The Career Peak Paradox: New Citi/LinkedIn Survey Suggests Professionals Believe Success is a Moving Target

Most women expect to hit their career peak at age 53, while men expect to peak slightly later at age 55; though for most professionals, peak happiness does not equal the height of success

Women’s career and finance worries decreasing; only 39% cite work-life balance as a major concern

NEW YORK & MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--()--Citi and LinkedIn today released results from their fourth Today’s Professional Woman Report, a national survey exploring women’s career and financial concerns inspired by the conversations on Connect: Professional Women’s Network. Connect, which is powered by CitiSM, is the fast-growing LinkedIn group with more than 300,000 professional women members.

Results of the study revealed that most professional women expect to reach their career peak at age 53, while men expect to reach the top slightly later at age 55. The age at which professionals project to reach the height of their career success varies significantly by generation, however – with their expected peak increasing as they age. Millennials expect to hit their career peak at 43, for example – while Baby Boomers expect to hit the top at 62. At the same time, most professionals surveyed believe the happiest point in their careers was several years in the past. Those who are under 35 are most likely to say that their happiest age was 28, while professionals ages 45-54 are most likely to say that their happiest age was 42.

“The survey illustrates that career satisfaction and success are not just end goals – they’re both moving targets,” said Linda Descano, CFA®, Head of Content and Social, North America Marketing at Citi, and President and CEO of Women & Co., Citi’s personal finance resource for women. “While the age at which professionals believe they will peak varies by generation, most expect the high point of their career to occur within the next several years. Yet at the same time, they believe that the happiest moment of their careers occurred several years in the past, suggesting that peak satisfaction does not necessarily mean the height of career success.”

The survey also found that men are more likely than women to equate career satisfaction with a “good salary” (58% vs. 52%), while women rated salary, “doing what I love,” and “being challenged” as equally important to their satisfaction. Further, women are more likely than men to equate career satisfaction with “making an impact on the world” (32% vs. 27%) and “helping people” (32% vs. 28%).

On defining progress and achieving goals:

  • The number of women who feel that they have achieved their professional goals continues to rise. 37% of women responded that they have achieved their professional goals (vs. 31% in 2013).
  • Of those who asked for a pay increase in the past year, the number of women receiving raises is increasing. According to the survey, while the percentage of women who have asked for a raise in the past year has stayed relatively steady year over year (27% 2014 vs. 26% in 2013), 84% of women who asked for a raise last year received one (compared to 75% in 2013).
  • Professionals define their individual career progress in a wide variety of ways. When asked about the most significant indicator of their own professional progress, there were varying definitions of success.
    • 21% defined progress as “finding a job that allows them to pursue their passion”
    • 19% defined progress as “a more flexible work environment”
    • 17% defined progress as a salary increase
    • 17% defined progress as a promotion to an executive leadership position
  • Men and women did not agree on the definition of progress for women in the workplace. When asked to define what the most significant indicator of progress for women in the workplace would be, one-third of women felt that the elimination of the gender wage gap would be the biggest win. Men, however, were more likely to think that the “end of the need for the ‘women in the workplace’ conversation” would represent real progress for women – and 31% of women agreed.

On top sources of career and financial concerns:

  • The number of women who reported that they were very concerned with work-life balance has decreased significantly. 39% of women are concerned with finding the right balance between work and family life, vs. 53% in 2012.
  • Financial issues are also less of a concern for women compared with previous years. Compared to 2013, the number of women who said they were concerned with paying off student loans has dropped from 46% to 35%; with paying off credit card debt from 35% to 30%; with getting a raise from 29% to 20% and with saving for retirement from 56% to 46%.
  • The percentage of female breadwinners who feel that they’re under pressure as the primary earner has also decreased significantly. 24% feel under pressure, vs. 33% in 2013. However, according to the survey, both male and female Generation X breadwinners continue to experience more stress than any other generation.
  • The number of women who equate “having it all” with “reaching the height of success in their field” continues to decline. Results show that 12% believe this vs. 17% in 2012, while the number of women who equate success with “having a job that I enjoy and my work is valued” has risen (73% in 2014 vs. 64% in 2012).

“It's interesting to see that despite all the talk about 'having it all,' the study shows that the number of women who actually equate it with success is declining,” said Jacky Carter, LinkedIn Community Manager for Connect: Professional Women’s Network. "As we’ve seen from discussions in the Connect group, there’s no standard definition of success, and career progress can be defined in a variety of ways -- from following your passions to earning a promotion."

For more detailed results on the Today’s Professional Woman Report, visit the Women & Co. blog. To become a member of the Connect: Professional Women’s Network, visit www.linkedin.com/womenconnect and join for free.

Survey Methodology:

The 2014 Today’s Professional Woman Report survey was conducted by LinkedIn in March 2014 among a nationally representative sample of 1,070 Professional Women and Male LinkedIn members.

About Citi

Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.

About Connect

Connect: Professional Women’s Network, a LinkedIn group powered by Citi, is an online community of over 300,000 members where women come together for resources, support and discussion related to their careers. To join the community for free, visit www.linkedin.com/womenconnect.

About LinkedIn

Founded in 2003, LinkedIn connects the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. With 225 million members worldwide, including executives from every Fortune 500 company, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network on the Internet. The company has a diversified business model with revenue coming from Talent Solutions, Marketing Solutions and Premium Subscriptions products. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, LinkedIn has offices across the globe.

Contacts

Media:
Citi
Andrew Brent, 212-559-1299
Andrew.brent@citi.com
or
Edelman
Shaina Lamb, 212-704-8281
shaina.lamb@edelman.com
or
LinkedIn
Fenot Tekle
ftekle@linkedin.com

Results of the fourth “Today’s Professional Woman Report” from Citi and LinkedIn (Graphic: Business Wire)

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Release Summary

New Citi/LinkedIn Survey Suggests Professionals Believe Success is a Moving Target. For most professionals, peak happiness does not equal the height of success.

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Contacts

Media:
Citi
Andrew Brent, 212-559-1299
Andrew.brent@citi.com
or
Edelman
Shaina Lamb, 212-704-8281
shaina.lamb@edelman.com
or
LinkedIn
Fenot Tekle
ftekle@linkedin.com