Career Change at 30: Tips for Making a Switch

Dayton Uttinger  | 

Changing careers at 30 can feel like an unfathomable prospect when you’re 18, but it doesn’t seem terribly unrealistic on the other side of that fence. Plenty of people, including doctors and dentists, can’t even start their career until around 30, and a decent amount of people change their careers in their 40s or even 50s. Take advantage of the time you do have, and consider making the change now.

Why Your 30s are the Perfect Time to Change Careers

This is the optimal time for a career change if you’re unhappy, and here’s a couple reasons why:

  • You have a much better idea of who you are and what you want than you did as a teenager or twenty-something.
  • …. But you still have some experience to bring to the table.
  • You’re less likely to have the responsibilities of a forty- or fiftysomething. Millennials are putting off having children longer than previous generations, so there’s a decent chance that you don’t have an extra mouth to feed right about now.
  • Less responsibility means that you have a lower base cost of living.
  • Career changes are becoming more and more normal in the US— get a head start.
  • You still have at least 35 more years until retirement. Don’t spend that time in a job you hate.

How to Change Careers in Your 30s

If you’re ready to change careers, don’t take the plunge until you’ve got a plan. There are some things you should consider first.

Get to Know Yourself

This might sound hokey, but it’s important. Look at yourself (you don’t have to do it literally, but mirrors are a great place for self-reflection), and determine what you are missing in your current career. What do you need this new career to have? More flexibility, more hustle, more passion?

Then consider your skillset. You’re not a blank slate anymore. By 35, you’ll have made progress in your current career and gained some marketable skills that are useful in a variety of fields.

From there, match up your skills and your interests with possible career fields. Easier said than done, for sure, but if you break it down like that, it doesn’t seem so insurmontable.

Get to Know the Industries and Positions You Are Interested In

Do some research on your options. This will give you a better idea of the expected salaries, hours, and qualifications for the jobs.

Find out if you need a different degree and how long it’ll take you to go back to school. Research the demand for your new job too, along with the general career progression. How long after you switch can you expect to meet your goals?

The Bureau for Labor Statistics is a great place to start. It has information on every job imaginable, and it even gives an estimate of job growth in the coming years.

Consider Changing Jobs, Volunteer, or Interning

Is there a problem with your career or just your job? Before you take the leap, consider switching employers if possible. If your problem isn’t with the field but just your employer, this is probably the better way to go.

If you are intent on changing careers, think about volunteering or interning in your new prospective field. This can give you a chance to see what it’s really like, along with some valuable experience to put on your resume. It might be possible to volunteer or intern while working your other job, so you don’t have to give up on a steady paycheck until you’re ready.

Be Patient

Switching careers at 35 can be a little disorienting— be patient with yourself. You probably won’t find your dream job instantly. You might have to start at a lower position than you’re currently in, but that won’t matter in the long run.

Even if you don’t have it all figured out yet,that’s okay. Take the time to consider what you want out of a career, and don’t beat yourself up. You are moving forward, which takes a lot of courage. Don’t undervalue that.

So whether you’re 30, 35, or 39 ½, switching careers now is still an option. It’s up to you to decide if it’s right for you, but take the time to consider all your options. You still have a lot of open doors.


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Dayton is a chronic Wikipedia addict, which is detrimental to her social life but stellar for her writing. She resides in Boise, ID, surrounded by her own frantic outlines, highlighted encyclopedias, and potatoes. The latter was not by choice.

This post was updated October 9, 2018. It was originally published October 9, 2018.