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Hey there! If you’ve landed on this blog post, it’s probably because we already hang out on the internet ORRRRR you googled something like “Career change in your 30’s” in the middle of the night because you are butt deep in your feelings.
Maybe you even googled this at work, in which case I hope you’re on your own device and WiFi!
Career Change in your 30’s
As a career coach, I get asked for my advice on whether or not to change careers in your 30’s. Below, I’ve shared 3 key pieces of advice that I want *all* of my clients to know!
If you’re looking for help from a career coach, be sure to reach out to me via my professional website, here. I’m not salesy or weird, and I love to help folks!
Where We’re Going – Career Change in 30’s Overview
In this blog post I’m going to share:
- Why career paths aren’t linear AND why you should probably stop listening to your (well-meaning) parens
- Why I’m 99% sure grad school isn’t the answer
- How to explore new career paths
Ok, let’s get started!
Section 1: Why career paths aren’t linear // A career change in 30’s is NORMAL!
Can I tell you a secret?
A really good secret?
Lean in close!
Okay, not that close you need to be able to read your screen, lmao.
People who act like their career path has been linear or straight forward are absolutely full of SHEEEEITE. you know, those people who act like, “I went to school then did step 1, then step 2 then 3! Everything worked out perfectly for me, because *I* am perfect.”
Wanna know how I know those people are full of sheeeite???
BECAUSE I TEACH PEOPLE HOW TO CREATE A LINEAR CAREER STORY. I am often the one orchestrating the bull sheeeite. As a coach, I work in professional branding, and I *quite* literallY work with clients to create a short story (AKA an “elevator pitch), that they use in professional circumstances. Most people do NOT have a story that talks about their love of finance coming from selling lemonade (or candy bars or whatever) as a kid. I literally help clients cherrypick different moments in their life to tell these stories.
Why do I do that? Because employers want to believe that you have a ~calling~ to do whatever you do. Because the salary will be higher and you’ll get more grace.
The problem is that this BS hurts other folks who are struggling in their path.
So, the key take away here?
NO ONE HAS A LINEAR CAREER PATH. And if they do, they either have that because they strategized about a story (90% of people, in my opinion) or they are so terrified of not having a sure path that they force themselves to be robots (9.00009%) or their linear career path worked out for them (.000001%).
There is no linear career path. Let that shit go.
In fact, there’s what I call the “Lily pad theory” (I didn’t make this up, a mentor taught me this). In your professional life, you will jump from lillypad to lillypad, like a little frag. Each lillypad will be its own job, or you could think of it as an industry. After a few years of moving lillvpads, you will be able to look back and make it work.
Section 1b: Please stop listening to your parents about changing careers. Or your career, period.
Alrighty, so now you know that a planned out career path is bullshit (sorry to take that surety from you), so let’s dig into something a bit more fun.
Something that holds a lot of my clients back is the worry over what their parents will think about the career change. Now, as a white woman who grew up in the western US, who was raised with a “take no shit” attitude, I have to be careful about this one.
I find that the whole, “What will my parents think?!” stems from 2 types of relationships, which I’ve outlined below:
- Your parents are full of shit, and they have very outdated ideas on how a company will “take care of you” and why you should stick with security
- Your parents sacrificed a whole lot to get you where you are today. Changing career paths feels like a slap in the face.
Let’s tackle the first one:
Your parents are likely very lovely people, and, from what I’ve seen, it’s very likely they have SUPER DUPER outdated ideas on what “job security” looks like. These folks will argue for “company loyalty” (which doesn’t exist and will harm you), they’ll caution against “job hopping” (which will severely decrease your ability to earn more money, plateauing your income and strangling your professional development).
They mean well. For whatever reason, they don’t understand that the professional world has changed almost 100%. Sure, in some areas, say, a law firm, there’s very strict rules and expectations on advancing.
But most of us will switch companies every 2-5 years, and the smart ones among us will constantly be moving and expanding our network/job to switch jobs to make more money. My clients are often surprised when I tell them that the goal of switching jobs is to increase your salary by minimum 20% – honestly, more.
If you stick at a company and take those 3% raises, you’re getting nowhere fast. And a lot of people stay because of the advice of their parents.
Sweetheart, hear me now: Take career advice from people with more experience in your field, and make decisions based on what other people are doing in your network. Work with a career coach (doesn’t have to be me!) to make decisions based on FACTS – not outdated ideals from 20-40 years ago.
I know you (hopefully?) love your parents, and they do not need a play-by-play of your career life. They just fucking do NOTTTT. Be strategic in what you share with them, and be sure that the advice you ask them for comes from their wheelhouse and background! If it doesn’t, then find someone else to ask!
Okay, so we talked about parens having outdated ideals.
…. What about the worry over self-sacrifice?
This is where I’ve gotta be super careful and stay in my freakin’ lane, as I am a white woman in what’s basically a WASP or conservative Christian (White AF) culture. My parents sacrificed a lot for me (my mom worked at Wal-Mart to pay for college application fees), but it’s not the same dynamic.
So, some exploratory questions I share with my clients, that I invite you to consider:
- Do you think your parents made those sacrifices for you, so that you could have the freedom of choice to CHOOSE what to do with your life? So you could change your mind and not be forced into one path? Could honoring their sacrifices look like being committed to happiness, pursuing your passion/interests – something they may not have been able to do?
- If that’s not the case (ie they were forceful in the life paths you’re “allowed”), could It be that their desire for you to be XXX or (fill in the blank) comes from the desire for you to be safe? Could it come from their desire to see you have security they did not have // people in your family or culture have not had?
Now, some parents really are toxic AF, so it may be about ego and power dynamics with them. There’s a whole host of things going on. If you fall into this space, I recommend getting a therapist. In my experience, you won’t be able to grow and move forward if you’re STUCK trying to find a solution with your current mindset. Having someone who is objective, who doesn’t know you/your parents is really helpful, I’ve found.
The key take away here is that at the end of the day, you are responsible for the care and keeping of you. You are responsible for your own life, and at the end of the day, it’s on you! I’m not saying to be ungrateful or make rash choices, here. What I am saying is we all die. So it’s worth it to explore and take steps (like therapy!) to see things from a new perspective.
Section 2: EFF Grad School!
Okay, we just covered some deep stuff, so let’s talk about something a bit more lighthearted.
A lot of clients come to me and ask me about grad school. “Should I go get an MBA? An MFA? A JD? A PhD?”
My response is usually “EFF NO!” (I drop the actual word on the call, but my blog gets in trouble with ad companies if I swear on here.)
A lot of people enter grad school as if it’s a… career exploration exercise. “I’ll figure out if I want to do (X) by going to grad school!”
And, with love and respect, I say:
“WTF do you think you’re doing?!!? Why are you dropping tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, to get a degree that you’re not sure you’ll use? Or that you’ll want to work in that space?”
In my opinion, people opt for grad school because they don’t want to sit and ask themselves hard questions. They don’t want to deal with the anxiety and swirling squirminess in their tummies, because they don’t “know what I’m doing with my life.”
Babe, if you’re going to drop like $50K – $100K to figure out what you want to do, you are grossly overpaying.
I only advise my clients to go to grad school if they have:
- Spoke with 5 people in the career that they feel that grad program would prepare for them (minimum 1 hour each)
- Spoke with 5 separate people about the program and what it did for them
- Shadow 3-4 people for a day (ideally longer) who do the job they’re interested in
Much of the time, grad school is a super stressful and expensive endeavor that is used to postpone an existential crisis.
Let me say that again:
Much of the time, my clients ask about graduate school, because they want to use it as a way to escape answering big questions about what they want to spend their life doing. <3
But you know what happens? You graduate, babe! Eventually, that creeping existential dread will be back on the stage as the main act, and you’ll have to deal with it!!
The key take away here is that grad school should be a strategic decision, one where you know how you’re going to use the degree. The only exception here is if you’re a spiritual or religious person, and you feel that that program is where you need to be – and you can’t pinpoint exactly why.
Section 3: Exploring Career Paths
“Ok, Brianne,” I can hear you thinking. “How do I go about exploring career paths?”
Well, it’s your lucky day, babe! I wrote a whole blog post (and made a youtube video) HERE, with steps on how to do exactly that. Please note that skipping any steps in that process is going to result in super limited results. Suck it up and do ALL of the steps, even if you feel like you already know it.
Check it out HERE!
Hiring a Career Coach – Career Change
Besides that? If the way I’ve talked to you in this blog post has jived with you, I can also help you explore career paths and be a loud cheerleader and support during this scary (and exiting!!) time. Check out my website here.
What to Read Next – Career Change FTW
Besides reading the post on exploring career paths, you’ll want to check out the following posts as well:
- Quitting your job? Do these things FIRST!
- Resume Tips – Common mistakes that take 5 minutes to fix
- How to prepare for an interview
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