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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 November 9, 2020

How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

Why is it important to be goal-oriented? If you make goals without asking yourself what your true strengths and values are first, you could put yourself on the fast track to disappointment. On the other hand, if you don’t set any intentions at all, you could bounce through life like a pinball doing what others want without accomplishing what’s really important to you.

Fear not. Here are 8 powerful ways to be goal-oriented using the ENVISION method (Endgame – Nesting – Value – Inspiration – Superpowers – Intimates – Openness – Nourishment) that will help you create a successful, meaningful life:

1. Start With the End in Mind

To ensure that you make goals that matter, stand back and examine your life from a broader perspective. Think about the happy ending you would like to achieve, the “E” in ENVISION, and work backwards to determine how you’ll get there.

For example, if you’d like to generate goals for yourself over the next five years, write down where you’d like to be professionally and personally five years from now.

Where do you see yourself in relation to work? What’s your family life like? What type of friends and social support group do you have? What are your hobbies? 

Next, ask yourself where you would like to be one year from now relative to what you’d like to accomplish in five years. Write the answer out in enough detail so that it seems real to you. Then, ask yourself where you’d like to be three months from now. Be specific.

What about one month or one week? What one small action could you take this week to come closer to achieving your master plan?

This exercise is a fun and eye-opening way to line up your goals with the bigger picture of your life so that you won’t waste your precious time on passing fancies and other people’s agendas.

2. Create Nested Goals

The most efficient way to achieve your goals is to nest action items inside them, the first “N” in ENVISION. Goal-oriented people get specific about when, where, and how they’ll reach their objectives by breaking them down into sub-goals.

Make your aspirations challenging but not too hard. Each one should be measurable. Instead of writing “I’d like to write a book,” try setting an intention such as “I’d like to write two hours a day, four times a week” and mark space on your calendar for it.

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Make your aims positive and keep track of your progress. Instead of business goals like “I’d like to quit my stinking job,” think about what a desirable career would look like. Try “I’d like to develop educational toys with like-minded people in a virtual office,” and then send out your résumé to companies with matching job openings.

Come up with alternative pathways to your goals so that if one doesn’t work, you’ll already have plan B in place. It’s normal to fail and experience setbacks. This goal-oriented strategy will help you move forward on the pathway to your dreams no matter what happens.

You can learn more on creating effectively goals here:

3. Get Clear on Your Values

Before you start setting goals, it’s important to ask yourself what you really value, the “V” in ENVISION.

The number one regret of people on their deathbed is that they did not live their dreams. Don’t let that be you. To avoid living a life full of “shoulds” and obligations, make a wish list. Jot down what you really want, and put all the reasons you think you can’t have it aside.

These aspirations can range from the material (such as a new car) to the psychological (high self-worth), to the spiritual (inner peace), to pretty much anything you can think of. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy.

Giving yourself permission to daydream about a rich and fulfilling life is the first step to getting it. Be sure your goals speak to your soul.

4. Make Time for Inspiration

As you put your goals together, think about how you can find downtime to become goal-driven and receive inspiration in your life, the first “I” in ENVISION.

Americans put in the longest work hours and get the shortest paid vacation time in the developed world. Those of us “lucky” enough to have jobs have added another day to our work week because we now check work emails and calls from home. It’s easy to see why it’s hard to stay motivated toward specific goals in the long-term. 

However, the second regret of the dying is that they wished they didn’t work so hard. Research shows that people who engage in creative hobbies and side projects are happier and flourish more in life because they can generate new ideas and express themselves uniquely.[1] Feeling energized and playful, they get more done in less time, become better problem solvers, and receive better evaluations at work.[2]

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5. Form Goals Around Your Superpowers

Research shows that people are more likely to succeed when they develop their natural strengths, the “S” in ENVISION, than work on their weaknesses.

You can find your superpowers by answering these questions.

Each of us has a unique purpose in life. Most of us don’t realize it, though, because we’ve been pressured to conform to someone else’s idea of who we should be. Fear of change and staying in our comfort zones stunts our growth. Stretch yourself and take a risk if you want to find out what makes your heart sing.

Make an action plan to create a life in which you express your superpowers on a regular basis, whether it be through your vocation, a meaningful side project, a worthy cause, mindful parenting, volunteer work, or whatever else sparks your interest. This goal-oriented strategy guarantees you’ll thrive at work and at home.

6. Make Time for Intimates

When setting your goals, be sure to carve out time for your intimates, the second “I” in ENVISION. Intimates refers to close friends or people you have close relationships with.

The fourth regret of the dying is that they were too busy to see their friends much.[3] Make it a point to connect with real friends, people you can turn to for sympathy when you need it, confide in about most things, and be your true self around.

A new Cigna study shows that nearly half of Americans feel alone or left out.[4] According to Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad at Brigham Young University, the detrimental effects of loneliness is the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.[5] She warns that:

“Loneliness and social isolation are linked to around a 30 percent increased risk of having a stroke or developing coronary artery disease.”[6]

Become goal-driven to avoid loneliness

    Being with your friends is not only good for your soul, but it is also essential for your health and well-being[7]. Put it in your goals.

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    7. Open up Emotionally

    When crafting your goal-oriented life, be sure to include ways you can open up about your feelings, the “O” in ENVISION. The third regret of the dying is that they wish they’d had the courage to express their true feelings instead of stuffing their emotions down to keep peace with others.

    To lead a fulfilling life, it’s important to prioritize talking and behaving honestly with others instead of hiding your true feelings. According to Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps[8]:

    “Start with identifying your emotions (e.g. angry, hurt) and understanding what triggered you to feel this way.”

    She recommends you try to understand your feelings and practice self-compassion for having them. When you’re calmer, try to understand the person who upset you. This will help you respect and care about yourself and the other person.

    If there is someone you need to talk to or a situation you’d like to resolve, honor your feelings. Whether it be writing a letter, making a phone call, or visiting someone you haven’t seen in years, put it on your goal list.

    Be sure to meet in a safe environment if you’re confronting someone who has abused or harmed you. Tell the truth as you see it, and try to be kind.

    Sharing your genuine feelings may bring you closer together, and it may not. It doesn’t really matter how the other person responds. What matters is that you expressed your true self. Make emotional honesty a habit by adding it to your goals.

    8. Nurture Happiness

    To be more goal-oriented and succeed in life, nurture the people and activities that bring you joy, the final “N” in ENVISION.

    The fifth regret of people on their deathbed is that they wished they’d let themselves be happier. Instead, they stayed stuck in old patterns and pretended to be content when they weren’t.

    If you don’t like your job, make it a goal to look for a new position that aligns your paycheck with your purpose. If you are entrepreneurially-minded, think about turning your passion project into a business you love. If you have multiple passions, consider pursuing a slash career (e.g., copywriter/coder/career coach).

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    According to Forbes Magazine, many companies are beginning to see the value in hiring employees who have side gigs that differ from their main vocations. You’ll bring in multiple streams of income and experience more meaning and fulfillment in your life.[9]

    If you are unhappy with your marriage or romantic relationship, set a goal to do something about it. Do you need to go to counseling? Do you need to move on?

    If you’re on the fence about whether to keep a friend in your life, be goal-oriented about getting closure on the issue. Take care of yourself in the process by completing positive daily tasks, like taking yoga classes or getting a much-needed massage.

    Whatever you do, make it a goal to show compassion as often as you can because it will boost your happiness.[10] By helping others in need, you not only can decrease their suffering, but you can also make yourself happier than you could by directly pursuing activities to make you happy.

    Final Thoughts

    In summary, the ENVISION method shows you how to blend lessons from the five regrets of the dying with effective goal-setting techniques that center around your strengths to become goal-driven.

    It may seem like a lot of work at first glance, but, in truth, it should only take you about an hour to piece together a list of goals following these guidelines. Why not trade an hour of watching television or engaging in social media to do this instead? You can always get online and watch TV later to reward yourself for becoming more goal-oriented.

    You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain by exploring what would make your heart sing. It’s worth investing in yourself this way. You have the power to create a life that totally rocks by setting the intention to do so. As the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi wrote,

    “What you seek is seeking you.”

    More Tips on Achieving Goals

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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