How to change careers as a 30-something-year-old

How to change careers as a 30-something-year-old

When I changed careers at the age of 32, believe it or not, I thought I was too old. Imagine me feeling “sheepish” when I realised I was the youngest one at the opening day of my coaching studies and that there were a lot of people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. I thought, “how brave of them." 

Changing career in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and even 60s has its own benefits and challenges. Today, I want to zoom in on changing careers when you are in your 30s.

Making career changes: Why is it so common among people in their 30s?

Consider this: if you are in your 30s, you have somewhere between five and 15 years of professional experience built up and anywhere between 30 and 35 years of your working life left ahead of you. How does that make you feel? 

One of the reasons I was so hesitant to change careers was a fear of losing all the credentials and experience that I gained. However, when I asked myself honestly if I saw myself continuing on the same path for another 30 years, my answer was no.

How come so many people in their 30s want a career change? When we are in our 20s, fresh after our studies and choosing jobs, we are often motivated by different things. We want to have a cool company name on our CV, earn a good salary, do something that somehow fits our studies, and we are very eager to simply start. But the years we spend actively working teach us some powerful lessons about ourselves, about what we really value in work, what our strengths and weaknesses are, the types of people we like to work with, and so on.

Based on those lessons, we can make two major conclusions:

  • The place / company / type of work I am doing reflects and supports who I am, my values and talents.
  • The place / company / type of work I am doing does not reflect and even damages the feeling of who I am, my values and talents. 

Below are some more specific signs you need a career change:

  • You often feel exhausted, irritated, depressed and stressed out as a result of your work.
  • You often feel bored at work and you start to feel that the money you are earning is not compensating for it anymore.
  • You start to ask yourself, is this it? You secretly have a feeling your talents and skills could be used in a more impactful way.

Ready to make the jump? Here’s how to change career as a 30-something-year-old

If you already have a solid picture of what your career change would look like, so much the better. However, no matter how clear or blurry the picture is, it’s worth taking your time to reflect on the past and the future and focus on the following:

1. Identify the lessons you have learnt from your previous career

What have you learnt about yourself (internal) and about the environment and people you were surrounded with (external).

2. Look into the future

Where do you see yourself in five, 10, or even 15 years? What would make you feel fulfilled, happy, and proud?

3. Analyse yourself and your career through career filters

In the past 10 years working as a career coach, I have designed a Career Model that helps people to look into their future career choices through different lenses. This gives them the tools to come up with various career paths and options. In particular, I would suggest you look into:

  • What are your core and work values?
  • Which of your talents give you energy?
  • What is the impact you want to make?
  • What do you care about - what are your passions?
  • In which environment do you thrive rather than survive?
  • Which people inspire you and from which people do you want to learn?

4. Come up with two or three paths and research them in-depth

Based on your answers to the above, it’s time to start researching. Which of your potential career paths is easiest to follow, which of them is the most exciting to follow? Talk to people who did the change, and talk to people who are in the careers you came up with.

5. Make a choice

At a certain moment of time, you just need to jump in and start. Make a plan of how you are actually going to get there. Who do you need to support you, how much money do you need to make the change, do you need to study?

6. Whatever you do, don’t be alone

Our internal negative chatter often has the power to kill our best ideas. So, whatever you do and wherever you are in the process, surround yourself with positive people who will support you, inspire you and, most importantly, keep you accountable.

Why it can be a good idea to change careers in your 30s

Now to weigh the pros and cons of a change. Changing your career path in your 30s has many benefits. One of the major ones is time. Even if you are starting over and do a new masters course, and even if this takes five years, you still would have some 30 years or more to work in this new career! This is three times as much as the time you have already spent in your current career. This put things into perspective, doesn’t it?

Another benefit of changing careers in your 30s is the fact that you probably do not yet have kids and a huge mortgage, which does make things easier. And even if you do have these things (I had a small baby when I did my own change), you still have lots of energy (provided that you are not burned out), so you can spend some extra time on the required work and studies.

Why it’s not such a good idea to change careers in your 30s

Actually, I could not think of one! I think this is the best age bracket to actually change careers.

Have you done your career jump in the past or recently? Share what was most helpful and most challenging about it below!

This article originally appeared on IamExpat in the Netherlands

Dorota Klop-Sowinska


Dorota Klop-Sowinska

Official Member of Forbes Coaches Council. I specialize in international career and expat coaching. I am the author of the book Career Jump! How to Successfully Change Your Professional Path...

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