Thinking About a Career Change at 30?

What You Need to Know Before You Take Your Next Step

30 year old coworkers talking
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By age 30, it may feel like you've been working forever, but you likely began your career no more than 12 years ago. If you went to college, it was even more recent. If you aren't enjoying your work as much as you had anticipated, it could be that your occupation isn't a good fit.

You have learned a lot about yourself since first choosing your career, at age 18 or maybe a year or two later. If there were a chance to do it over again, perhaps you would pick something else. The good news is, you can do it over...in a way. This could be the best time in your life to make a career change.

Why Is Age 30 a Good Time for a Career Change?

If like many people, you plan to retire at 65, there are 35 more years of work ahead of you. Since it is becoming increasingly common to keep working longer due to financial need, you may have even more. It makes sense to find an occupation you will enjoy doing for at least another three decades.

Making a career change at any age will, without a doubt, affect your life, relationships, and even health. As you move away from doing work you dislike toward a satisfying career, the impact will be a positive one.

Changing careers becomes increasingly more difficult, but not impossible, as we get older because our responsibilities typically increase with age. Many individuals don't have as many responsibilities at age 30 as they will potentially have when they turn 40 or 50.

Millennials are putting off many of the life-changing events that require more career stability. For example, the median age for marriage in the United States is now 29.9 for men and 27.9 for women. According to the Pew Research Center, among young adults between the ages of 25 and 34, 58 percent were unmarried in 2012, with the vast majority of them (85 percent) having never married (Record Share of Americans Have Never Married. Pew Research Center. September 24, 2014). Though the average age for having a first child is just 26.2, many people are delaying having a child until they are over 30, according to the CDC (Births and Natality.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. 2015). 

Expenses are also lower for 25 to 34-year-olds than for those who are older. They spend an average of $7,390 per year on food and $19,927  on housing, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Housing expenses increase to $23,805 for 35 to 44-year-olds and food expenses grow to $9,376 (Consumer Expenditure Surveys. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2017). While age 30 can be the best time to make a career change, that doesn't mean you can't do it at a later time—but doing it now will be easier than making a midlife career change.

How to Embark on a Career Change at 30

After deciding to make a change, your next order of business is to determine what career to pursue. Don't be discouraged if you don't know what to do next. There are steps to take that can help you figure it all out. 

First learn about yourself by doing a self-assessment, an essential part of the career planning process. Look at your personality type, interests, aptitudes, and work-related values. Even if you did a self assessment when you were younger, do it again. As a 30-year-old, your responses will be much different than they were when you were younger. Upon completion of this step, you will have a list of occupations that are a good fit based on your traits.

Next, explore the occupations on your list. Whether you think you know what career you want to pursue—even if it's something you've always dreamed of—or it's one you've never thought of before, learn everything about it. Get the facts about job duties, job outlook, earnings, and educational and training requirements. Evaluate each option so that you can decide which careers are suitable and which are not.

Consider every factor. Learn about typical job duties because if you don't like the tasks you have to complete every day, your work won't be enjoyable. While money isn't the most important contributor to job satisfaction, make sure your earnings will at least cover your expenses and allow you to live the way you desire. Also, look at the job outlook so that you can make sure you will be able to get a job when you are ready. Seriously consider doing an adult internship to get a firsthand look at an occupation before committing to it.

When choosing a career, education and training must be part of the equation. With many years of work ahead, it is not necessary to cross an option off your list only because it will take a few years or more to meet the qualifications. Your decision will come down to how much time and effort you are willing to make, and, of course, whether you can afford it financially.

Also consider your transferable skills. Your talents and skills acquired through working for several years can be used in a variety of other occupations. Some employers may even allow you to substitute them for formal training, which will make your transition a lot easier and faster. If you have to choose between a career in which you can use your current skills and one that requires additional schooling, choosing the former may be the better option because it will allow you to get into your new career sooner.

Since time is on your side, however, you can take the longer route if that is more desirable.

Drawbacks of Changing Careers at Age 30

Making a career change could come at a cost, regardless of your age. If you have your eye on a career that requires additional schooling or training, it may require quitting your job to free up your schedule. That means you may be unemployed and therefore, without a regular income until you are fully prepared to enter your new occupation. 

You will also need to fund your education. Before embarking on a career change, make sure you have savings or another means of financial support. It may be worth spending a little more time in your current occupation while saving up the money to finance your transition.