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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

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

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?

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 March 2, 2021

Why You Can (And You Should) Quit Your Job Because of Stress

Why You Can (And You Should) Quit Your Job Because of Stress

Does your job give you chronic stress? Chronic stress is different than regular stress because it causes your brain to consistently release adrenaline and cortisol hormones.[1] In turn, your body reacts to the constant strain: you feel fatigued all the time, have frequent headaches, can’t concentrate, and you get sick a lot more than you used to before you started working here. Those are just a few of the symptoms of chronic stress.

While you’re working a job that causes chronic stress, the solution seems complex. The common advice is for you to use all sorts of tools and strategies — but now you’re discovering the simplest, least stressful solution: quit.

But you also wonder, “I quit my job because of stress, is it bad?”

Not at all! Reading further, you’ll find out exactly why quitting your job is the smart thing to do. Our culture is chained to the idea of persisting for consistency’s sake, but there’s a reason why Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

To be consistent in a stressful situation such as yours is to work harder, not smarter. And don’t be fooled by the word “quit” — this is about empowerment.

Keep going to find out why you should quit your job and leave chronic stress behind.

1. Your Toxic Job Is Making You Sick

Chronic stress and consistently adverse work conditions will affect your health. Think back over the course of the last 6 months or so. How has your health been?

You need to think about the long-term. Even if you haven’t been sick lately, people oftentimes make the mistake of running themselves down over an extended period of time. When you do this, your immune system flatlines and you get hit hard.

Poor health is your body’s way of telling you something isn’t working. There are some specific things to look for when it comes to stress-related health problems. According to CompTIA, the following symptoms are telltale signs your job stress is negatively affecting your health:[2]

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  • You need to sleep far more than normal, or you suffer from insomnia.
  • You’ve experienced significant weight loss or weight gain.
  • You lack energy and motivation, and you don’t feel like socializing very often.
  • You seem to always be coming down with a cold, and when you get a cold or any other illness, it takes longer than it should to recover.
  • Your job encroaches on your life to the extent that you don’t have time or motivation to exercise.

No job is worth losing your health over, and if you haven’t experienced a major breakdown yet, this is the perfect chance to break away.

Wait until your health breaks down completely, and you won’t be able to search for another job, or at least it will be much harder.

Unsure if your job maybe slowly taking down other aspects of your life? Take Lifehack’s Life Assessment to find out. It’s a free assessment that can help analyze your life aspects and give you a custom report of your life’s overview. Take the free assessment here.

2. Multitasking Is a Recipe for Failure

Is there nothing insanely stressful about your job yet you are still insanely stressed? Chances are you’re juggling a full-time job and another (or more than just another) full-time obligation.

For example, if you’re a nontraditional student who went back to school because your job prospects were slim — yet you still have to work while you’re in school — you’re creating stress.

You need to quit something. About 61 percent of multitaskers who seek counseling have anxiety, and 49 percent are depressed.[3]

Counseling helps, but it’s not a cure for multitasking. Professor Gloria Mark at the University of California, Irvine says that people who multitask are more susceptible to stress, neuroticism, and impulsivity.

According to Mark, it takes your brain about 23 minutes and 15 seconds to regain focus after you switch tasks. This drains your energy reserves, and if you continue, you can enter a state of chronic stress.[4]

People who have two or three major priorities weighing on them all the time are caught in a multitasking trap. Determine your priorities and evaluate your job. If your job is not something you’re passionate about and it’s not at the top of your priority list, drop it.

3. Employers That Don’t Help Relieve Stress Aren’t Doing Their Job

The truth is employment shouldn’t be a one-sided relationship.

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You pour your heart into your job, you take pride in your work, and you truly care about the outcome. An employer who doesn’t encourage you to take breaks and doesn’t provide opportunities for stress-relief is an employer who doesn’t deserve to have you around.

You offer something many fantastic employers would bend over backwards to have: a work ethic and a high level of commitment. Good employers know it’s their responsibility not to run people into the ground. They know they must pay attention to how much you work as well as how stressed you are.

At the core, you’re dealing with a culture of stress. A study of organizational culture showed that a hierarchical, bureaucratic culture, in which the organization showed little care for employee well-being, created a state of low morale.[5]

An organization’s negative, stress-based culture leads to poor performance, high turnover, and a low level of engagement.

The bottom line is that when you’re dealing with a culture of stress, you’re completely justified in being uncommitted.

A company’s culture is its identity. Don’t commit to a culture — therefore an identity — that is tearing itself down instead of building itself up.

4. There Are Great Jobs You’ll Love

A lot of times, when someone who is overly stressed doesn’t quit and find a new job, it’s because they feel stuck. They aren’t exercising free will, they aren’t choosing to recognize the agency and autonomy that allows them to go where they please when they please.

Philosopher Mitch Horowitz talks about this in his new book, The Miracle Club: How Thoughts Become Reality. Although there are some circumstances you can’t control, within your current set of circumstances you can select a life you prefer.

To put this in the employment context, you are able to envision the type of job you want and the type of company you’d like to work for. You’re not working somewhere else because you haven’t selected to do so.

Select a different job and take the steps to get there. You have the ability to concentrate all your efforts in a new direction.

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Yes, there are practical considerations — including the fact that you need to pay the bills. There are also practical solutions. Here are some of them:

  • List your resources. Do you have a car that’s in decent condition? Are you able-bodied? Do you have an internet connection at home or at least one you can access every day?
  • Search for part-time gigs you can work when you’re able, such as driving for a ride-share company or any of the other gig economy work you have the resources to do.
  • List your bills and calculate how much income you’ll need to pay them while you’re looking for a different full-time job.
  • Work your part-time gig enough to pay the bills.
  • Spend the rest of your time looking for the full-time position you really want.

A lot of people try to look for a different full-time job while still working their current job, but that won’t give you as much time as the part-time gig strategy.

When you’re looking for something new, don’t just select anything that comes along. You’re selecting a different path from among the nearly infinite paths you could select. To select the right path, find the answer to the most important question.

Here’s the important question to ask yourself:

What do I love to do?

Once you answer that question, all other actions must center on getting to a place where you can do nothing but what you love to do.

5. You Are the Driving Force Behind Your Own Success

Right now, you’re working for an employer who is placing responsibility on you and you’re not in control. The responsibilities and tasks in front of you are selected by other people.

Why do you have all these responsibilities and tasks to begin with? Because you have the skill set necessary to do them, as well as a great many other things.

In terms of types of things you could do, your work represents a relatively small percentage. The corporate division of labor is such that most people only take care of one or two types of things, with a bunch of related subtasks. The rest of your intellectual and physical ability goes untouched.

This isn’t to say you don’t have a lot to do — you’re probably overloaded with tasks, you’re bogged down in minutia. But you know you’re capable of other things.

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In general, you’re capable of a higher level of thinking. The reason why you haven’t started your own business or struck out on a freelance career is you haven’t selected that type of route yet.

Now is the time to own the full capacity of your abilities. The stress at your current job isn’t worth it when you can do the thing you love so much better.

Once you seize onto what you love to do and find a way to make it your life, stress becomes positive. It’s no longer chronic, harmful stress because you view it differently.

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal discusses how, in a massive study, people who viewed stress as a positive thing didn’t have harmful physical reactions to it and actually lived longer than those who viewed it negatively [6].

Once you’re doing what you love, the pressure of getting things done is akin o the increase of heart rate from exercising. Since you are focused on the thing you love — much like a runner is focused on the act of running until completion — you cope with stress by continuing with your momentum.

You look at problems as possibilities. That’s how you succeed.

Stress Is Your Spark

It’s true that a toxic job full of chronic stress can make you sick, and a lifestyle that involves multitasking and lack of focus will contribute to a lack of well-being.

At the same time, it’s true that you wouldn’t have come to this realization and an important move in your life if it weren’t for stress.

A level of stress you can’t handle is your catalyst to do something new. You’re going to select the path you want and use your capabilities to actualize your full potential.

In the end, the stress was a good thing. It made you aware of your threshold and now you know it’s time to move on.

More Tips Related to Work Stress

Featured photo credit: Saulo Mohana via unsplash.com

Reference

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