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Career Success

How To Make the Right Career Choice After 30 And Succeed

Written by Kimberly Zhang
Kimberly Zhang is the Chief Editor of Under30CEO and has a passion for educating the next generation of leaders to be successful.
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In college, you have about a one in three chance of switching majors at least once, according to government stats. [1] It’s not a big deal then, because you’re not locked into a professional path. What happens, though, when you want to make a career change later? Are you stuck at 30 with the career choice you made at 20? Not at all.

In fact, plenty of people make minor or a significant career change at 30. Or even before that after adulting for a few years. Some have become disenchanted with their original picks. Others realize their talents are more suitable in some other field. Whatever the reason, all career movers usually feel trepidation. After all, busting out of an unfulfilling career choice before midlife is daunting.

Here’s the truth, though—it doesn’t have to cause undue amounts of stress. You can do a full u-turn professionally with the right career choice that works. You just have to know how to choose the right career and take the steps to emotional, intellectual, and fiscal success.

How to Make the Right Career Choice

Want to switch career? Check out these 10 tips to help you make the right career choice.

1. Stop Pursuing Your Future Life on Today’s Terms

As Jason Jaggard, the founder of executive coaching firm Novus Global, points out, you don’t have to waste time finding out how to live life on your terms. Why? You’re already doing it—you just don’t realize you’re doing it!

“Your life is the perfect expression of your current terms. Before you try to be successful on your own terms, first you’ll want to improve your terms.”

Consequently, you need to figure three key things out:

  • Why your current life has worked for you so far,
  • Why it doesn’t work now,
  • And what price you are willing to pay to change it.

For instance, you might be working a 9 to 5 job. With that in mind, ask yourself what has the 9 to 5 gotten you so far? This can be anything from security to the people that you are working with.


Whatever that answer is, that is a term in your life. The question now is are you satisfied with that term?

Figure out what your next-gen terms will be looking like for you. Once you get that understanding, you’ll have a better chance at making a midlife career change.

2. Consider Why You Want To Change Careers

No doubt when you look at the terms your career gives you, you’ll be comparing them to the terms you desire to have. However, when selecting the right career, you want to ensure that you know exactly what those terms are and why you are seeking a change in the first place.

This can be narrowed down to three personal reasons for why people want to make a career change at 30 or before:

  • Job satisfaction – the current work is not challenging or sparking your passion or interest any longer.
  • Earning more money – some careers don’t have too much of a ladder to climb while others can be scaled up further.
  • Job flexibility – with remote work growing, businesses are rethinking the standard office job. So are workers.

Even though you probably know the answer, it’s still worth considering why and how it fits into your overall life. You can also use it to figure out what kind of work would be ideal for you.


3. Audition to a Bunch of Careers

Before you dive into a career choice that seems like a dream come true, act like Simon Cowell and audition a few possibilities. These auditions though don’t have to involve the same traditional routes though. Some options to dip your toe in various fields are:

  • Interview someone in that position about their work and the details of it. You can turn to LinkedIn and reach out to people that way.
  • Job shadow someone that is working the position that you want.
  • Volunteering in that industry as a trade-off for not being as skilled in the work at first.
  • Starting a part-time side hustle in that industry.

The idea is to test out and get as much of a picture of the real thing as possible. It helps you to understand if your terms and values match with the midlife career change you are intending to make.

The best midlife career changes are going to be the ones where you know what to expect and that you are feeling satisfied and engaged with it.

4. Pinpoint Your North Star

Every job seeker and career climber has a North Star. It’s Mt. Everest, the pinnacle of “I made it!”

Jawad Ahsan, the best-selling author of What They Didn’t Tell Me, says you need your North Star as a guide. Ahsan recommends that once you have it, you can “work backwards from there to where you are today, and focus on the experiences you need to get to stay on your path.” He suggests getting help from sherpas along the way, such as honest mentors.


Switching careers at 30 is not as bad when you have a plan and above all a guiding post. When choosing the right career this helps. Even if you don’t have one right this moment.

If you don, consider asking yourself some key questions when selecting the right career:

  • Where do you want to be in three years?
  • What does your life look like? Be general. Don’t get all muddied in specific jobs. Just be open-minded.
  • Do you want to manage others? Why?
  • Do you want to work independently or in a group? Why?
  • Do you want to be creative or more analytical? Why?
  • Do you want to help people solve big (or small) problems? Why?

Your answers will help you define your North Star and help in how to make the right career choice. Beyond that, it can help in generating some midlife career change ideas.

5. Keep Your Day Job—for Now

As you become more excited at the thought of a career change, you might be tempted to quit whatever you’re doing now. Please don’t. You’ll only set yourself up for potential hardship.

Here’s why: It can be very challenging to explain to a would-be recruiter why you suddenly left a position.

The recruiter may see you as a “flight risk,” and that’s not a good look.

Yes, it can be tough to keep going into an office or business that leaves you disengaged. But there is a reason for why you picked that position in the first place. Even if you no longer agree with it entirely now.

It’s smarter to use it as a means of remaining financially stable while you figure out what to do. On top of that, it might be helpful in the event that you need to go back to school or take a lower-paid position in the new industry that you’re getting into.


6. Try a Side Hustle

One of the avenues for sampling out a career is to try making a side hustle out of it. It is a solid idea as there are several benefits to it than what you’d get from shadowing someone, volunteering, or asking someone about the work.

It’s essentially a low-risk opportunity to explore parts of a new career and help you understand if you have a knack for it and can see yourself making this shift. All the while getting paid to do that.

Depending on the field you’re going into you can consider setting this up on a local level or look to freelance sites in particular.

Even if you’re doing this part-time, signs that this is a good career change at 30 or before are things like this:

  • You’re confident in your skills in that field and that you can grow them.
  • You feel like you own your work and can see the impact of it.
  • You’re happy to be talking about this side-hustle to other people.
  • You anticipate some rough times with the side-hustle but they don’t bother you as much.
  • You’re eager to go above and beyond with your skills and the work you do.
  • You enjoy working with the people that your side-hustle introduces you to.

7. Get in Gear to “Skill Up” & Network

Unless your midlife career change choice is a straight lateral move from what you’re doing today, you’ll need new expertise. Fortunately, you live in a virtual world. That means you can take courses online from reputable organizations and universities. Some classes and workshops are free or extremely affordable, too. This allows you to upskill in a precise way to boost your resume.

As you begin to enhance your abilities and education, start expanding your network too. Some ideas to do smart networking are:

  • Going to your friends, family, acquaintances, and industry connections you already have and getting some insights on job postings, opportunities, and insights on the industry or firm you’re interested in.
  • Meet with people face-to-face as often as you can when networking. Meeting people in public is old fashion, but it still leaves a lasting mark on people. Furthermore, they may have opportunities that can unfold from offline connections.
  • Leverage social media where you can. Making strong online impressions to people can lead to attracting managers and recruiters who might reach out to you.

8. Remain Patient Throughout the Process

What’s one of the biggest reasons job hoppers lose faith when trying to change careers in their 30s or beyond? The answer is easy—lack of patience.

The thing with how to choose the right career is that even with all of this preparation, you might still end up switching careers at 30 or beyond. That or making the best midlife career changes will take you longer than you expected.

All of that is fine though.

That’s why you have to keep yourself motivated and not fall prey to doubts or people being negative. Your career is your own decision to be making.

Some ways to stay motivated during this transition are:

  • To keep journals of their day-to-day journeys. This keeps them focused on the ultimate prize.
  • Remind yourself of your passions regularly so you’re not tempted to quit.
  • Brainstorming more of your midlife career change can work too. This can allow you to refine older ideas or to uncover new avenues.

Veering away from a career path takes a lot of inner strength. Surround yourself with supportive family and friends and leave the naysayers beyond.

9. Prepare Yourself Financially

This is a moot point for some if you’ve decided to start a side hustle with this or are looking or skilling up while working the same job.

Nevertheless, there are people who want to go all in and dive in. If you are one of those people, then definitely keep this in mind and be sure that you are prepared.

Compared to your 20s, there are more bills and other expenses that you might be facing off with. You might have a house, a nicer apartment, a car, or a family to look after. Dropping everything to make a career change at 30 can be financially crippling for some.

With that in mind, it’s important to consider what needs to get done in order to make the midlife career change you want.

Do you need to go back to school? Do you need time in order to gain the skills necessary? Asking yourself those questions gives you a time frame where you will be financially vulnerable and you need to be prepared for that.


10. Share Your Career Choice Goals With Others

It can be tough to make good decisions in a vacuum because you’ll probably miss something. Consequently, you may want to share your career change decisions with close friends or loved ones. Explain what you want to do, and listen to their responses. They might have some amazing feedback or ideas that you never considered.

Will some people try to talk you out of shifting careers? Certainly. Don’t dismiss their concerns out of hand, though. Instead, hear them out. What they say might include a few nuggets of wisdom that you can use. Besides, you’ll appreciate having folks to share your successes with when everything starts to come to fruition.

Final Thoughts

Above all else, your life is a journey ideally dictated by what you need and want. If you’re approaching 30 and feeling disconnected careerwise, contemplate a move. You’ll be in good company with all the others who have made the trip before you.

Featured photo credit: Tim Gouw via unsplash.com


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