Career Change in My 30s: Is it Too Late?
For many people, the typical path to a career goes something like this - pick a career, graduate from a recognised university degree program and then start working. Hopefully from there on, you get to climb the ladder to roles within your chosen industry that bring you greater fulfilment and more money. Sound familiar?
But what happens when your chosen career just doesn't meet your expectations? It's just not the right fit. Or perhaps it starts out seeming right but your life experiences leave you a changed person and you are left re-evaluating what you really want from your career. You are not alone. Psychologists believe this is normal and particularly common for people in their 30s. In fact, it is often when a person is in their 30s that they reach a point where they feel as though they have accomplished much of what they want in their career. Yet at the same time, the prospect of working in the same job for another twenty to thirty years is depressing.
Is it Really a New Career I Want?Before considering a career change, make sure it's for the right reasons. Bad reasons to change careers are:
- Hating your boss
- Wanting to meet new people
- Working too many hours
All of the reasons above can likely be overcome with a new job in a similar role and industry. However, if you want to use your creative skills and accounting isn't doing it for you, then this would be a good reason to consider a career change.
50% to 80% of People Are in Wrong CareerA number of studies have been undertaken on this topic and results show anywhere from fifty to eighty percent of us end up in the wrong career. Although you may wake up one day with an epiphany that you are in the wrong career, for many people it's a progression of dissatisfaction with their current employment path. Putting that dissatisfaction into action, however, requires careful planning and action if you want your new role to bring you the happiness you deserve.
Can You Simply Drop Your Current Career?Few careers will allow you to simply drop your current one and make a change. It can happen but more likely it is less of a role change and more of an industry shift. For example, moving from a marketing role in a luxury goods environment to one in food products. These kinds of changes can be realised with some CV tweaking, networking and the ability to sell your enthusiasm and quickly learn a new industry.
Other regulated professions such as nursing or social work involve education and internship experience with membership to the appropriate governing body. The con is that they will require a return to university. The pro is that once you are qualified and registered, you have excellent work prospects.
Depending on how big the career change, you may manage to convince a potential employer to subsidise the costs of your education and/or provide company training for the role. If you can convincingly adjust your CV to show strong potential for your new career, this would be a real possibility.
Reviving Your CV and Cover Letter - Focus on SkillsMany people think that by changing careers, they are giving up their skills. Quite the contrary - they are often surprised to learn that they are putting their skills to better use. Every person who wants to change careers absolutely must revive their CV and tailor it to their new profession. If you are going into a career that involves little to no further education, how you present your skills and capabilities will be even more critical to finding employment. Try these tips on reformatting your CV:
Bring your skills up front - If your education is in a totally unrelated area, keep it in there but move it to the end of your CV. Focus on a functional style of CV. Identify transferable skills and give any concrete examples in your current job that will relate to your new one.
Write a targeted mission statement/profile - Link your skills to your career aspirations to show right away why and how you should be in a new role.
Connect accomplishments to specific and relevant skills - Include a brief list of key accomplishments and highlight skills that relate to your new career.
Your cover letter should always - start out by explaining why you want to work for the company. This remains true whether you are changing careers or not. To give it added value, however, be honest about your current path and why that particular company is where you want to make your career move. Smartly done flattery will give the company's human resources department good reason to read your CV in the first place.
Make Positive Online ImpressionsMany people who want to start a new career don't consider what online trail they have left behind. Try searching your name to see what comes up. Some ways to improve your online image include:
- Start a blog that relates to your new career. Employers are impressed when you devote your free time to career relevant subject matter.
- Get active in online forums. Find others who work in your dream job and get busy with social media. Participate in discussions and you will begin to establish yourself as a credible member or leader of your field.
- Join professional networking sites. Sites such as LinkedIn are a good way to connect with others in your field, especially in terms of finding a new job.
Kids, Mortgages and Other PracticalitiesPart of your decision to change careers will not just rely on the logistics of training and associated costs, but also other commitments such as your family. By the time many people realise they are ready for a new career, they have acquired significant responsibilities such as a mortgage and children. Read the questions from our readers below and see what you have in common.
As you can see from our reader comments, time and money are a common issue when embarking on a career change. Gone are the days of being a student at university when parents offered support and you could live in shared flats. You are likely to be in a flat or house that is not shared, plus you may have car payments and other expenses that make it unfeasible to give up your job whilst going back to college.
University programmes may be offered part-time and in the evenings, which is practical for adult learners who must maintain their daytime employment to pay mortgages and other debts. Also, for our reader with a wealth of experience in maths teaching, there are other options outside of teaching that won't necessarily require further education. For instance, multinational companies will consider teachers for their product-training department. Alternately, there may be roles within the research sector that don't involve teaching.
Small children are a challenge for any parent who is settled in their career, let alone one who is embarking on a new employment path. Fortunately, there are some options. Depending on whether you already have a degree and in what area, there are postgraduate programs that can provide you with qualifications in areas such as nursing. These are typically faster than those at the undergraduate level. The UK government offers a range of grants and bursaries for adult learners. You must apply to the organisation that offers the funding. There are also childcare grants for adult learners to help subsidise the costs of education. Some are paid directly to you whilst others go directly to your childcare provider.
Is it Worth the Risk?It's a tough question but a critical one, especially if pursuing a new career requires a major financial and educational investment. It is worth taking the time early on to number crunch and determine feasibility. Ask yourself:
- What will my source of income be during the transition?
- Is my partner's income sufficient? Are there luxuries we can do without?
- Will I have enough time to succeed?
- Can I balance my time between studying, working and family?
- Have I done my research? Have I talked to people working in my potential new career?
- Am I confident I will truly enjoy the role?
Ultimately, if you decide it's not worth the risk, all is not lost. Whilst you may choose to continue in your chosen profession - at least for now - you can still connect with your career aspirations. Some people choose to volunteer with charities that operate in their dream career. For example, our reader who wants to work with children who have learning disabilities may find it's not the best time for the career move. However, there may be volunteer opportunities at a community centre to plan and participate in activities with disabled children.
Family and Friends - What to SayOnce you have a plan, you are faced with the task of telling family and friends. But be prepared for backlash. Not everyone will support your career change, especially if you've experienced what those on the outside consider success in your career. You may be accused of being "crazy" or "irresponsible" for doing what is perceived as jeopardising your livelihood and perhaps that of your partner and children for changing careers. Given the global recession, it's a popular belief that you should be lucky to have a job and it's foolish to change it.
Those who have been successful in handling negative comments have done so by avoiding long discussions. Be succinct and brief in what you share. It's reasonable to say you're looking at other options without giving all the details. If you know someone else who successfully works in your new career, use this person as an example.
Changing careers does mean being brave and taking a leap at times. There is rarely a success story where a job fell into someone's lap. Starting a new career requires research and commitment. Above all, it takes one step at a time and courage for each one.