Are You Thinking of A Career Change at 30?

Sep 5, 2013 -

What happens when you want a career change at 30?

If you contemplating a career change at 30, that is perfectly normal. After all, it's normal to think about whether or not the grass is greener on the other side. And what better time to do it than at 30? After 20 and before 40.

Let's put it in perspective, if you started your career straight out of college, you've already been working for five to ten years! You've probably developed specific skill sets that have made you successful in your line of work. 

If you are an accountant, you are probably great at solving general ledger puzzles, moving numbers around, and balancing debits and credits. Are you an investment banker? You are probably great at making pitch books, finding buyers for your companies, and most likely a workaholic. Or perhaps you are a programmer? If that is the case, I'd be willing to bet you are well versed in Ruby on Rails, MySQL, and of course PHP.  

Whatever industry you are building you career, most of your soft skills are definitely transferable. But your technical skills might not be. What do you do when you already spent nearly 10 years building your skills and suddenly you are thinking of a career change at 30?

Ask yourself three questions.

1) Do you enjoy your career enough that you see yourself doing this for another 20 years?

When you picked your first career, you probably were attracted by the prestige, money, or someone just hyped up that career for you. For me, my career began as an accountant. Like most auditors, I was wined and dined, showered with gifts, and even had part of my college tuition paid for by a Big 4 accounting firm. Nobody grows up wanting to become an accountant, it kind of "just happened".

By mid-career, dragging yourself out of bed to do something you dread becomes increasingly difficult. Your motivation wanes and if you aren't at the top of your game, it becomes harder to climb that ladder. Faking an interest in your job is a disservice to yourself and the company you are working for. If you don't enjoy your career, then a career change at 30 is not a bad alternative. It becomes increasingly difficulty as you get older because if you find out 10 years later that this career isn't what you wanted, you've "lost" 10 years already.

2) Are you willing to take a pay cut or go to graduate school?

From the employer's hiring perspective, the best case scenario is that they hire someone who already has experience in the role they are seeking to fill. For example, if an employer was looking to hire a marketing manager, ideally they would want to hire someone who has performed the duties of a marketing manager for at least six months. Therefore, if you change career paths, in most cases, you would have to take a lesser relative role and most likely lower pay.

Alternatively, you could get an MBA or go to Law School and then find a job through the school's network. This is one of the best ways to make a career change. I've seen friends who were accountants and had the hardest time breaking into investment banking, but were able to do so after getting an MBA. Employers almost expected that you change careers coming out of law school or business school.

3) Is it worth it to make big careers changes when you are 30? Or, should you stick to what you have and do lots of”side projects”?

It's not unusual to change careers more than once especially before the age of 30. Did you know Ellen Degeneres was a paralegal? Or what about Brad Pitt who was a limo driver? But let's be realistic, we are neither Ellen nor Brad. 

Let's be honest here. You only have one life to live and it can be taken away from you at anytime without warning. While it may not seem very likely, I've had many friends that have gone before it seemed like it was their time. It's a surreal feeling, when someone close to you, someone who you might have seen week after week, suddenly isn't there anymore. You don't really believe it at first, but it's real. Think about that before you spend another day at your dreaded job.

Realistically, if you have a family to feed, but still want a career change, the responsible thing to do would be to do what you are doing and start a bunch of side projects. If one of them takes off, you can quit your job and then pursue that full-time. Alternatively, you could take a pay cut, but you'd be working at your "dream job". If you are risk-adverse, finding a business partner and doing side projects would be one way to go. Ultimately, the decision should be made based on your risk tolerance and personality. 

Regardless, I always tell myself that if its good then its wonderful, if it ends up being bad, its experience. 
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