How to make a career change happen in your 30s

by Melanie Chisnall

So, you’re officially in the market for another career change. Whether that’s due to COVID-19, frustration, or escaping a toxic work environment – you’re ready to put yourself out there. Again.

Things have gotten real.

Quick side note – If you’re looking for a fluffy post about following your passions and magically transforming your life overnight, I’m sorry, but this isn’t it.

Sure, it’s fun to imagine a world where we live our dream life, but you know what’s even better? Making things happen.

As in taking intentional ACTION.

(Beyond the visions over steaming cups of coffee and cookie-cutter self-help talks).

Now look, I’m a huge fan of notebook doodling and making vision boards, but that’s not where change happens.

I used to think so, though.

Aaah. Good old fashioned procrastination disguised as over-planning and perfectionism. Sneaky, that. Maybe you’re not spending your time mulling over freshly brewed tea and making lists for the future. Maybe you’re on auto-pilot, going through the motions.

You feel stuck and unsettled and it’s negatively impacting other areas of your life.

Sound familiar?

Or, maybe you’re in survival mode right now and stress has become your new normal. Just the idea of looking for a new job – or creating one – is too overwhelming to think about practically.

I get it.

2020 has been challenging for all of us. Maybe not in exactly the same way, but it’s shattered routine and forced us to focus on what’s really important.

All of a sudden that Plan B for “one day” is today.

But before polishing up your CV or diving into self-employment, there’s a bit of self-work that needs to happen first. I’ll tell you why in a bit. We’re going to get realistic about what actually goes into pivoting and creating massive change.

That’s right. It’s a little more than just updating your CV and hitting that “apply” button.

5 PRACTICAL, POSITIVE AND SUSTAINABLE WAYS TO CREATE CAREER CHANGE IN YOUR 30s

Alright, onto the good stuff.

If your heart and head aren’t in the right place, you’re probably not going to get the results you’re after. No one wants to hire or work with someone who’s negative, stressed out or appears desperate.

What do they want?

Genuine positivity, enthusiasm for the job/business, and a can-do attitude.

Yes, I know. That’s a bit hard to pull off when your confidence is at an all-time low, you’re angry at the world, or you couldn’t care less. And here’s where self-work and mindset come into the picture.

It starts with being brutally honest with yourself – and getting a little selfish. Here are five simple steps to help you get out of your head and start actioning positive career change.

1) DO (MORE OF) WHAT LIGHTS YOU UP

Trust me, I’m aware of how fluffy this sounds. Especially if you’re running on fumes or not feeling very positive about life. Here’s the thing though: when you do things that make you happy, you lower your stress levels and your outlook begins to change – even if it’s just a little at first.

Now, please, I’m not talking about watching five hours of Netflix fun, by the way. I’m talking about hobbies. Remember those?

I mean fun things that have nothing to do with work.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few questions to get those creative juices flowing:

  • What activities did you enjoy most as a child?
  • What books, blogs or podcasts inspire you?
  • Is there specific music that makes you want to dance like no-ones watching?
  • If you had an extra hour in the day, what would you use it to do? (not work!)

2) SCHEDULE YOUR CAREER CHANGE “ACTION DATE

Change without action is just wishful thinking. We know this.

So, if you’re serious about a career change – whether that’s starting a new job or building a business, you need to put things in motion immediately.

A micro action is the perfect way to do this – and there’s zero overwhelm involved.

My suggestion?

Mark a specific date in your calendar.

As in, the date you want to quit your job, start a new career, or launch a business. This is important. When you deliberately put something like that out there (not all over social media, please), you set things in motion. Your brain is wired to start actively seeking out opportunities and moving things along.

Some questions to keep in mind before you do this:

  • When do you want to make this change by? A month, three, six?
  • What do you need to put into place before then? Savings? A new job? A website?
  • WHY do you want to make this change?

Be realistic and slot that date in asap.

do what makes you happy

3) GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION FOR MORE

You can’t expect good things to come into your life if you don’t have the space for it.

Or, if you’re constantly putting everyone else first – and sacrificing your well-being out of guilt. Now, I don’t mean that you should ignore your family or put yourself in a self-absorbed bubble. Far from it.

I know from personal experience how challenging this can be. Especially if you’re a people-pleaser or high achiever. One thing that’s really helped me?

Putting healthy boundaries in place – both personally and professionally.

And you can do the same thing with very little effort.

Let’s say you’re a busy mom with two kids. You struggle to find the time (let alone energy) to update your CV, network on LinkedIn or research potential business opportunities.

Here are a few realistic ways to create time for doing what you need to do:

  • Use your lunch breaks intentionally
  • Take a personal day or put in a few days of leave
  • Ask your partner or family to help with responsibilities for a little while (e.g. a few hours on Saturday or one evening during the week)

It’s not about finding the time; it’s about creating it.

Also? Remind yourself that you’re worth it. Imagine what things could look like a few months from now just by taking that little bit of extra time.

4) POLISH YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE

We live in a digital age where people want to know the person behind the CV, business or brand.

It’s really important to have this in place before you apply for any jobs or announce your new venture to the world. How does your online presence genuinely portray you in a way that’s going to set you up for success?

Here are a few things you might want to consider doing:

  • Get rid of any personal or unprofessional information you don’t want visible
  • Highlight your skills and accomplishments that set you apart
  • Update your LinkedIn bio and work experience
  • Freshen up your social media profile pics and bios
  • Tweak your website, blog or personal portfolio page if you have one

You don’t need to spend hours doing this. Just focus on few areas you can polish.

5) MIND YOUR CONFIDENCE

And now for the million dollar question: If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?

A healthy mindset is everything – and so is the way you see yourself. But, boosting your self-esteem goes beyond saying a few positive affirmations in front of the mirror. It’s about loving who you are right now – not minus 5kg from now, not once you get that job or start that business. Today, right here, right now.

Let me tell you from personal experience, the more you prioritise well-being, the more positive and confident you’ll feel about that career change – and life in general.

Here are three quick ideas for boosting your self-esteem:

  • Dress for success. It’s actually amazing what a dab of lipstick, pretty earrings and a colourful top can do to boost your mood and confidence.
  • Give yourself a mini-challenge. Not following through on big things can quickly wear you down. Set yourself a tiny personal goal to achieve every day instead. It can be as simple as holding a plank position for 20 seconds or leaving one thoughtful comment on someone’s LinkedIn post. Simple.
  • Make a “wins” list. I like doing this weekly, but you can do it daily, too. Write down everything good that happened or that you accomplished. It really helps to see the bigger picture on those not-so-great days.

AND THERE YOU HAVE IT…

Five habits you can start developing to get unstuck and make your career change happen.

It starts with a bit of self-work and adopting a healthy mindset. One mini step at a time; one day at a time.

Sure, you might not have that fire in your belly like you did in your 20s, but you know what you do have? More experience, more life lessons, and a need for sustainability and doing work that feels more meaningful.

You’ve got this.

I hope you found this post inspiring – and actionable. Is there anything I haven’t covered that’s helping you get you closer to making positive changes in your career? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear them!

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