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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

Signs You Need a Career Change at 30 (And How to Make It Successful)

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Signs You Need a Career Change at 30 (And How to Make It Successful)

I remember when I turned 30, I felt a new sense of maturity, confidence, and purpose. I had developed a solid reputation at work and achieved two promotions. I was also blessed to marry my best friend and travel the world. This was also the same year that I felt the pressures of increasing responsibilities as I was supporting my parents with my mom’s cancer treatments and being a caregiver to my grandmother.

I was exposed to many life events that offered me the opportunity to reflect on making a career change at 30 and consider how a career impacts my quality of life. And since we spend over 90,000 hours at work in our lives, it was time that I re-evaluated the career decisions that I was making.[1]

At 30, you still have about 35 more working years left until retirement and a career change is inevitable in our fast paced changing world of work.

Common Triggers For a Career Change

1. Life Events

Whether you’re getting married (or some may get divorced), seeking home ownership, raising a family, caring for aging parents, developing your career, or building your nest egg — you’re bound to experience life events that will change your perspective.

The spark to change careers comes in different forms for everyone. For some, it’s a big fire; and for others, it’s a small lit birthday candle leading them to take the first step like recognizing that a career change is needed.

These life events will likely surface some questions for reflection:

  • Why do I feel like I need a change?
  • What is most important to me right now?
  • How can I create a more flexible work schedule?
  • What can I do to spend more time with my family?
  • What if I could include my desires into my life and work? How could I go about doing that?
  • What trends are having the most impact on my career? Which of my existing skills are more adaptable and which new skills do I need to add?

Fear of the unknown can be paralyzing and when you’re able to pass through the transition of a career change, the outcomes of making informed decisions can be quite exciting. Keep an open mind and renew your mindset.

2. You’re on Autopilot

Many of us take work for granted when it becomes comfortable and routine. This is a very common scenario for a majority of people in the workplace.[2]

You may be on autopilot from the moment you get out of bed to the end of your work day. You stroll through the sea of cubicles and finally arrive at your own. Maybe you can’t remember how you’re already idle at your computer, logging into your email, and checking your calendar.

Here are some cues that you’re on autopilot:

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  • You feel stuck and can’t quite put your finger on what needs to change.
  • You make decisions without thinking. Your decisions are mindless and unintentional.
  • You dread each day. Every morning feels empty because you have nothing to look forward to.
  • You’re bored. When you’re completing a task, your mind wanders aimlessly about other things.
  • Your routine is predictable and familiar. You know exactly what’s going to happen each day, month and quarter. Nothing will change.
  • You say ‘yes’ more than you say ‘no’ because you don’t want to let others down, but regret the decision because you’ve said ‘yes’ to something you really don’t want to do.

Adults make about 35,000 decisions a day according to some research.[3] There are many times that we do things without thinking.

Being on autopilot does help us manage our compounding choices, however, if we rely too much on our default setting we will likely not make conscious decisions.

You want to be fully present and intentional when you’re making decisions about how you want to shape your work and live your life.

Good news, small actions can help you be more aware of the impact autopilot has on your life and this will be different for everyone.

First, noticing your own autopilot behaviors is essential as you will start to recognize and change your habits so that you can make mindful decisions.

3. You’ve Been Overlooked for a Promotion

You may be eyeing a career change at 30 if you’re frustrated because you’ve been passed over for a promotion. You are skilled, have close to 10 years of work experience, and achieved many career milestones. However, the problem is that you still don’t have that management job title and can’t understand why.

You dread going into work each day and your mind is flooded with negative emotions from your inner critic that you can’t seem to silence:

  • You’re likely fuming, wanting to knock down your boss’s door to demand answers, walk out and hit the job postings.
  • You resent the new employees who have come into the company and moved onto other roles with increasing responsibility, and yet your job description has remained the same.
  • You feel stuck and can’t seem to understand why she/he was promoted and not you. You’re constantly comparing yourself to others. You believe you have the same skills and you have been with the company longer than her/him.

Here are some tips to consider before you bury your head under the sand:

  • Stay professional. You’ve spent a lot of effort building the trust of your colleagues. Don’t let your impulses spoil the reputation you’ve built. Take a deep breath, maintain your grace and congratulate the incumbent.
  • Look inward. It’s easy to point your fingers at others when something doesn’t go your way. This is a great time to take stock of your strengths and vulnerabilities. Being honest and without self-judgement takes courage and patience. Create space for yourself to reflect and enhance yourself awareness.
  • Seek observable feedback. Speak to your trusted advisors. Share with them your self-assessment and ask them to share with you their observations of your behaviours.
  • Be curious and treat the experience as a learning opportunity. Ensure that you’re open to receiving the lessons learned from your experience. Consider things that you could have done to enhance your chances at a promotion or factors that may be outside of your control.

4. You’re Stressed and Overworked

As you transition from your 20s to your 30s, you will likely experience greater responsibilities or at least the feeling you should take on more responsibilities shaped by social norms. Some expectations may include getting married, having a full-time job, home ownership, starting a family, and climbing the corporate ladder.

Trying to constantly meet externally imposed expectations along with increasing work pressures can be a recipe for a career change at 30.

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When your stress is not addressed, this can result in burnout and there are ways to be proactive. While breakdowns are catalysts for change you need to listen to your body and focus on what you have control over.

Take time for self-care and when you create some space for yourself, you may realize that embarking on small or big career changes at 30 is the right timing.

Questions to help you work through your stressors:

  • What is the problem? What is causing your stress at work? Write it down. Get clear on the problem. You’ll likely need to ask yourself these questions at least 5 times to get to the heart of your problem.
  • What will inaction cost you emotionally?
  • What are you willing to tolerate and not tolerate? What is your limit?
  • What social norms are you afraid to go against and why?
  • Why am I doing what I’m doing? Truly understand the intentions behind your actions.

Career changes are unique and needs to be tailored specifically for you. Whether you want to make small incremental changes or turn your ship around 180 degrees, take your time to seek clarity first. This will help you lay a solid foundation to build a successful career change and avoid mindlessly scanning job boards.

How to Make a Successful Career Change

1. Know ‘Why’

Usually when you’re seeking a career change, there’s a lot of emotions present. It’s essential that you understand and know the true reason of your career change.

Here are some tips and questions to help you find the purpose behind your career change:[4]

What are the best moments in your career so far? What do you enjoy doing so much that you can lose track of time. What do people always say you’re great at? Write it down. List things that you love about your work and things that you hate.

Whose career do you admire? Your answers to this question will tell you a lot about your career desires. Think of three people whose career you admire. What is it about their work that fascinates you? What do you find interesting about their career?

If success was guaranteed and you had the skills, what would you be doing and why?

The more you write, the more you’ll notice themes and patterns. Some examples of themes include speaking, listening to others, designing, or creating.

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If you can’t seem to find patterns, share what you’ve learned about yourself with an objective friend or mentor. This information will help you hone in on your strengths, the types of connection you enjoy and what impact you want to make with your work.

I would encourage you to try and complete this exercise without making any assumptions. It’s easy to jump ahead and have your thoughts interrupted by fear and insecurities. There are no right or wrong answers here. You are simply writing down what and how you feel.

2. Check Your Assumptions

You may have heard the saying “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. At 30, you’re probably feeling quite confident in your position in life. You’ve been molded by various cultures and the greatest influencers in your life – be it your families, friends or colleagues.

You may be an engineering professional and realize that you want to be a social worker. However, you think “… I could never do that. What will my parents think? My friends will think I’m crazy. I’ll be poor and can’t make a living doing that. I’ll have to go back to school to get my Master’s in Social Work. That will take too long”.

Notice how your inner dialogue has created assumptions about your desired career change, and yet you have not checked these assumptions. You will need to do a bit of research before you can say that everything you just told yourself is true.

  • What type of volunteer work have you done?
  • What do you find most attractive about being a social worker?
  • What types of nonprofits do you support financially or through volunteering?
  • What would happen if you spoke to your parents and friends that you’re considering a career change?
  • How have other professionals made a career change to become a social worker?
  • Do you need a graduate degree to get hired as a social worker?

Not only do you need to be mindful of your assumptions, you need to get very specific about what aspects of the new career actually excites you.

Do you want to be a social worker because the job will make you feel like you’re having an impact on someone’s life? Does working for the nonprofit sector appeal to you? Do you enjoy listen to others objectively and providing support? Do you like educating others?

Keep in mind that these career ingredients also exist in other careers. Speak to people that can provide you with answers. Others’ will likely provide you a different perspective than your own. So I urge you to keep all possibilities on the table before you discard them.

3. Be a Beginner and Experiment

As we age, we gain more experience and we lose our ability to learn like a true beginner.

Children learning a new skill usually have no previous knowledge or expectations about what they are about to learn. They have a sense of humility to their learning approach. Kids are usually ready and willing to learn.

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Taking a humble approach to learning about your career change will help you keep an open mind.

Here are a few tips:

Take baby steps

Change rarely happens overnight. Be patient with your career change as you gather information about yourself and learn from others through informational interviews.

Experiment.

Remember to test your assumptions. Career changes can be challenging and there will be an element of trial and error.

It’s ok to fail because then you’ll know, learn and be able to move forward. You’re gaining more knowledge about yourself each time you try something new.

Stop analyzing and take action.

As adults, we have a tendency to analyze and assess risk based on our experience and knowledge. There comes a point when you need to stop analyzing and actually do it.

Email that social worker you’ve admired for an informational interview. The worst that can happen is that you don’t receive a response. Email someone else. There are plenty of professionals that will share their time and experience with you. Move beyond the paralysis of fear and take action.

The Bottom Line

Be intentional about your career decisions at 30 and notice how your career impacts the quality of your life. A successful career change requires you to build a stable foundation by truly looking inward to understand why you want a change – tiny or big.

Possibilities are limitless so ensure that you double check your assumptions, experiment and keep a beginners mindset. Remember to make career decisions that feel natural to you.

Spend 3 minutes today to write 3 reasons why you want a career change right now. Review your answers from the previous day and write down 3 other reasons. Repeat this exercise Signs You Need a Career Change and How to Change for Success
for the next 7 days. What patterns do you notice?

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More Resources About Career Change

Featured photo credit: @CVDOP Limbocker via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Ami Au-Yeung

Workplace Strategist | Career Coach | Workshop Facilitator | Writer | Speaker | Past Business Professor

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Last Updated on September 5, 2021

How To Be Proactive At Work: 7 Habits To Build

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How To Be Proactive At Work: 7 Habits To Build

I don’t know about you, but it was nearly impossible for me to be proactive at work last year.

Every week, I would map out my game plan and color-coded my calendar. But when I tried to set things in motion, I faced ten-foot barriers that would force me to change direction. I’d have to reschedule meetings, push deadlines back, and reorganize my life because of all the twists and turns. Pivoting became my life, and it was taking over every part of it.

When I think back to 2020, it was like trying to survive the Tour de France blindfolded. By the end of the year, I was worn out, and I was in no mood to organize my 2021 goals. Being proactive was the furthest from my mind. In many ways, I didn’t even want to dream about new projects.

When January 1st entered the scene, I crawled back under my covers and hoped for the best—or at least a year that would be more predictable with less pivoting.

You want to be hopeful for this year, but a part of you is afraid of another year filled with more barriers and you’re tired of trying to survive the chaos. You’re not alone.

Over 100,000 businesses have permanently shut their doors because of Covid-19.[1] Start-Ups aren’t getting a second chance.[2] And according to Pew Research, one in four adults still have a hard time finding money to pay their bills.[3]

This reality is not the most inspiring for those of us who are business leaders. If anything, it feels like the grim reaper is right around the corner to destroy our dreams and add us to the rising number of failed companies.

Being proactive is one of the most challenging things to muster right now. But it is one of the most imperative traits that we need to embrace.

But first, let’s be clear, what does being proactive mean?

Defining the Term “Proactive” In-Depth

The word proactive often floats around the workplace, usually by well-meaning managers asking employees or their team to, “Be more proactive!” But have you ever stopped to think about what that actually means?

The dictionary definition of proactive is, “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes.”

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Being proactive is about dealing with any obstacles or challenges before they even happen. Simply put, a proactive person plans ahead.

For example, you’re buying an older home. The seller tells you that it has a sturdy foundation and an engineer confirms it. Most people would be satisfied with this answer.

A proactive person, however, would think beyond what’s presented and look into any potential issues. They may ask questions like, “How long is the lifespan of the foundation?”, “Is it earthquake ready?”, or “Does insurance cover the foundation?”

Depending on the answers, proactive people would respond accordingly and put safeguards in place to avoid these problems or minimise its impact. While it seems like a lot of resources and effort are spent at the beginning, it can actually lessen your stress and save you time and effort because you’re either preventing a problem or already have a solution at hand when the challenge arises.

This doesn’t mean that proactive people never have to put out fires on occasion. However, when you have a proactive mindset, most of the issues that come up seemingly out of left field are already something you’ve considered. And this makes you better equipped to handle situations calmly and enact a solution.

If you want your business to succeed this year, you need to be proactive at work. Situations around the world are constantly changing and you never know what the next month, year or even hour might bring and how it would affect your work. Planning ahead and preparing for the future is incredibly vital in our current climate.

Proactivity vs Reactivity

We can’t discuss proactivity without exploring the other side of the coin: Reactivity.

Being reactive is the complete opposite of being proactive. A reactive person doesn’t feel the need to address a problem until it’s already occurred. They simply react to a situation because it’s already there.

Spontaneity and the ability to address problems as they arise is important in leadership, and in life. After all, we cannot predict the future no matter how hard we try. But oftentimes reactive people encounter problems because they refuse to take action even though there have been warning signs of imminent trouble.

Reactivity also comes from a place of panic. Because you have not thought or planned ahead, you react instantaneously. You may not offer the best solution because you haven’t had time to fully review the situation, and maybe even create more problems.

It won’t be easy, but it will be a lot easier with the following practical habits that I’ve put together for you. These tools will make all the difference for you and your organization.

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7 Practical Habits to Turn Reactivity into Proactivity

Even proactive people can exhibit reactive behavior. No one is perfect and the corporate and business world can be unpredictable. But you can turn things around and be proactive even when you have not anticipated challenges that face you. Here are some tips:

1. Don’t Be Busy

Repeat after me: only do what is necessary—no more and no less.

If you’re anything like me, as soon as January 1st comes along, you cram in all your five-year goals into one packed year. You love seeing your schedule filled. But being busy isn’t the same as being productive. Being proactive requires you to take a step back, reevaluate your priorities, and actually take things off of your plate before adding new goals.

The brain is not designed to always operate at full capacity twenty-four hours a day.[4] It needs a break. If we’re constantly immersing ourselves throughout the day with frivolous tasks, then we don’t have time to concentrate on our goals.

This year, I’m taking a break from the chaos and learning to do fewer tasks with more investment.

Think of it this way. Planning takes time. It’s like painting an apartment. Before you can add color to the drab walls of your living room, you have to plan and prep the area. The same is true for being proactive at work.

2. Stop Trying to Run Everyone’s Race

If you want to direct the narrative of your life, you need to take a step back and get rid of the clutter. Figure out what you can delegate and then, focus your energy away from the distractions. Not every email needs a reply, and not every job is right for you.

Shakespeare said it best,[5]

“To thine own self be true.”

These six words need to become your mantra.

If you want to reach your goals this year and be proactive, you need to walk forward with laser focus. If you compare yourself or your business to the next big thing, you won’t contribute anything except a lesser copy of yourself and your organization.

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Part of being proactive is being creative. You have to be able to see the different angles and nuances in a situation or project in order to anticipate potential issues and come up with creative solutions. If you’re constantly looking over someone else’s work, you’re not focusing on what’s in front of you. And you could end up missing a lot of obstacles that you could’ve avoided if you were paying attention.

Stop looking around. Your purpose is not to run the race of someone else. If you want to be proactive at work, you need to stop comparing yourself to your neighbor and stick to running your own race. It’s the only way that you’ll win.

3. Make “Essentialism” Your 2021 Word

When you’re figuring out your 2021 goals, take time to weigh the cost. Ask yourself if it’s worth the investment. Being proactive means that you take into consideration all the variables before cementing your goals.

Before you map out your plan or get crazy with those highlighters, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Will this goal help create balance in my life?
  • Will this goal produce a return on investment?

If you can answer a resounding “yes” to both of these questions, then take these ideas and write them down on a piece of paper.

After you’ve compiled a list of 15 to 20 ideas, take a new sheet of paper and break it into two columns. The first section should contain a list of goals that take priority. These ideas would fall under the umbrella of being trend-related and financially profitable.

The second section should contain a list of goals that will increase your social proof and promote your priority goals. This column drives traffic and promotes awareness of your business and your product.

After you’ve compiled this list, break it in half and cut it down to three goals in each section. Three is the perfect number because it gives you leeway to pivot and bend if you need to make changes throughout the process.

The two excellent tools that have helped me develop a schedule of essentialism are Hilary Rushford’s Elegant Excellence Journal[6] and Jill Konrath’s book, “More Sales. Less Time.

Both of these tools have helped me focus on what’s important, make the best decisions for my business, and make a profit without sacrificing my health.

4. Order the Same Latte

When you look at the greats in the business world, they all encompass one thing: simplicity.

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If you minimize your choices and stick to the basics, you’ll have the ability to save time and focus your energy on decisions that require your creativity. Keeping up with the latest fashion trends not only sacrifices your time but also sacrifices your budget.

Remember, it’s not about looking successful. It’s about making choices that give you the ability to be successful.

Here are four things that you can do to save time to make you more proactive at work:

  • Buy multiples of the same outfit and mix and match throughout the week.
  • Order the same drink each day from the same coffee shop.
  • Prepare meals at the beginning of the week for lunch and dinner.
  • Set your alarm for the same time each morning, including weekends.

5. Don’t Pressure Yourself to Respond Immediately

It’s okay to be surprised or be blindsided. Sometimes things just happen that is out of your control. What you are in control of, however, is your reaction. There’s nothing wrong with not having a solution or response at hand. It’s okay to take a step back and think about it first before responding.

6. Put a Pin on It

If you find yourself being unable to come up with a good solution, you can put a pin on it. You may want to address another matter first, one you already know how to deal with. It may give you inspiration and confidence when you come back to your other issues. Unless of course the imminent problem is fire outside your door.

7. Prioritize What’s Important

The thing with problems that come up suddenly, is that they may have already caused damage you can’t reverse. You have to learn to accept the situation and instead of trying to solve the unsolvable, prioritize what’s important, see what you can salvage and take note of lessons that will help you in the future.

It’s impossible to be proactive if you feel rushed. But if you follow the above tips, you’ll gain more time in your schedule and have more energy to lead your business and operate with a well-organized game plan.

Final Thoughts

I think the majority of us are tired of feeling like we’re contestants in Survivor. After all, who wants to be filmed while living in the woods and surviving off of bugs and tree bark?

All kidding aside. This past year has been challenging. But we can learn a lot from these past twelve months.

If you want to be proactive, simplify your schedule, focus on your path, only take what you need, and be purposeful with your time and energy. Being proactive is not about filling up your schedule. It’s about creating balance in your life.

I know it seems daunting right now, and many of us are still trying to figure out how to pay this month’s rent with spare change from the couch. But if you take the time to prepare and figure out what’s a priority this year, you’ll not only meet your goals, you’ll enjoy the journey.

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You have all the tools you need to be proactive at work. Now, go map out your 2021 goals for the year!

More Tips on How to Be Proactive

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

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