In college, you have about a one in three chance of switching majors at least once, according to government stats. 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 and significant career power moves 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 seems daunting.
Here’s the truth, though—it doesn’t have to cause undue amounts of stress. Truth be told, you can do a full u-turn professionally with a career choice that works. You just have to take a few steps to up the chances of emotional, intellectual, and fiscal success.
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 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 going to a nine-to-five job and making “x” amount of dollars annually. What has the 9 to 5 gotten you so far? (i.e. security?) So, security is one of your current terms. But is that the term you want? Maybe not.
Figure out what your next-gen terms will be. You’ll be in a better position to negotiate them as you look into a new career.
2. Audition 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. Consider it something like a taste test. Set out a buffet of business options and then figure out a way to try them all. As an example, you might want to shadow someone in the career or interview a person from LinkedIn—yes, even a stranger. People are quite open to responding to requests for guidance.
Evaluating numerous paths will only help you feel better about your upcoming move. The last thing you want to do is assume that a field will be “the one,” only to find out you were wrong. That’s like going into a marriage after only a first date. So, allow yourself to think big, but don’t commit to any specific career choice until you’ve tried on several.
3. 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 Ashan, the best-selling author of What They Didn’t Tell Me, says you need your North Star as a guide. Ashan 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.
What if you’re having difficulty focusing on your North Star? Picture yourself in three years. Where are you? 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? Work independently? Be creative? Help people solve big (or small) problems? Your answers will help you define your North Star.
4. 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 situation that leaves you disengaged. Nevertheless, you will at least have income flowing into your account. And having enough money today will keep you from fretting if you have to take a lower salary temporarily later. After all, sometimes, reaching your North Star will require detours like going back to school or taking lesser paying positions.
5. Try a Side Hustle
Many people have discovered that the gig economy isn’t just a way to earn some extra bucks while you’re working full time. It’s a terrific, low-risk method to try out careers.
Consider this: You would love to work on old cars for a living. But you’re currently an accountant, and your family counts on your income to cover expenses. As a result, you start a little side business working on a few friends’ antique autos from your home garage.
In time, you get quite the reputation as someone who knows how to turn a clunker into a status symbol. With a little help from a decent website, word-of-mouth marketing, and thoughtful digital advertising, you land lots of clients. If you can reach a tipping point, you can flip your side gig. How? Perhaps you keep working as an accountant during tax season but fix cars the rest of the time.
6. Get in Gear to “Skill Up”
Unless your 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. For instance, on LinkedIn, begin to connect with people in fields that might interest you. Don’t be afraid to ask strangers to become connections. Lots of people will say yes. You can even message them and ask for suggestions in ways to get more experience in particular industries.
7. 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. It can be tough to wait months or years to get what you want. That’s why you have to keep yourself motivated (and why you shouldn’t allow yourself to be ruled by the negative people in your world).
Some people like to keep journals of their day-to-day journeys. This keeps them focused on the ultimate prize. Others literally remind themselves of their passions regularly so they aren’t tempted to quit. Veering away from a career path takes a lot of inner strength. Surround yourself with supportive family and friends and leave the naysayers beyond.
8. Prepare Yourself Financially
When you’re just setting out on your career in your early 20s, you aren’t as worried about earning a salary. Sure, you have bills to pay. But you probably don’t own a house or maybe even a car. Switching careers in your 30s is a completely different ballgame.
By the time you’re in your 30s, you likely have multiple financial obligations. You might even have a spouse or kiddos or at least a furry friend. Utility bills, internet payments, and student loans add up. Therefore, do yourself a huge bonus and sock away money as soon as you realize you’re going to change careers.
9. 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.
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.
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Featured photo credit: Tim Gouw via unsplash.com