Tips for Changing Careers in Your 30s

As people move from their 20s into their 30s it commonly occurs that they begin to have second thoughts about their first choice of career; they start wondering – what else might be out there …

As people move from their 20s into their 30s it commonly occurs that they begin to have second thoughts about their first choice of career; they start wondering – what else might be out there for them. When these thoughts arise the next question is usually “What else can I do?”.

If this is you, then you might find that the following 5 areas will assist you in your decision making for changing careers in your 30s:

  1. Clarify your reasons for wanting a career change
  2. Identify what is most important to you in your career and life
  3. What are your priorities in life for the next 3-5 years?
  4. Identify your career options
  5. Develop a self marketing plan and job search strategy

Let’s look at each of these areas in more detail.

1. Clarify your reasons for wanting a career change

Taking time to fully reflect on and identify your reasons for wanting to make a career change is very important.

Why? If you don’t fully understand what it is that you want to change in your life and career it is unlikely that you will be able to make informed decisions about your preferred future. The risk is you’ll make a hasty, ill judged decision that will leave you no better off, or perhaps worse off than you are now.

Turning 30 is often a big milestone in people’s lives resulting in some reflection about what has been achieved in the past decade, and the realisation that some changes need to be made.

That you are thinking about a changing careers means that something has changed in your life, that in fact there are reasons for you thinking and feeling that changes are necessary. So what is your career change motivation?

2. Identify what is most important to you in your career and life

Your priorities will of course change over time, and so will your values.

However, if you think about it there will some fundamental things -core values and beliefs that have shaped who you are today, and will continue to define what is important to you for the remainder of your life.

Have you ever taken the time to deeply reflect on what matters most to you in your life? There is no right or wrong in your answer to this question. Each of us is unique and your core values will be deeply meaningful and unique to you.

So what matters most in your life and career? What drives you? What will you put first in your life? Is it:

  • Your personal relationships
  • Family, children
  • Your country or community
  • Status, achievement, reputation
  • Helping others
  • Realising your full potential by doing work that uses your best skills & attributes

This list is by no means exhaustive. The point is however that in making a decision to change careers how will these core values and beliefs be affected?

Is a change in career compatible with what matters most to you in life and career

3. What are your priorities for the next 3-5 years

Having considered the bigger picture for your life you need to now narrow your focus. What specifically would you like to achieve most in the next 3-5 years?

Thinking about the importance of a life in balance consider not only what you’d like to achieve in employment – what about other areas of your life that we mentioned previously?

How well will your current job and employer support your efforts with these goals? How well will a career change support these? Consider your goals for each of these areas:

  • Personal relationships
  • Family
  • Financial position
  • Health and fitness
  • Role in the community
  • Spiritual wellbeing

4. Identify your career options

Now it’s time to consider what type of career change is possible for you.

People can and do change their careers successfully all the time. The key to doing this successfully is having a targeted approach to your job search. This means you have a concise idea about:

  • The type of employment you want
  • The skills and knowledge required for this work
  • The type of organisation in which you’d like to work

This will usually involve some fairly extensive research on your part. It will certainly involve a comprehensive review of your career so far so that you can identify where you have acquired and used some of the skills and knowledge needed in your new line of work.

Of equal importance will be to identify achievements or contributions you’ve made in past employment using the skills and knowledge needed in your new career.

For some people, it may mean that you will have to complete further education or training to assist you to make your desired career transition.

There are many websites that will have resources to assist you to undertake a career review to help you to identify your career options. Taking a career interest inventory might also be a useful step if you don’t know what career direction to pursue.

One important step in identifying your career options is to put together a written list of the organisations that you would like to work for.

5. Develop a self marketing plan and job search strategy

You will probably be aware that different employers have differing approaches to recruitment.

Government and large corporates will advertise job vacancies. you need to know where, how and even when they will do this, for example in the case of seasonal recruitment.

Small to medium sized enterprises, and often not for profit organisations may advertise job vacancies, but often many will not do this. Their approach in these instances may be word of mouth.

So your job search strategy will depend to a certain extent on who your targeted employers are – hence the suggestion for a list. Do your homework on their recruiting strategy so that you know the best way to attract their attention.

In terms of a marketing plan you will certainly need:

  • A targeted resume – what style will you use? Reverse chronological, functional, or a combined style?
  • A compelling cover or application letter, or email
  • A networking and information interviewing strategy
  • To practice your job interview skills – do you know for example how to participate in a behavioral interview

The whole idea behind a targeted approach is that you are designing a very specific approach which highlight the key skills and attributes you have which are needed in your new career direction.

And…that this information is targeted to meet the needs of your employer of choice.


Changing careers in your 30s is something that people commonly do. However it is not a decision which should be made lightly. This is especially the case if you have family and dependents.

But, if you use the above steps, questions and suggested approaches as a guide, it may be possible that you will successfully make your desired career transition.

Anthony McAvaney is a training and development specialist and job search coach. He has enjoyed a career which has involved working in a variety of industry settings including banking, tourism and hospitality, the IT sector, retail and wholesale, manufacturing, higher education and also in government.

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