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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 30, 2020

What Is Creative Thinking and Why Is It Important?

What Is Creative Thinking and Why Is It Important?

Have you ever wondered why some can come up with amazing ideas while others can’t? The ability to connect the dots and see the larger picture all rest in a certain skill – creative thinking.

Creative thinking is our ability to look at ideas presented or a scenario, and find new alternatives that solve the problem. Best of all this skill isn’t bound to the creative people like designers, musicians, or other artists. A lot of people can benefit from thinking this way from time to time. They can also receive a number of benefits on top of a wide variety of ideas that can spark change.

What Is Creative Thinking?

Defined by the Business Dictionary, creative thinking is:[1]

A way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective that suggests unorthodox solutions (which may look unsettling at first). Creative thinking can be stimulated both by an unstructured process such as brainstorming, and by a structured process such as lateral thinking.

Creativity is, therefore, our ability to form something new out of what’s presented. It’s our ability to think differently and provide new angles and perspectives to a solution.

This can translate to a new solution that wasn’t there or even the realization that a problem doesn’t need a solution at the moment or at all.

The Importance of Creative Thinking

True that many people may not care so much about new solutions or angles but that’s the point. Our brains have a natural tendency to fall into certain ‘shortcuts’.

Have you ever been in a situation where you hear or learn one piece of information and you use it all the time?

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I bet you have, since we don’t need to relearn how to use a knife or a fork.

That way of thinking does have its perks in those situations but has some drawbacks in other situations. This is especially true with problem-solving.

Creative thinking and creative thinkers are needed in those situations because it pushes out of that linear way of thinking. It encourages us to look at other perspectives and even open up to the idea of new solutions.

Creative thinking is also important for other reasons:

Thinking creatively provides immense freedom.

When we create, we have the opportunity to engage with the world without judging ourselves. It’s similar to what we felt when we were a child. Back then we didn’t care what people thought of us.

Creative thinking provides self-awareness.

We start to think with authenticity as we use our own thoughts, feelings and beliefs. This creates biases in our ideas, but we can learn to set those aside and deeply learn about ourselves.

We become more confident in our ideas.

Maybe right now, you don’t present ideas or your ideas get shut down. By tapping into creative thinking, we can build our confidence in our ideas and start to contribute to the group and our work at large.

What Are the Creative Thinking Skills?

Creative thinking isn’t barred to those who learn in creative fashions. Anyone can pick up creative thinking skills and use them to enrich their lives and those around them.

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Because anyone can learn this, there is no one “right” method or a set of skills you absolutely need. Some of us may need to strengthen one area while others may need to do more. Regardless, here are some skills that can complement creative thinking.

1. Perception & Empathy

Feeling surprised that this is one of the creative thinking skills? Being perceptive and empathetic works hand in hand with creative thinking. Being able to read the mood of a meeting or a discussion you’re having with people can help immensely.

This is key because there are times and places to share ideas. Specifically, you may find the best opportunities to share ideas when:

  • You’re facing a major problem or issue and can’t seem to find a way to proceed and solve it.
  • During times of change, when the future is more obscure than usual and you’re thinking of possibilities.
  • When there is a clear divide between what people think needs to happen. It’s especially needed when no compromises can happen without considerable effort.
  • When something new is needed and hasn’t been tried before.

Empathy also helps with how an idea is presented. Maybe in your workgroup, people aren’t always receptive to your ideas. However, there is that one person who always has a plan and people support.

Empathy is letting that person take “ownership” of that idea and be the voice behind the idea. In these sorts of scenarios, you build up more than empathy. It also builds the belief that your idea will prevail in the hands of someone else.

2. Analytical

Analytical skills help us in understanding many other situations outside of the social environment. Being able to read text or data and have a deeper understanding of what they mean will serve you in a variety of ways.

I find that with creative thinking, the first step is being able to intake information and digest it in various ways. Being able to analyze information is often the first step in the creative thinking process.

3. Open-Mindedness

Once you’ve taken in the information, it’s important that you have an open mind. This means you need to set aside your biases or assumptions and encourage yourself to look at a problem in a new way.

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Biases and assumptions are some of the mental barriers you’ll face. But looking at the other barriers, they often stem from that sort of thinking. A strict and “this is how it should be” way of thinking. Other examples of limitations are that you’re thinking of a problem too logically or that creative thinking is somehow breaking the rules.

These are limiting because we know that to have an open mind is to succeed. Every successful entrepreneur in the world today had to break rules at some point in their lives. Consider Richard Branson or Elon Musk whose work revolutionized or created an entirely new industry. All because they didn’t back down to how things were. You can do the same thing within your own group in some fashion.

4. Organized

The last thing people associate creative thinkers is that they’re organized. While we think of great minds have messy rooms or desks, that’s not the case at all.

Being organized plays a crucial role in creative thinking in that it allows you to better organize our ideas. Not only that, but it also helps to present it as well. When we present ideas, it’s similar to a speech. There ought to be a structure, a vision, and have it easy to follow and understand.

Furthermore, if your idea is given the green light, you’ll need to form an action plan, set goals, and have specific deadlines. Being organized will keep you on your toes and prepared for almost anything.

5. Communication

Communication plays a vital role in all this as well. You can’t sell a group or an individual on an idea if you can’t communicate effectively. This applies to both written and verbal communication skills.

This goes back to empathy a bit in that you need to understand the situation you’re in. This also means you need to be a good listener and being able to ask the right questions.

6. Dissect Ideas

The last skill I’ll offer is a challenging one but can pay off in so many ways. Sometimes creative thinking means taking two ideas and merging them.

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This helps because in most situations ideas in their base form might not be able to satisfy the original goal or problem. That or maybe the idea is outright terrible but, there are some good pieces of information in it.

The ability to look at ideas and be able to break them down and dissect them and merge with other ideas is a great skill to have. This could easily help solve disputes and help to find a middle ground.

Some Examples of Creative Thinking

The list of creative thinking examples is endless. In most situations, these examples will boost your creative thinking as well so I encourage you to try them out yourself:

  • Designing anything from a logo, to a simple webpage layout, to a poster and more
  • Creating a lesson plan for a group training course
  • Writing in a journal, a blog, or any social platforms
  • Creating a test or quiz from scratch just for fun
  • Brainstorming project ideas at work, or decor/renovation ideas at home
  • Finding procedures to improve the quality of a product or service
  • Suggesting solutions to improve a product or service

Bottom Line

The number of examples of creative thinking is endless but they are all challenging. This is a good thing as the world continues to change and grow. This pushes us to learn new skills, to think differently, and to start asking the more important questions. “Why?” and “Why not?”

These are skills and abilities that can change the world and that anyone can adopt. So long as you have the patience to learn and develop yourself, you too can be a creative thinker!

More Tips to Boost Your Creativity

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

[1] Business Dictionary: Creative Thinking

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