Everything You Need to Know About Making a Career Change in Your 30s

The urge to make a career change in your 30s is extremely…normal. In fact, a whopping 73 percent of 30-somethings say they want to change careers (up by 10 percent compared to 2013), according to a 2015 study. What’s holding you back? Forty-three percent of those interested in making a career change cited the lack of financial security as a major barrier, and 36 percent said they worried about a lack in experience or education.

Being passionate (and happy!) at work is critical, so those barriers shouldn’t stop you—or anyone else—from pursuing a career change at 30. Yes, as a 30-something, leaving an established career behind is an uncomfortable thought, but your dream career is worth a few months or so of unease, i.e. battling “the unknown.” (And think about it this way: You’ll always have that field to fall back on if things don’t work out.) Amanda Augustine, a career advice expert and spokesperson for TopResume, has stellar advice for making a thoughtful career pivot. 

1. Understand the industry speak. 

When you’re looking to make a pivot, something that will give you an advantage—and boost your confidence—is being able to talk about the industry as though you already work in it.

Look through job ads on career boards specific to your new industry, and study how hiring managers describe those positions. What keywords are you seeing over and over? Take note, and make sure you know what they mean.

Augustine recommends doing some productive social media stalking, too. “You can follow industry leaders and influencers on social media to get a better handle on the industry buzzwords and catch up on the latest news that’s affecting target employers,” she says.

Then, apply those keywords to your resume and professional profiles. “You’d be surprised how many of your skills can be translated into a new industry—you just may need to change the terminology you use to describe them,” Augustine says. So, let’s say you used analyze data in the finance industry—now you’re an expert in using that data to forecast trends in the marketing world. Done and done. 

2. Make your connections count.

Just because you don’t know a ton of people in this new field doesn’t mean you can’t leverage the strong network you’ve already spent years building. It’s all about tapping those second- and third-degree connections. 

If you’re hesitant to make an ask, consider how you can help the other person first. “As with any networking relationship, the goal should be to provide value before you start asking for favors,” says Augustine. “If you’re considering a change and want to leverage a contact’s expertise or resources, begin by reestablishing the relationship. Never call someone out-of-the-blue and start asking for help. Look for opportunities to pay it forward—this can be as simple as offering to make an introduction to someone else in your network or sharing a resource you found.”

Consider this approach: make a list of the people you want to reach out to, with a second column about how you provide something valuable to each person simultaneously.

3. Decide what compromises you’re willing to make.

In Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address, he said, “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter into one of the most creative periods of my life.”

Steve Jobs is always good for an inspirational quote, but it’s OK if you’re apprehensive about being a beginner again. Especially if it means looking for positions that have less seniority than the one you currently have, taking a pay cut, or taking a community college class in a room full of 18-year-olds. Acknowledge how you feel, but remind yourself that you’ve had the courage to course correct (as those 18-year-olds will do one day, too) and follow the path toward your dream job. “Remember that sometimes it’s necessary to make a lateral move, or even a step down, in order to move up on the right path,” says Augustine. “Accept this fact, and you’re already in better shape.”

In terms of cold, hard numbers, “Re-evaluate your finances and identify areas where you can cut back your expenses to make the transition less jarring,” says Augustine. This might also mean thinking ahead of time about your negotiation needs once an offer is on the table. Say you have to take a small pay cut; you could ask to work from home one day a week to reduce commuting costs. 

“It won’t always be easy, but keep your eye on the prize,” says Augustine. “If you’re passionate about this new direction, all this hard work will be worth it.”


An original version of this article appeared on Levo.