So you’re about to hit the big 3-0 and you’ve decided to change careers. Your friends, significant other, and family say you’re taking a big risk in this economy but you’ve decided you need a change. Your boss doesn’t appreciate you, your job is unfulfilling, you feel you’ve reached a dead end, and you’ve stopped growing professionally.
The good news is that at 30, a switch to a new career is doable, more so if you’re degreed and have some general business experience. The key when presenting yourself to a new employer is to stress the “marketable you.” That means pushing any general technical skills, people skills and managerial skills you’ve acquired in past positions. Most American companies are structured basically the same way. They’re divided into departments with teams or groups that are charged with getting certain things done. Chances are you’ve been in a group or team, or perhaps even led one, so you know how to get things done, how to lead people to solve problems, and how to interface with upper management. These then are the skills you need to put forward when you apply for a career changing position with a new company.
Don’t block yourself out of certain industries, just because they seem unfamiliar to you. If you like working with people and can solve problems, take a chance and explore an entirely new field. Keep in mind, you’re still growing professionally, so the sky’s the limit when it comes to a specific career direction. If you were in your late 40’s or 50’s, things would be different. You’d pretty much have to stick with the career path you’ve chosen. But at 30, you still have plenty of room to learn and grow.
If you’re not quite sure what you want to do, take a personality test or two. These tests may appear silly, but they can give you surprising insights into your work passions, need for recognition, and what you expect to get out of a career. You might also talk to a career counselor. They can give you an idea of what a particular field is like and what companies expect of their employees. Consider too, the value of simply talking to older people in the field you’re considering. Many won’t hesitate to tell you what to expect, how to get ahead, and what to do to move up in the field.
Finally, if you’ve settled on a specific new career, go on some informational interviews. Ask tons of questions—about everything from daily work requirements to advancement opportunities. Find out what HR managers and recruiters are looking for, then go back and fine tune your “elevator pitch” and resume accordingly.
If you’re 30 and ready to change careers, it won’t be a cakewalk in this economy, but it won’t be impossible either. Just take the time to find out who you are and what the “water’s like before you jump in the pool.”
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