How to change careers in your 30s

Published: 22 Aug 2016

1. Find something you genuinely want to do


"I'd always loved being in my garden and realised that there was a gap in the market for a 'lady gardener' - that was the very beginning of my gardening business, 10 years ago. Now at 52, I'm a go-to person in my area to do gardening work. Not bad for someone who's doing what she actually enjoys."


2. Highlight your transferable skills


"I had a good career in my 20s, then spent my 30s having children and working in some fairly undemanding part-time jobs. I've managed to forge a new career in my early 40s and I'm loving it. Admittedly my new field didn't require retraining, more learning on the job - but I did have transferrable skills from my previous career/jobs and sold myself on that basis. It can be done!"


3. Be prepared to start at the bottom


"I retrained in my early 30s (whilst raising two young children) and started from the bottom in my new sector, working mostly part-time for a few years. I'm nearly 40 now and am in a 'proper' professional, full-time job in my field; if I want it, I could be a senior manager within three to five years."


4. Work out if it's your career or your workplace that needs to change


"I underwrote mortgages in my 20s after falling into it on leaving university. After having my son I wanted a change - now I teach, and I love it beyond measure. Having said that, my first placement I didn't fit in at all; the place just wasn't right. My new place feels like home, and I'm better at my job for being somewhere different."


5. Be willing to compromise


"I retrained at 43, and it took compromise; I earn half what I did in my 20s but that was not sustainable - for me at least. I'd had eight years off, so I started at the bottom part-time, but the company paid for my professional exams. Twelve years later I have a middle management job that I like."


6. Consider a career that's in high demand


"I work in IT - it's very family-friendly because you can often work from home. They're constantly struggling to find smart people with niche skills, such as business analysts, project managers, programme managers, and architects. Everyone wants people who understand it. Your thirties are definitely not too late to start on a new career."


7. You've probably got more working years left than you think


"I retrained in my forties, having spent 20 years in my previous career. Now I have a degree (graduated at 43) and have been in this career for two years. I expect to be doing this for at least next 15-20 years. It's never too late!"


8. Have faith in yourself, and others will too


"I trained as a primary teacher and taught for 15 years, then took a year out to do a self-funded Masters. I went back to teach for a year part time whilst I applied for a PhD, then got a place and full funding. I'll probably be 40 by the time I have a PhD. What will it lead to? No idea. But if the uni have faith in me enough to fund me, they must see potential in my future."


9. Be ready to put in the hours


"I'm 54 now and I've changed career three times. In each case I drew on my previous knowledge and experience to help me move to the next career, and I worked hard to learn the ropes. I'd say that changing career at any age is doable if you put the effort in and are prepared to learn."


10. And remember - life experience is a positive


"I started my midwifery training at 38 - eight years later I won a regional specialist award. Some careers are enhanced by a bit of life experience. I've never regretted my career change - I don't make as much money as I did before but I do love my job."

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