How to navigate a career change at 30
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How do you change careers at 30? Perhaps you’ve committed your entire working life to the same career, and you’re finding it less rewarding than you’d hoped. Maybe your situation has changed since you were newly 21, and you can no longer juggle your demanding day job with your family at home. Or maybe your life goals have shifted, and you’re eager to throw yourself into something new.

While people generally make fewer career changes as they start to get older, 30 – as anyone in their 30s will be delighted to tell you – is hardly middle age. At 30, you’re old enough to know better, but you’re not so deeply rooted in your current way of life that it’s unduly difficult to shake things up. In many ways, that makes it the perfect time to think about switching careers.

But how can you balance your desire for a new career with your existing obligations? After all, you still need to keep the lights on at home – and you may even have a family to support. Is there really a way to change careers when you’re no longer at the beginning of your working life?

The answer is yes, and we’re here to prove it! In this article, we’ll cover the following key points:

  • Why a career change at 30 can be a great move
  • How to prepare for a change in careers
  • How to find the new career of your dreams

Why Change Careers at 30?

Most people enter the workforce at a young age. While some are lucky enough to land their dream job at the outset of their career, not everyone’s insight is perfect in their early adulthood! When you’re fresh out of high school or newly in possession of your bachelor’s degree, it can be hard to know exactly what you want out of a career.

For one thing, younger workers don’t usually have much work experience. That means they can find it challenging to know what types of work environments suit them best. They might end up committing to a career path that ultimately causes them more stress than satisfaction.

And for another thing, people change over time – as do their preferences, goals, and priorities. The job that suited you as an energetic, unattached 21-year-old might feel less apt by the time you’re 30, particularly if you’ve started a relationship or family. That’s normal, and there’s no shame in reassessing your career as your circumstances change.

No matter your age, you deserve a job that suits you and leaves you satisfied. Changing careers at 30 can seem daunting, especially if you’ve been doing the same thing for your entire working life so far. But even though it can be risky, the rewards can change your life for the better.

Planning For a Career Change

A career change can be a major undertaking. Not only do you have to job search – you have to do it in a new field, where your knowledge, skills and even your resume may no longer be in line with industry norms.

Fortunately, it’s totally possible to prepare for switching careers! Here are just a few ways to set yourself up for job-searching success.

Know Your Strengths (And Weaknesses)

By the time you’re 30, you’ve had plenty of time and opportunity to build up some transferable workplace skills. That’s a great advantage when it comes to switching careers. If you’re considering a career move, you need to be frank with yourself about what you’ve learned, and how you can put it to use elsewhere.

If you’ve spent your adult life working in marketing, you’ve likely developed strong social and presentational skills, as well as an eye for data and a flair for the creative. All those skills can serve you just as well if you’re hoping to move into tech – an industry where, depending on your role, people skills and out-of-the-box thinking could help you to stand out from your competition. Think laterally about what you can do, and how it can help you in the field you want to join.

But on the other side of the coin, you need to remember that you’re entering a new industry, and you won’t necessarily have everything locked down at the outset of your job search. As a marketing professional, you’re unlikely to have the technical or coding skills that will give you an edge when applying for certain roles in tech. It’s important to be honest with yourself about the gaps in your experience, so you can plan to fill them in.

Because you can – and should – fill them in! If you’re feeling underqualified, look into online courses or certifications. They’re available for all kinds of skills, and there are options available to suit every schedule and budget.

Plus, taking the time to learn independently shows employers that you’re a self-starter, willing to put in the work on your own time. That in its own right will give you an advantage, no matter your industry.

Research, Research, Research

If you started work at 21, you’ve spent almost a decade familiarizing yourself with your industry and its norms. You have informed, well-researched salary expectations, career progression expectations, and expectations for acceptable behavior. But what happens when you move into a totally new field?

In short, you’re starting from scratch. That’s why, as soon as you decide what you’d like to be doing, you need to start researching how it all works.

This isn’t just a way to ensure you’re getting paid at reasonable rates, or to affirm that your planned career path is viable for you. When you start getting invitations to interview, hiring managers will want to know that you understand the industry. You’ll be expected to state your expectations for salary and benefits, and to demonstrate that you’re familiar with social and networking norms in your new field.

So do the work now, before you give notice at your current job. You’ll thank yourself for it later on.

Rebuild Your Resume

You know what’s working for you, and what gaps you need to fill. You know your new industry inside-out. Now it’s time to pull it all together into a brand new resume, built for your brand new career.

Your new resume should foreground the transferable skills and experience that will benefit you in your new field, making it clear at a glance why any hiring manager should want to meet with you. Since you won’t have prior experience in the field where you’re job searching, it’s important to focus on what you have to offer instead. Any relevant qualifications or certifications should also be front and center.

You should also think the design of your new resume, in relation to the career you want. If you’re hoping to break into a more conservative field, opt for a more traditional-looking resume. On the other hand, if you’re applying for jobs with start-ups or less formally-inclined companies, don’t be afraid to add a little color! Perhaps your new career is taking you in a different creative direction. If that's the case, using color effectively in your resume is a great way to showcase your creativity while also catching the eye of potential employers!

John Smith

If you’re not sure where to start, check out our amazing set of free resume templates. We’ll give you the head start you need when it comes to crafting the perfect resume.

Finding Your New Career

If you’re staring down the job search with resume in hand, don’t be intimidated! Even in a completely new field, there are plenty of ways to give yourself an advantage when it comes to switching careers. Here are a couple to get you on your feet.

Work Your Network

If you’ve been in the same field for a while, it’s likely that your professional network is centralized in that field. But that doesn’t have to be the end of the world!

Cast your net a little wider, and you might be surprised by who you know. Perhaps a friend of a colleague works in the industry you’re hoping to join – why not ask your colleague for an introduction? Or maybe you have an extended family member with experience and connections in your new field, who would be happy to give you some pointers on your interview technique.

If you have a degree, consider reaching out via your school’s alumni network. If not, why not try networking online? Making contact with people in your field of choice via LinkedIn or Facebook can be a great way to open doors in a new industry.

But no matter how you approach it, the fact remains: when you don’t have experience in a field, connections are a real help. If you don’t have those connections, you stand to benefit from finding and nurturing them. And if you do have them, make sure you put them to use as you begin your job search!

Use What You Have

That doesn’t just mean your skills or qualifications, or even your relevant experience in other roles elsewhere. It means your clear versatility, and your willingness to make a big, bold move from one career to another.

Many people never switch careers. They find it easier and less demanding to stay where they are, even if a move would make them happier. Everyone is different, and what works for you may not work for others – but you can be confident that by making a career change, you’re showing yourself to be courageous and dynamic, rather than complacent.

And those are qualities that hiring managers want. Your willingness to make the harder choice, simply because you know it’s the right thing for you, will set you apart from other applicants if you use it to your advantage. Experience is one thing, but attitude is another – and not everyone can learn the right attitude.

So go into your interviews proud of your choice to change careers. Draw on your past experience, sure, but don’t be afraid of your present experience, either. The upheaval of leaving a stable career is real, and having navigated it in a calm and considered fashion will make you look amazingly capable in an interview setting.

You’ve taken a big risk, but you’ve done it in a thoughtful and informed way, and you’re handling it with clear goals in mind. That’s an experience any reasonable employer will be dying to get on their team.

Plan For the Worst

No matter how well-prepared you are, job markets can be volatile, and competition for roles can be tough. It can be hard to predict exactly where your job search will take you. To mitigate that uncertainty, as is the case with any risky venture, you need to go into your career change with a plan for the worst-case scenario in mind.

If you’re planning to quit your current job before you land a new one, how long can you afford to be unemployed? Do you have a partner or a family who can support you in a pinch? What’s the absolute worst that will happen if you can’t find a job in your new field of choice?

It’s important to have this planned out, of course, in case it actually happens. Life is unpredictable, and you need to be prepared to deal with whatever it throws your way. But it’s also smart to think about the worst-case scenario because usually, the worst-case scenario isn’t as bad as you think.

It might sound strange, but getting familiar with the worst that could happen is a great way to motivate yourself. Figure out what could go wrong, and make a plan for how you can manage it if it does. If you can be confident that you’ll be able to deal with whatever comes your way, it can help motivate you to take the leap after all.

There’s no such thing as a perfect time to switch careers. The ideal moment you’re waiting for might never arrive – so make the move anyway, with a clear understanding of what that decision could mean for you. Being aware of the potential consequences means you can really own your choice, and approach it with the confidence and conviction the decision demands.

Waverly March

Written By

Waverly March

Content Writer + Resume Expert

Waverly is a freelance writer, former HR officer and current international traveller. They believe in doing your research, showing up prepared, and bringing your passions with you to work. They've helped countless job seekers create better resumes and cover letters to improve and grow their careers.

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