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5 Tips for successfully changing careers in your 30-40s

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

Researchers polled 2,000 people across the country and found that 40% planned to change careers within the next two years (The Independent).

An increasing number of women in their 30-40s are looking to change careers because of emotional exhaustion and burnout due to the pandemic. In this blog post, you will learn:

  • where you are now in relation to where you want to be

  • why you’re looking for a career change and

  • 5 tips on how to successfully change careers

Are you looking to change your career in your 30-40s?

If so, the thought of changing careers might fill you with dread. You might be thinking changing careers will be challenging due to your age and financial commitments.

Back in the day, people were in careers for life. If you changed your career more than once, you would’ve been deemed indecisive. In today’s fast-paced and uncertain world, this no longer holds true. These days, there are a lot of options, and the squiggly career path is fast becoming the norm. On average, people change their jobs 12 times in their lifetime (The Balance Careers).

It’s a lot easier to change careers today. However, there are lots of options out there, and it can be hard to know what you want and how to pursue it. Information overload can lead to overwhelm and analysis paralysis. That’s why you need an understanding of your strengths, skills and career options to move past your negative self-talk and limiting beliefs to see what’s possible.

You know what you don’t want

Career change in midlife is usually brought on by the need to grow, find fulfilling work and/or feel less stress. Money isn’t the driving factor behind a career switch. People are keen to learn new skills or to do something they find more personally satisfying. (First Direct)

The desire to change careers tends to creep up on us in our 30s. Perhaps your priorities have changed in life (e.g. family commitments), the job itself has lost its shiny appeal and/or the stress of the job is just not worth it anymore. The pandemic has been a collective traumatic experience for people across the world, and because of this, people are stopping to question what they’re doing and whether it truly fulfils them.

Knowing what you don’t want helps you gain clarity on what you DO want and what’s important to you. Feeling unhappy at work can leave us feeling demotivated, stressed and unfulfilled. I know these feelings firsthand, after making a career change in my 30s. I also know, from personal and client experience, that feeling unhappy at work affects your whole life. So, if you’re feeling stressed and unhappy at work, changing your career needs to be your top priority.

Being clear on what it is that you want, helps you stay committed and motivated on the career change journey.

5 Tips on a successful career change

1. Get clear on why you want to change

In my experience, clients are all super clear on what they don’t want, yet find it challenging to pinpoint what they DO want. To start, you need to be super clear on what’s driving the change:

  • Greater fulfilment?

  • Less stress?

  • Leave a toxic boss/work culture?

  • More freedom and flexibility?

  • More money?

  • Better work-life balance?

Coach Tip: Take a moment to pause and ask yourself: what’s driving my desire to change my career? Getting clear on this will help you navigate change with greater clarity, determination and resilience.

2. Assess your strengths, skills and experience

  • There are some brilliant online tools available that can help you assess your strengths and talents. I recommend completing 16 personalities or VIA strengths personality profile tests to understand what your strengths are. Both of them have a free option available. If you’re looking for deeper insights, try Clifton Strengths.

  • Set some time aside on a Sunday afternoon to reflect on your career history to date. Note down all the courses/training, jobs, skills and experience you’ve had over the years. Start mapping them out on a large piece of paper, and analysing any trends or patterns. Many people think their skills aren’t relevant in other fields, which simply isn’t true. So many skills are transferable. Take a birds-eye view of your transferable skills and update your CV. Seeing your skills in a new light will also help you join the dots and create a compelling personal brand story that clearly articulates your journey to date.

Coach Tip: If you find doing this type of activity challenging to do alone, why not rope in a helpful friend? Perhaps you could offer to buy/cook dinner for them and ‘workshop it’ together!

3. Do the Inner Work

Changing careers involves doing some deep inner work, like building your self-belief. When navigating change, our internal dialogue and negative saboteur ‘dragons’ can become super loud and derail us. Taking a mindful and compassionate approach can support and encourage you when venturing into the unknown. Having people and tools to support, will enable you to make the change with greater ease, calm and confidence.

Many clients are full of self-doubt and fear when thinking about making a change. This is totally normal. The ones that gain the best results, start by joining my 6-week mental fitness course. The course gives them foundational tools to navigate change and uncertainty in a calm and confident way.

One of my clients was conflicted about closing her successful business and re-training to become a teacher. After going through the course, the decision was abundantly clear. She’s now closed the business and is due to start her PGCE in September. Her self-belief skyrocketed, she's much happier, AND she knows she’s pursuing a path that’s deeply fulfilling.

Coach Tip: Take the time to start meditating or journaling daily to quieten your mind. Notice what comes up for you during these moments. There are some great free apps out there for meditation (Insight Timer and Calm), and a good old fashion pen and notebook for journaling. If you need more focused support, join my 6-week mental fitness course.

4. Explore your options by doing research

Once you have a clear understanding of your strengths, skills and your career story to date, then it’s time to start exploring options. Notice how this step doesn’t come first? That’s intentional. Most people start by researching; a surefire way to analysis paralysis and overwhelm! Instead, be strategic in your approach. Gain clarity on yourself first, and then start scanning the environment with desk-based research, and talking to your network. If there’s a career path you're interested in, seek opportunities to shadow people in that field or in a particular role. Immersing yourself is the best way to know if it’ll be a good fit.

Coach Tip: Get out there and start talking to people. Put the feelers out that you’re seeking to change careers, you never know who in your network might be able to help!

5. Invest in yourself by re-training or upskilling

In today’s world, there are so many wonderful options available to people to up-skill or retrain. A major fear for people looking to retrain in their 30-40s is the financial impact. To mitigate against this, how about retraining whilst remaining in your current role? It makes sense financially and it’s low risk.

I followed this path when training to be a coach back in 2018. Re-training and upskilling will require an investment in both time and money. You may need to shift things around or stop doing things to give you space to learn and develop. For example, ask your partner/husband to support you by cooking dinner 2-3 nights per week. You might wake up earlier to study or forego the Netflix evening binge to invest in YOUR future.

Coach Tip: Set yourself up for success by figuring out exactly how much time/money the new course or training will involve. Then ask yourself: how can I re-prioritise my life in a way that supports my learning?

In Summary:

Changing a career in your 30-40s demands a certain level of planning. You need a career change strategy in place to move forward with confidence and determination. Here’s the bottom line: It’s easy to get stuck in fear and analysis paralysis, and give up when changing careers on your own. But when you get help, the process becomes faster, easier and, dare I say, more enjoyable. And you’re more likely to get the result you want: a new career that you love!

Can you change your career without help? Yep, sure you can. But it will probably take longer, be isolating and may not get you what you want. It’s hard to keep going when there’s a lack of accountability, structure and focus to help you move forward with clarity and confidence.

Once you can clearly identify what is important to you about your career dream or goal, you’ll be able to put a strategy in place that delivers the results you want. And that’s so much easier when you have a career coach by your side. When you have the support and guidance of a career coach, you can quickly work out what you’re good at, what career options are open to you and how to go about making your career transition.

So, if you’re ready to get your career change underway, get in touch. Here are some ways I can support you:


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