Have you missed your professional boat?

Last updated: 26 September 2015

If you haven’t hit your professional highs by the time you’re 27, you’ve missed the boat.

For men, at least, that’s the findings from a study conducted by the University of Edinburgh.

Members of the fairer sex tend to find contentedness in completing tertiary studies and achieving a degree of social upward mobility, but for the blokes, if they haven’t seen substantial career progress by 27 they’re destined to grow into grumpy old men.

The study looked at the surviving members of the 1,208 Scottish children born over a six-day period in 1936 who were interviewed aged 11 in 1947 and 27 in 1963, for a study called the 6-Day Sample.

Basically, the outcome of the study was thus – men who said they were struggling in their careers when interviewed back in the swinging sixties reported lower levels of wellbeing in the most recent round of interviews.

Men who changed jobs numerous times through their 20s also fared worse later in their lives.

Conversely, women found education and social standing to be stronger indicators of a life well lived. That women wouldn’t be defined by their careers makes sense given the sample – through the 50s, 60s and 70s in particular, fewer women were active in the workforce, hence the different indicators.

Caroline Brett, the research associate who conducted the research, said the men and women who took part in the study were entering the labour market in the early 1950s, when opportunities were quite different than they are for young people today.

“There was almost full employment amongst men, and many women were expected to leave work on getting married and start a family. But thanks to the unique 6-Day Sample project we still have a detailed picture of their lives as young adults in that era,” she said.

“In men, unstable early careers or lack of goal attainment or social mobility appears to be negatively related to their subsequent outlook on life and the degree to which life makes sense in old age.

“In women, for whom educational and occupational opportunities were often lacking, attaining higher education and a higher status occupation appears to be related to a more optimistic outlook in old age.”