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Milestones: Lessons Learned & Career Advice from Women in Their 30s

‘Trust the process’

Woman in her 30s on a balcony
Photo courtesy of Jeffery Erhunse

This article is part of InHerSight's Partners in Diversity series. Discover companies partnering with InHerSight to better support women in the workplace.

People have mixed feelings about turning 30, but in our humble opinion, the only right way to view this milestone birthday and decade is through the eyes of Jenna from 13 Going on 30, whose 13th birthday wish was to be “30 and flirty and thriving.” Thirty-something life looked really cool and aspirational when we were tweens—because it is.

More sure of your career, your finances, and yourself, your 30s feel less chaotic all around, and that means you can sit back and, like so many women we spoke to for our Milestones series, trust the process. Read on to hear what women in their 30s have to say about ditching whatever timeline you have in mind, embracing the ebb and flow of your career, and standing up for yourself and what you want every step of the way.

Read more from this series: Milestones: Lessons Learned & Career Advice from Women in Their 20s

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned about work in your career thus far, and what advice would you give to women younger than you?

Her advice to younger women:

“Don't try to put yourself in the box that others have built for you. Does everyone expect you to be creative, but you're more interested in learning to code? Take the coding class. Coaches want you to go pro, but you'd rather run your own company? Start writing that business plan. Pursue the thing(s) you want to do, and don't worry about external expectations. Build your own box.”

Her advice to younger women:

“As per the above. Remain in control of your career at all times, there will be ups and downs and the best and most successful careers are never a linear path. Careers nowadays can take many detours but as long as you can learn and progress at each step and grow from the positives and the setbacks, you'll be able to seize bigger opportunities and keep progressing towards your aspirations.”

Her advice to younger women:

“You are valuable. Learn how to accept that and speak kindly of yourself.”

Her advice to younger women:

“Be prepared to develop a thick skin. For most women, their natural inclination is to be the peacemaker, but you absolutely have to learn to advocate for yourself without worrying about how you will be perceived.”

Her advice to younger women:

“Don't stick around and wait it out for ‘things to get better’ if you are in a company that isn't addressing sexual harassment complaints, discrimination, or anything that makes the workplace toxic and unhealthy. It's not worth it, and there are so many companies now that aren't like that.”

Her advice to younger women:

“Don't devalue your opinion by following the crowd, challenge if you think something is not working and/or if you can add value. You never know, other people might be thinking it, too. Try not to limit career or new opportunities just because you are a woman, you never know what will happen in the future so seize opportunities where you can.”

Her advice to younger women:

“Don't be afraid to ask for what you deserve, always strive to learn and grow, and put yourself out there.”

Her advice to younger women:

“There is no timeline for figuring out what you want to do with your life. We go to high school and have to get permission for every move we make and then if you choose to go to college immediately after you graduate, your entire life is flipped on its head and you are expected to know exactly what you want to study, which in turn is supposed to guide the rest of your professional career. That, to be frank, is ridiculous. Normalize finding your career path later in life. Life doesn't end at 25 or 30 or 40—you can always explore a new opportunity, learn a new skill, or change course. Don't feel pressure to hit career milestones at a specific age just because you heard that is what you are ‘supposed’ to do. Give yourself space to make your own rules.”

Her advice to younger women:

“You can grow your career both horizontally and vertically. You don't have to always climb ranks to scale the ladder of success. Your health is super important! Don't overwork yourself! You don't have to love your job; you just need to love the person you are when you do it!"

Her advice to younger women:

“HAVE COURAGE! If you are looking to become a leader someday, have courage to: 

  • always show up for everything that might add value to your career growth no matter how trivial it might seem at that time

  • always speak up for yourself and always believe in yourself!

  • always listen to each and every advice you get, ponder and act accordingly.”


Her advice to younger women:

“Don't be afraid to start over/change career paths.”

Her advice to younger women:

“Ask for what you want. You might just be surprised when you get it. The worst anyone can say is no.”


Her advice to younger women:

“Find a great leader that you trust and who believes in you and you will never want for a job. They will help you find the right role and company that will benefit your career.”

Her advice to younger women:

“Be intentional about your career and where you want to go. Set goals for yourself and then invite trusted friends and mentors into those conversations to help you throughout the journey.”  

Her advice to younger women:

“Be confident in who you are and what you can do. Show this by taking the time to do your due diligence and bring to the table your thought process and rationale.”

Her advice to younger women:

“It's okay to take up space in an environment where there aren't a lot of women.” 

Her advice to younger women:

“Value yourself and find the courage to move up without putting yourself down. Speak up but avoid putting others beneath you. Learn from the grind now so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor later on. Spend time with family.”

Her advice to younger women:

“Don't let fear keep you stuck. Too often, the mindset of ‘the devil you know is better than the devil you don't’ kicks in, and we stay in work environments that aren't healthy for us. It's so natural for imposter syndrome to kick in and to be afraid of change, but when you can push through that and open yourself to new opportunities, you can end up doing more than you ever thought possible. It feels so good to be able to look back and think, ‘Wow, the Paige five years ago would've never thought she was capable of doing anything I've done in the last couple of years.’ It's not necessarily easy, but it's so worth it.”

Her advice to younger women:

“Be honest with yourself about what makes you happy and how you want to reflect on your life someday in the future. Treat yourself to a self-evaluation and get to know what really ignites you. Then look at your life overall: do your actions align with your passions? Do the people around you support you or break you down? Surround yourself with positivity. Make your career decisions based on what you want, not what others expect of you. There is increasing pressure for women to succeed in every area of their lives, but the simple fact is you cannot excel in all things at all times. Instead, grant yourself the freedom to choose a focus each day (or other timeframe), set realistic goals for yourself, and practice positive self-talk to celebrate your achievements, even if they're small. Overall, live your life with no regrets.”

Her advice to younger women:

“Please do not ever tolerate an unhealthy work environment or toxic culture, whatever it is. Your health should never suffer at the expense of a job.”

Her advice to younger women:

“Take advantage of career counseling. As women, we have the tendency to bottle frustrations up because of the glass ceiling or something disparaging could come to you if you spoke up. I took up career counseling most recently after being in the workforce for two decades. Just two sessions got me on a path to channel my frustration with communicating with a manager or colleague and deal with it with a level mindset. This way I didn't come across as being emotional but it was data and solutions driven making it more thoughtful and actionable.”

Her advice to younger women:

“Do not be afraid to put your personal mental and physical health first before your career.”

Her advice to younger women:

“Don't overthink every move/choice you make. Be confident in your abilities, you were chosen for your job because someone saw your value—believe in it too!”

Her advice to younger women:

“Remember that nothing is ‘the end of the world’— you can handle it. Try not to let your emotions live in the difficult times. You'll eventually look back on them as lessons, so don't let the hard stuff take more from you than it should.”

Her advice to younger women:

“Ask for feedback! If you are looking to improve and continue to further your career, ask for feedback from your peers, managers, clients, etc.”

Her advice to younger women:

“There are two things that no one else is going to do for you in the workplace. (1) Make you adhere to boundaries. If you want work/life balance, you're going to have to do it. I've yet to see a colleague receive a gold bar and a lifetime of happiness for sacrificing their life for work. (2) Care as much about your career as you do. Don't expect the next role to be laid out before you like a red carpet. Do your part to see what's out there, assess your gaps, and build your skills so you're ready to say yes to the next opportunity.”

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