If you’re looking to make a career change at 30, you probably have some concerns. You may be asking, am I too old for this? Did I miss my chance at my dream career? What will my friends and family think?
Before you get too overwhelmed, let’s take a step back. Imagine this:
You’re 22 and just out of college. Ramen is still your go-to meal and your bedtime is still 3:00 or 4:00AM. As you get older, there’s no turning back. You keep cooking ramen and staying up late because you made the decision at 22 to live that way. This is the only path forward.
Wait, what’s that? You mean you aren’t still surviving on ramen or staying up until all hours of the night?
You’ve grown? You’ve learned? You’ve changed? And that’s ok?
Of course it is!
It’s only natural that, as you get older, you change your mind, you make new decisions, and your cooking skills improve beyond simply boiling water. And when you do make these changes, no one second guesses you. No one questions why you stop sleeping until noon!
So why do people question making a career change at 30? Why does this feel like such an unrealistic idea?
The truth is, unless your new professional goals include something along the lines of becoming a gold-medal-winning Olympic gymnast, a career change is entirely possible (especially at 30).
So what’s holding you back? And what are some steps you can take to push past those barriers? Let’s take a look.
What’s Holding Back Your Career Change at 30?
FEAR OF CHANGE
One big reason that could be keeping you from pursuing a new career is fear of change. As psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky determined in their 1981 study, when faced with two options that have similar outcomes, humans are wired to choose the safer option over the riskier option.
What’s even more interesting here is the fact that it’s not the riskier option itself that’s stressful. It’s the uncertainty. As this 2016 study discovered, not knowing what will happen can actually cause more anxiety than knowing something bad will happen.
So when it comes to making a career change, simply being unhappy isn’t enough to motivate you to make the change. The feeling of “not knowing” is so uncomfortable that it can cause you to stay stuck in a job you don’t enjoy.
PRESSURE FROM FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Did you grow up constantly hearing this outdated career trajectory?
Go to college
Pick a major
Get a job
Stick with said job until you retire
If so, the thought of making a career change at 30 can be hard to swallow. You may have family members or friends who are happy that you’re on this type of “safe” career path. Or you may see others successfully and happily following this path, which can make it even more difficult to make the career jump.
Perhaps you even have friends or family members telling you exactly what they want your career to look like. And unfortunately, their ideas may differ wildly from your ideas about your ideal career.
PUTTING PRESSURE ON YOURSELF
You may also be putting pressure on yourself and creating false narratives. If you’re experiencing self doubt or imposter syndrome, you may have negative thoughts or unfairly compare yourself to others. You may even tell yourself that you don’t deserve any of the success you’ve achieved or more success to come.
Know that this is all too common. But also know that giving into self doubt is a huge disservice to yourself.
IT’S TOO LATE
Feeling that it’s too late or that you’ve missed your chance is another false narrative you may be telling yourself. When you see other successful 30-year-olds, you could easily think you’ve wasted time on your education and career thus far. You may feel like the clock is ticking, so thinking you have to start over can feel extremely daunting.
How to Change Careers at 30
Now that you’ve acknowledged your fears and doubts, how do you actually make the leap and change careers? Let’s dive in with some ways you can push past all the pressures you’re feeling.
Learn To Embrace Change
One of the most constant aspects of life is change. And while change may be scary, in the case of a career change, it can end up having a huge positive impact on your life. So why not focus on these positives?
Whether it’s more money, more job satisfaction, or more flexibility, a career change can be beneficial to both your career and your life in general.
If you’re still worried about making such a huge change, break it up into smaller steps to make the transition more manageable. One step might be enrolling in a skill-building course. Another might be updating your resume or attending a networking event.
As psychologist Susan Heitler puts it, “The #1 strategy for reducing stress is problem-solving, that is, finding a plan of action to address and resolve the problems that are causing your stressed feelings.”
Once you have a transition plan, the change won’t seem as overwhelming.
Don’t Get Distracted By Others’ Opinions
You don’t want to disappoint your loved ones, of course, but that doesn’t mean you should end up disappointing yourself (and your career dreams!) in the process. If someone close to you has certain career aspirations for you that don’t align with your own, first realize that this person does care about you. And, though misguided, any negative advice they gave was most likely given with good intentions.
But at the end of the day, you’re the only one who knows what’s right for you, so stay true to yourself!
Kiss Self Doubt Goodbye
Self doubt is human nature. We all get down on ourselves at times, but there are practical ways to silence self doubt and remain positive.
One way to combat self doubt is to simply acknowledge it for what it is and realize that it’s something we all experience. You can even turn your self doubt on its head and, as author and coach Margie Warell suggests, “doubt your doubts!“
She says, “Ask yourself ‘What if just the opposite were true?’ What if, in fact… you had everything it takes to build that business? If what you had to say was extremely important? If you were more than talented/worthy/clever/(fill-in-the-blank) enough to pursue this goal?”
Just as long as you don’t doubt your doubts about your doubts, you’ll be shooting down your worries left and right!
Know That It’s Never Too Late
You might think a career change means completely starting over. But in fact, you most likely already have years of work experience by the time you’re 30. That means you have years of building transferable skills that will impress future employers and years of building a professional network that you’ll be able to tap into when you start your new career.
No matter how old you are, it’s easy to think there’s some sort of cutoff point where starting a new career (or starting anything new in life, for that matter,) is impossible. But that’s simply not true.
I could continue to try to convince you that it’s never too late, but I think this chart, created by author and artist Michelle Rial, is all you’ll need.
Changing careers at 30 is 100% possible. Most of us didn’t know what we wanted to do with our lives when we started college or got our first job, and that’s totally ok! Because now’s your chance, not to start over, but to start where you are and make your career dreams come true.
This article was written by Lori Flimoff and originally appeared on Skillcrush.