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Today we are talking about why it is never too late to have the best year of your career. It’s never too late to have a peak in your career. This comes from an interesting body of research just published by a group of researchers from Penn State and Northwestern University.
They studied over 25,000 people. Everything from scientists to visual artists to filmmakers. Anyone for whom it was easy to get sort of career data on. And they studied these people using Google Citations or IMDB or wherever they could find out information about their body of work. Now here’s what I think is interesting.
Of this 25,000 group of people, 91% of them were likely to have at least one hot streak. A hot streak is the term they use for when there are progressively better and better pieces of work that they’re putting out. So this is scientific papers with a number of citations, this is films with large critical acclaim or monetary success.
A hot streak was when they had multiple in a row amazingly impactful creative works. Now, why is this interesting? 91% of them had it. That means the majority of us have a peak in our career but here’s what is amazing. They could not find sort of a consistent time frame for when that peak would happen.
Now we know from prior research that most people’s careers sort of follow this inverted U pattern where the peak kind of happens sort of towards the middle and then, you know, surprise, surprise. People cash in on their past success and so they’re still working even though they’re not gonna have that significant an impact later.
The interesting thing is no one could predict where the peak was. It was never sort of consistently in the middle of someone’s career. Some people had a large ramp up, then the peak, and then just a couple years before they retired.
Other people the peak happened early. Now what this means statistically is that any given year if you haven’t had your hot streak yet, any given year could be it. The other thing I think is amazing about these hot streaks is you can only understand them looking backwards.
You can’t look forward and say, «Oh I’ve clearly already had my peak in a career.» You just can’t because you’re not done yet and you are statistically according to this research just as likely to hit a hot streak that is even hotter than what you thought your peak was. I mean this is solid statistically proven with a huge sample size proof that it is never too late to hit that peak in your career.
I think this is also something that will rebut a lot of the sort of ageism that we’re seeing as people are staying in the workforce longer. But, that’s a larger institutional problem that we’ll solve at a later date.
For now, it’s enough to believe in yourself and your career that if you don’t feel like you’ve hit your peak yet, maybe you haven’t. Maybe it’s still coming. And if you feel like maybe you’ve hit a peak and you’re wondering is this as good as it gets, I can’t say with certainty that it is.
Because you are never too late to have a peak in your career. Thanks so much for watching the Daily Burk. Leave a comment underneath. Let me know what you think your peak career moment might be, although we can’t say for sure until your career is over.