Career Change at 30: How to Make It Happen
Thinking about changing careers at 30 and wondering if it’s too late?
In this post, I’ll cover why it’s not too late to make a change and give you actionable steps to make it happen.
The first thing I want to tell you is that you’re not alone in wanting to change careers, and you won’t be the only 30-something who’s changed careers.
It’s never too late to make a change, trust me.
I spent almost ten years as a freelance translator, out of which around three were completely miserable. I felt lost, stuck, and like I needed something new, but I didn’t know what.
That’s why I started this blog: to help people on the same journey as me
And two years after I started it, I finally figured it out and made a career switch to marketing.
Now I have an intellectually challenging day job I love, with amazing people I learn from every day. I found the perfect career for me, my skills, and my ambitions.
Why am I telling you this?
Well, even if you’ve been in the same field for a long time, it’s possible to switch to something new.
Listen, technology and society are constantly evolving, and new industries and job opportunities are always popping up.
So that means that there are always new opportunities emerging.
Also, even if you don’t have direct experience in a new field, the skills you’ve gained in your current or past roles can still be valuable in a new career.
Plus, you could even uncover untapped talents and passions you didn’t know you have once you start your new career.
You’re never too old to learn and it’s never too late to make a change and pursue a career that brings you fulfillment, happiness and satisfaction.
Don’t let the fear of starting over hold you back.
I hope this post leaves you feeling encouraged to start moving towards the right direction to a new and exciting career!
But first, let’s get some limiting beliefs out of the way.
Is 30 Too Late to Start a Career?
Before we start talking about the how, let’s take a moment to talk about the reasons why it’s not too late.
I really want you to feel empowered and have that I-got-this feeling when you start taking the first steps.
1. You’ve already developed transferable skills
Transferable skills are vital.
They’re the skills you’ve gained in your past jobs and experiences that can be applied to new roles and industries.
For example, if you’ve been working as a teacher, you’ve likely developed strong communication and listening skills, as well as problem-solving skills, which are appreciated in many different fields.
And guess what?
You certainly don’t have them when you pick your first career. But now you do. And that’s extremely valuable.
Feeling confident of your transferable skills will help you identify new career paths that you may be well-suited for, even if you don’t have direct experience in it.
On top of that, transferable skills can help you stand out when applying for jobs because they demonstrate that you have a strong set of foundational skills that will help you succeed in a new role.
And they can even help you negotiate a better salary or package at your new job.
What’s not to love about all of that?
2. You know yourself and what you want a lot better
When you know yourself better, you’re better equipped to identify the careers that align better with your values and passions.
And that’s a very helpful tool when it comes to narrowing down your search and focusing on careers that are more likely to be a good fit for you.
When you’re older (and wiser), you know better than your teenage self.
Just think about it: When you’re younger, it’s easy to get caught up in what other people think you should do.
And that increases the chances of you picking a career you’re not really in love with.
But when you’re past your 20s, you start getting more in touch with yourself, which helps you make better decisions.
This may take us to the conversation about teenagers not being aware enough to decide what they want to do for a living.
But, in my opinion, that’s a negative take and not entirely true.
I’ve come to realize that choosing the “wrong” career when I was younger is part of the journey. And a necessary one for that matter.
My previous career taught me so much about the world, and myself.
And it gave me skills that make me stand out in my current job where I work with people that are younger than me.
3. You still have several decades ahead of you
The best part of all those perks I already mentioned is that at 30 you’re also very young.
Listen, it’s true that as we age, we tend to think of our youth as being behind us, but it’s important to remember that:
- You probably have four or even five decades left to live, out of which you could use three or four to devote to your new career. There are many 60 and 70-year-olds out there being an authority in their spaces.
- I know this sounds cheesy, but youth is not just a physical state, it’s also a mindset. And being young at heart is what truly matters sometimes.
You’re still in the prime of your life, and you have so many opportunities ahead of you.
Plus, you’re likely more experienced, more confident, and more resilient than you were in your teens or twenties, which can be a huge advantage as you build a new career.
So, don’t let society dictate how you see yourself. You’re young and full of potential.
Go for it.
Career Change at 30: 11 Steps to Make It Happen
Making a career change at any age can be challenging, but it’s possible.
Here are some steps you can start taking right now to get you going:
1. Figure out what you want
Before you start exploring new career options, it’s important to take some time to reflect on what you want.
I know how it feels like to have no idea what to do with your life.
So it’s important to think about what you value, what you enjoy, and what you’re good at.
Take some time to think about what you like about your current career (there’s gotta be something!) and what you don’t want to do anymore.
Grab your journal and write about what you expect to get from your new career. Is it:
- More challenges?
- Less stress?
- Or going fully remote?
Figuring out what you want, both professionally and personally, will help you identify the types of roles and industries that align with who you are.
And journaling is one of the best tools you can use to know and understand yourself better.
I’m a huge fan of journaling; I started journaling when I was stuck in my old career and it helped me understand so many things of what I was feeling, and also uncover what I wanted to do next.
That’s why I created a set of journaling workbooks called Self-Discovery Bundle to help you:
- Organize what’s on your mind
- Get clear about what you want and what matters to you
- Uncover what’s stopping you from taking action
- Understand the mental obstacles that stand between you and your dream life
- Start turning your inner critic into your biggest cheerleader
- … And so much more!
The Self-Discovery Bundle is designed to help people like you find direction in life through fun and thought-provoking journaling prompts. Check it out!
2. Browse LinkedIn profiles to understand which skills you need
Once you have a rough idea of the types of roles and industries you’re interested in, start browsing LinkedIn profiles of people who are working in those fields.
Check out their job titles, responsibilities, and skills.
What did they study? What do they post about?
You can connect with them if you want, but that’s not necessary now.
The main thing here is to understand who these people are and what they did to get where they are.
So, for example, let’s say you want to work in marketing but still don’t know which area of marketing exactly.
You can search for marketing professionals and check out what they’re up to. Trust your gut and follow your curiosity.
Do any of them sound like they have an exciting professional life? Why exactly?
Go full detective mode while paying attention to how you feel. Take notes of their skills and even the type of content they publish.
Now, I think it’s important to mention that I’m not implying you should copy what someone else has done.
We’re all on different journeys and each professional’s different, even if they have the same role at the same company.
Just focus on learning from other people’s paths while staying in your lane and true to yourself.
Doing this will give you a better understanding of the types of skills and qualifications you’ll need to land a job in that field.
3. Identify your transferable skills
Once you get a sense of where you’d like to start, you can start taking inventory of your transferable skills.
These are the skills you’ve gained in your past jobs that can be applied to new roles and industries.
You can use journaling, especially journaling about your strengths, to figure out yours.
Or you can check out a list of soft skills and identify the ones you think you have.
Being aware of the uniqueness you bring to the table due to your past experiences and transferable skills will help you identify new career paths for you.
4. Make a list of the skills you need to develop
Now that you know which skills other professionals in the field have and which of your old skills you can leverage, it’s time to bridge the gap.
What does it take to go from where you are now to where you want to be in terms of skills?
What do you need to learn?
Create a list of all the soft and hard skills you’ll need and arrange them by urgency.
Which ones should you tackle first? Which are the hardest to develop?
The only way to build the career of your dreams is by becoming the person that career needs you to be.
5. Sign up for your first class
Now you know what you need to learn. So let’s go from analysis to action!
Take the first step and sign up for a class to develop the skills you need.
Whether it’s an online course, a class, or apprenticeship, find a way to gain the knowledge and experience you need to get up to speed.
You can browse courses on Udemy if you’re still in the discovery phase and looking for something shorter and beginner-friendly.
Or browse more in-depth courses like the ones in Coursera or FutureLearn.
6. Make a list of relevant books to read
Books are an endless source of knowledge.
If you think about it, they’re like life shortcuts that help you leverage what others learned before you.
And when it comes to career change, books are one of the most powerful tools you can use to get where you want to go.
Here are some recommendations for books that could come in handy for you:
1. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey
In my opinion, being efficient when changing careers is key: take too long to make the change or make it harder than it needs to be, and you’ll end up not making the shift and feeling even more miserable in your current career.
So that’s why I decided to list this book here.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People is all about teaching you the fundamentals of being more productive.
And those fundamentals can be applied to anything, even a process as complex as changing careers.
2. “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
This book uses design thinking principles to help you identify and achieve your most important goals and find greater satisfaction in your career.
It was crucial for me when I was still lost and trying to figure out what to do with my life, and it gave me a solid roadmap to start uncovering what I wanted from my next career.
If you want more book recommendations, check out this list of non-fiction books that’ll change your life.
And if you’d like to be more consistent with your reading habit so you can read more, check out these tips to become an avid reader.
7. Practice by creating a portfolio of projects
One of the best and most fun ways to show potential employers what you can do is by creating a portfolio of projects.
For example, when I decided I wanted to start looking for jobs in marketing, I used my blog and its results as a way to show my skills in my resume.
Having a blog that drives traffic and generates income was one of the main reasons why I landed the very first job I applied to.
They were not only impressed by the blog itself but also by my consistency, discipline, and everything it takes to build something like this from the ground up.
Create projects using your new skills and let them speak for themselves.
So, for example, if you want to become a designer, you can start by creating logos and branding packages for fictional brands.
Or if you want to be a writer, you don’t need to wait until they give you a chance to publish in a newspaper; publish your work on your own blog or sites like Medium.
Trust me. Employers will definitely be impressed.
8. Update your resume
Your resume is often the first thing employers see, so it’s important to ensure it’s up-to-date and suited to the industry or field you’re interested in.
Make sure you update it completely and provide straightforward information about your previous experiences.
Also, add any new certifications and make it reflect your new interests.
Give it a makeover in every sense of the word; ditch your old design and use Canva to find a new one.
Also, don’t forget to highlight your willingness to learn in your resume and cover letters. And don’t be afraid to express your enthusiasm for the field during your job interviews too!
Employers may be more willing to take a chance on you if they see that you’re eager to learn and grow.
9. Build your network
You’ve figured out what you want, built your new skills and identified your transferable ones.
You even updated your resume!
Now it’s time to get to work and actually start looking for that new job.
But before you go on LinkedIn to add every new face to your network, leverage your existing one.
Tell family and friends you’re looking for new opportunities. You could be surprised by how much help comes your way.
Networking is an important part of any job search, and it can be helpful when you’re making a career change.
10. Start applying for jobs
Once you’ve updated your resume, created a portfolio, and built your network, it’s time to apply for jobs.
Remember to tailor your cover letter and resume to each job you apply for.
Be enthusiastic about this process and try to have as much fun as possible.
See each application and each interview as a new learning opportunity.
Everything you do that is related to your new career (including the actual job search!) is paving the way toward a more fulfilling professional life for you.
How to Gain Experience in a New Field at 30
Gaining experience in a new field can be challenging AND scary.
I strongly believe that you can get a job without any prior formal experience (and when I say formal, I mean another day job), so I wanted to give you some ideas on how you can do that:
1. Start with an internship
One of the best ways to gain experience in a new field is by starting with an internship.
This type of program can give you a chance to learn the ropes and gain valuable hands-on experience, plus meeting new people who could eventually connect you to other opportunities.
Many internships are unpaid, but it’s a good way to gain experience and learn more about the industry.
Volunteering is another way to gain experience in a new field.
Many organizations are looking for volunteers, and you can often find opportunities that align with your interests and skills.
I’m pretty sure any organization, no matter how big or small or what the cause is, can benefit from all types of professionals like designers, lawyers, writers, translators, developers, marketers… you name it.
So, find an organization you like and message them to offer your services for free. Then use that experience in your portfolio and resume to show the results you helped them achieve.
You’ll be killing two birds with a stone here: on the one hand, gaining experience and, on the other, working for a good cause.
3. Start your own business
Starting a business may sound scary sometimes, but businesses nowadays can be of many different kinds and sizes.
You can start a one-person agency, a side hustle, or an Instagram page with content related to your new field.
If you do it well and get good results, this business will become a valuable piece in your portfolio. And also an extra source of income 😉
The Bottom Line
Changing careers after your 20s can be challenging. I totally understand how you’re feeling. Really.
But isn’t it tougher to feel miserable at work every day?
I want to encourage you to believe you have the power to change your life for good.
A change is possible.
It takes time, I’m not gonna lie, but it’s possible and 100% worth it!
It’s normal to feel scared and uncertain about changing careers at 30.
But remember, as I said at the beginning: you’re not alone in this.
Many people go through this process and come out on the other side feeling happier and more fulfilled.
Take me for example; if I were born again, I would go through those same three or four years that it took me to make a career change.
Every single moment took me where I am today and I couldn’t be more grateful for what that experience taught me.
Think about what you’re truly passionate about and what would make you excited to wake up every day and go to work.
Consider taking small steps first, like taking a class or workshop related to your desired field.
This can help you get a taste of what it would be like to work in that field, know more people, and feel a little safer when taking the leap.
You can do this!