization who can champion you once you have proven your value. Continue your quest for professional development to sharpen your existing strengths and develop an expanded skill set. Understand that reinvention can come at any time so be cognizant of your happiness factor and determine if you are engaged and stimulated by your work. Give yourself permission to change if you are not content.

Momentum Phase, ages 35-44. This is the when the rubber hits the road and you prove your value with a track record and accomplishments. You may become sought-after by other employers as your reputation expands and your skills and expertise become well known in your field. Position yourself to be seen and heard in your organization and beyond so others will notice your unique value.

Consider hiring a career coach to help you up your game and assist with managing your career, especially if you are considering other options. This can also be a time for significant personal life commitments with a focus on achieving a goal or realizing a dream.

Harvest Phase, ages 45-64. Some call this mid-life when careers begin to diverge. While many people continue growing by increasing options, others become bored, unenthusiastic, and seek new challenges or move in an opposite direction. You can certainly advance within your existing field, or in a new arena, but you must tap your comprehensive experience and transferable skills to tell your story in your network and beyond.

A period of reassessment and realignment usually takes place, including recognition and re-balancing of key priorities. You need not go through all of this alone. Consider working with an executive or leadership coach to help you hone your "leaderly" abilities or navigate where you want to go if it's time for a change. Even if you are thriving, having others on your professional resource team will be helpful.

Encore Phase, ages 65-74. Known as the Second Act or Encore Career stage, either out of desire or necessity. Many find opportunities to move into new fields of interest based on personal meaning and the opportunity for impact and to give back. Think about how you can pay-it-forward to others by sharing your time, talent, treasure and relationship ties.

The period after mid-life transition can be one of the most productive of all stages. You can make your greatest possible contributions to others and society. Individuals are often less driven, less ego-centered, less compelled to compete with and impress others. Instead you focus on what really matters to you, on developing younger people, on community with others, on leaving some personal legacy that really makes things better for others.

Continue to expand your horizons and feed your brain. Lifelong learning is not over but you may have the liberty to pursue avocations during this time, which you postponed in the past.

Legacy Phase, ages 75+. Most Americans do not retire at 65 so this can be thought of as the new age of retirement to leisure given lengthening lifespans and longer terms of employment. Here you come to grips with the ultimate limitations of life, yourself and mortality. Do your best to pass whatever wisdom you have gained on to others.

Share your knowledge and your relationships with the up and coming generations. They are the succession plan and they need your input in order to succeed. Intellectual enrichment is yours for the taking so continue to feed your mind and challenge yourself with new tasks.

No matter what generation you currently reside in, you have control over the experiences you pursue. Carefully select the work that nourishes you and give yourself permission to take control of your career and life journey. Sheryl Sandberg started the lean-in movement and it applies to all of us - no matter what age. How are you leaning into your life and career now?

Rally your resource team, share your wisdom, and consider how you can help others by paying it forward. If you are thriving - cheers to you, but there may be a person who could benefit from you personal experiences as they navigate their generational career journey. Ultimately, we are all in this together. At IUAA, we are leaning in to create a culture of professionals who become catalytic connectors and back one another throughout their lives.

Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is the Director of Professional Enrichment at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to AOL Jobs, CNN Money, London based - The Rouse and More Magazine. She is working on a 3-part series for Public Television on career empowerment for women. Follow her on Facebook,LinkedIn and Twitter