Starting A New Career In Your Thirties
Dear, Entreprenistas. My daughter recently experienced a few challenges with social interactions and friendships at school. It was odd for me to see her start down the road of female politics and catty behavior at such a young age. Initially, I wanted to jump in and save her from the situation, but then I realized that the best thing I could do was provide a bit of insight to her based on my life experience, encourage her to stay secure in her own self and refuse to cave when encountering lousy behavior in her peers.
How does this relate to starting a career in your thirties? Well, there is a connection, just bear with me.
A few months after the start of my daughter’s journey into the world of social dynamics with girls, she said something profound to me. She said, “Mom--I’ve been thinking, and I think the most important thing I can be is kind.” I nodded my head in agreement and was about to respond. We were in the car driving to her summer camp. I was rushed and distracted by trying to drop her off and get to work on time. She was a little anxious to start camp with new kids. Before I could respond, she said, “But Mom, I also think it’s important to remember what your ‘talent’ is and know that your talent is good enough. Like my talent is coloring! It doesn’t matter how big your house is, or how much you win at things, it just matters that you’re a kind person who knows what your talent is.” I was floored by her simple and keen insight. We had been talking a lot about talents. She changes what she thinks of as her ‘talent’ about once a week right now, and at the time of this conversation, coloring was her most-favorite-thing. “You’re so right honey, I said. Everyone has a different talent, and all of those talents are special in their own way.”
But our conversation got me thinking about adult life, what we as adult women consider our talents to be, and how our career ‘talents,’ desires, needs and aspirations change and shift over time. The thing that kept coming back to me though is how many times I have felt, or heard a woman friend say that they ‘can’t do something,’ or shouldn’t take on a new job, or career because of their lack of experience in the area. Maybe they think no one will support them or take them seriously. Possibly they just won’t find the right job and should stick with the one they have.
Interestingly, in this era, I observe a lot of parents (including me and my husband) encouraging our kiddos to try new things, diversify their extracurriculars, and not get too entrenched in one ‘talent.’
As adults, we view the world differently. When does that shift? Who says we have to be in the same job or career for our whole adult life? If you’re an accountant and feel trapped because you always wanted to be a photographer, why can’t you change jobs? I know that some people do change careers successfully, and it seems as though the public idolizes these individuals, but the common theme I witness among my peers is an underlying feeling (and cultural norm) of staying in the same job or career once you’ve committed a few years to the field--for the rest of your life! If you really think about this practice, it’s kind of insane. Most of us can’t live with that form of monotony for our entire career, let alone know if the profession we first choose will be the right one for us over time. Kind of like picking ballet as an activity as a child, maybe you get into your dream job, at age 27 or 28, only to realize that you’re more of a soccer kind-of-girl.
So with the goal of taking the shame out of changing careers in your thirties, I’d like to offer some reasons why it’s a phenomenal decision to shift your focus at thirty-something, as opposed to insane, irresponsible and/or risky. Are you ready? 🙋
You have insight from your twenties
My theory about being twenty-something is that it’s the confetti era. Everything is popping and there's very little is certain. It’s a time where making a lot of mistakes, trying on a bunch of different things on for size, and exploring the nooks-and-crannies of being young and unsure is okay and expected. All of that time and experience gives you insight. The insight you need to make the more significant decisions in your thirties. In a way it only makes sense that you want to change careers now--you now know who you are! More on that below.
You’ve paid your dues
Whether you gained your first job right out of college, worked through school, launched a business, went to grad school, or traveled the world for five-plus years, it’s likely by the time you are in your thirties that you have spent some time in the workforce. If not, this blog may not be for you. But if you have spent the last few years in the same career, then regardless of where you are headed, you definitely know where you have been. And if you’re looking to change careers or jobs, you know what’s NOT working for you in your current gig. The good news is this: We no longer live in a society where it is required for professionals to stay at their first job for their entire career to move up the ladder. You’ve paid your dues in some way or another in your current role. So use that insight to help you find the next occupational road you want to take! 🙌 For more thoughts on this topic, here’s a great blog from Monster.com all about why it’s a good thing to change jobs every four years.
You know who you are
The fortune of entering the realm of ‘being in your thirties’ is that, at least for most of us, we are settled into being who we are, and no longer need to try on different personality traits, friends, significant others and (of course) jobs ‘for size.’ When I hit thirty, I felt like something clicked and I just suddenly knew who the 'real-me' was. In my twenties, I tried a bunch of things out for size. By age thirty I knew what I liked, didn’t like, who I wished to have in my life and what I really wanted out of my career. Not to say that this current state of zen won’t change by the time I am forty--I am a serial entrepreneur after all, but it is a breath of fresh air to settle into just being you! So lean into that knowledge, and trust yourself! After all, you know you better than anyone else. You're a unicorn and can have all the sparkles and gifts that come with being uniquely you! 🦄✨
You can think strategically
It’s amazing what a few years in a professional role can do to develop your strategic thinking skills. And if you’ve read this far you likely already know that you can’t just up and leave your job tomorrow without a plan. Now’s the time to write out a ‘personal business plan’ for yourself. This exercise will help you answer some critical questions about where you are going before you start to take steps to get there. Read this post from the Mind Of A Winner blog on writing a personal development plan for a full roadmap.
I have changed my professional role a few times, and the most smooth transitions I’ve had in this process started with an assessment of myself and my strategic goals. Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself. And please, take the time to write out the answers:
Where do you want to be in two years?
What are some of the barriers you might encounter in changing jobs/careers?
What are the first three steps you need to take to start the process of change?
How long do you anticipate the process to take? What’s your transition timeline?
What’s ‘Plan B’ if this road leads to a dead end?
Who are your mentors? What is their feedback?
What’s your five-minute elevator pitch? Everyone needs a good story about why they are making a change. What’s yours?
There are indeed lots more questions and assessments you may need to make and answer along the way, but these are an excellent place to start.
Your network will support you
Strategic communication with your trusted mentors and professional connections is crucial to a smooth and successful career change. Once you know what and where you want to go, start to plant seeds in your own professional community. Each time I have changed something significant in my career I have benefited greatly from the advice of my professional friends and mentors, as well as their support and promotion in the community. Without these individuals, I wouldn’t be where I am today!
If you are employed by a company that doesn’t know you are looking to move on, be thoughtful about who you share the information with, but sharing is the best way to a) get the ball rolling, b) hold yourself accountable, and c) actually move toward your career dream.
You’ve found your talent 💫
Kind of like discovering a best friend or life-partner, finding your dream career is like spotting a pearl in an oyster. It’s rare, it’s remarkable when you do discover it, and it can’t be ignored. So many professional women spend their entire career doing a job they can’t stand. Don’t let this be you! There is no prize at the end of your life for just staying in a miserable situation. We spend more time at work than at home in the US, it’s essential that your work contributes to your passion, creativity, and overall wellness! And it's safe to assume that you’re reading this post because you have found your dream career. So forge a path you amazing Entreprenista. Lean into your talent. Your community of women (and men) will support you. I promise!
You’ve got this!
This point is more of an inspirational mantra for when you hit a roadblock in your career-change journey--and believe me, you will encounter a few barriers. But you’ve got this! It’s cliche to say, but also so, so accurate: Every successful business person out there has failed at some point in order to win in the long run. They may have even failed more times than not, but one of those efforts turned them into a star, and you are on the brink of finding your authentic path! Hooray! I’m proud of you. So when you feel like maybe you should give up and go back to your day job, remember this; you are confident, capable and you’ve got this! Don’t give up on your career dream. Like my daughter told me, from the innocent mouth of my babe, all that matters in life is that you are kind that you discover your talent-- now go do it!
Hey, friends! 🙋What’s your career dream? How do you plan achieve it? Tell us in the comments!
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