Vera Wang was a figure skater and a journalist before she entered the fashion industry at age 40. Ava DuVunernay didn’t make her first short film until she was 32 years old. Spanx founder Sarah Blakely spent seven years selling office supplies door-to-door before designing slimming pantyhose and quitting her sales job to run Spanx fulltime at age 30.
When it comes to careers, age is just a number. Despite generations of employees touting the many benefits of establishing a career – and maintaining it– some of us find ourselves unfulfilled with our current careers in our 30s and seek to figure out how to navigate a change. Many successful women have made significant career changes in their 30s, so we’ve pulled together some tips on how to navigate a career change gracefully and successfully.
Consider your ‘why.’
Embarking on a career change will certainly be an emotional experience. Odds are that you are feeling bored or burnt out in your current position and are looking for something new or different. In a recent article published in Thoracic Surgery Clinics, Dr. Ourania Preventza said that, regardless of the industry in which you work, truly understanding the “why” behind your decision to make a big change mid-career is key.
“When you move into a new job because you are seeking a new challenge, especially in the middle or at the end of your mid-career, you have to have situational awareness, self-awareness, and as much confidence as you can regarding what you want to achieve in the next 5 to 10 years,” she wrote.
Setting aside time specifically dedicated toward exploring why you are considering a career change could be a powerful way to figure out your next steps. Consider journaling every morning for a week about your career goals and aspirations, or taking a walk and contemplating what career success looks like for you.
Reach out to your network.
Because a steady climb up the career ladder is no longer the norm, networking has become a more valuable tool that can be used to make career changes, whether laterally to similar positions at other companies or to entirely new industries altogether. In an article in , professors Monica Forrett and Sherry Sullivan said the key to advancing a career in a “boundaryless career movement” is to engage with your network as much as possible.
“Research has found that successful networking influences career outcomes such as increased job opportunities, job performance, income, promotions, and career satisfaction,” they wrote. “Networking also provides more immediate benefits, including gaining information, visibility, career advice, friendships, social support, business leads, and resources.”
Reaching out to your network can be as simple as sending a direct message to a connection on LinkedIn who has a role you are interested in explore and asking for a quick call or a coffee to do an informational interview to learn more about the work they do.
Explore new skills.
While exploring a new career may be very exciting, it may also raise concerns about whether you have the right skillset. In a Harvard Business Review survey of professionals who pivoted their careers, nearly 100% of respondents who switched careers bridged the skillset gap by searching for the latest trends recruiters in their sector were looking for, scanning job descriptions to better understand the skillsets required, and networked with people in their desired industry to learn more about specific skillsets.
While some skillsets may be more transferrable than others, there are many options available to improve your skills in a particular area. Online tools like HubSpot or LinkedIn learning offer certificates in job-specific skills that can be taken asynchronously and won’t require a heavy time commitment. For a more specialized field like law or social work, you will likely be required to go back to school to get your degree.
Update your resume.
For those who have not had to update their resume in a while, the biggest challenge may be figuring out how to accurately translate your professional experiences to show your competency for a new job or new industry. Harvard Business Review advises those who are seeking to switch careers to include a resume summary, which allows you the opportunity to highlight your specific skills instead of your experience. This is a great space to make your career-change desire explicit and explain why you are excited for a new challenge. An updated resume should also include your recent certifications and newly acquired skillsets that are specifically tailored to the company or industry you will be submitting your resume for.