How to Change Careers in Your 30s

Businessman looking through office window in sunlight

When you’re in your 30s, you might become interested in changing career paths. Maybe you’ve devoted years to the same industry, and you’re just not feeling fulfilled anymore. Or maybe a new hobby led to inspiration toward a new career path. Or, you might see how happy a loved one is working a certain type of job, and you might want to pursue that path, too.

Other issues like career growth stagnation, industry culture and new opportunities presented through networking may all be enough to inspire a job change.

Job seekers in their 30s have unique concerns. You’ve likely been in the workforce for around a decade or more. As technology evolves, the standards for your desired career may have evolved, as well.

Use this guide for switching jobs when you’re in your 30s so you have a smooth transition for your next move.

It is Not too Late to Change Careers

Most Americans spend one-third or more of our time at work. No one is too old for starting over. You can find a job that makes you happy and fulfilled. Depending on your age, you may have 35 years or more of work ahead of you. Contemplate if you’re willing to keep working in a career that doesn’t fit you.

If you’ve been building a career in one industry for awhile, you may have concerns about starting something new. Let’s dispel some myths.

  • Myth: You’ll need to go back to school and get a new degree, which is going to take around 4 years and a lot of money. Online programs and certificates make it more convenient to master new skills. You can spend far less time and money studying for the exact skills you need by getting an online certificate, compared to heading back to school for a new bachelor’s or master’s degree.
  • Myth: Your lack of experience will prevent you from being hired. Hirers are looking for all different types of things in career candidates. Your unique qualities – and the fact you had the courage to go after your career dreams – can be attractive to a hirer. Use your networking skills to get a foot in the door for interviews and open jobs. You can tap into your school alumni association or your LinkedIn network to connect.
  • Myth: You’ll only be able to get an entry-level position. If you already have leadership experience, like being in a management role, and you gain the knowledge you need to enter a new industry, your previous experience may be valuable enough to get you to a lateral role. If your previous experience can help your employer increase revenue and solve problems, that’s valuable.

You only have one life to live, and it’s yours. You have the power to take control and pursue your goals. There are countless success stories of professionals changing careers in their 30s and beyond. Focus on your passion. There are no limits to where it can take you.  

How Often Does the Average Person Switch Careers?

If you’re in your 30s, you’re in what Gallup calls “the job-hopping generation.” Millennials are the most likely generation to switch jobs, and 60% of them are open to a job change. CNN reports the average Millennial will already have had at least 4 job changes by the time they reach the age 32.

A longitudinal survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics examined how many jobs younger baby boomers had from the ages of 18 to 48. The result was an average of 11.7 jobs. With younger generations even more prone to job-hopping, the number of times the average person switches careers may increase for those who are in their 30s today.

New opportunities, learning about new industries and meeting people who work in lucrative roles are all reasons why professionals in their 30s think about switching careers. There are probably plenty of new fields and types of jobs that didn’t exist when you first went to school or entered the workforce. It’s understandable that as new industries and roles emerge, so will new candidates.

How to Find a New Career

If your current career isn’t fulfilling you but you have no idea what you want to do, answer these questions to discover your potential best career.

  • What is your passion? The things you like to do outside your career now may inspire where your next career should take you. If you’ve always had a side hustle, maybe it’s time to focus on a career as an entrepreneur. If you love social media and have a blog, a career in digital marketing could be calling. Use your hobbies to guide you toward getting paid for what you love to do.
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? Maybe you aren’t engaged with your current career because you’re not using your strengths. Write out a list of your strengths, and align them with potential careers where you can utilize them every day. Employees who use their strengths at work are happier, more engaged and more productive. Think about what your natural talents are and how they could benefit you in a new career.
  • What is your dream job? Begin with a grand vision. You can always take steps to get there. From your dream job, map out other related roles that can lead there. Maybe your next career is a stepping stone to the career you’ve always dreamed about but never thought was possible for yourself.

Ask your friends and family members what they see your strengths as. They may identify ones you hadn’t thought of, or mention roles you might be a perfect fit for that you can explore.

You can also take a self-assessment career quiz to see what jobs you might be suited for. Use that list as inspiration to research other careers.

Changing Careers with No Experience

If you’re changing careers with no experience, first, look at several job descriptions for the career you want to pursue. Look at the required skills that are listed.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook is another great resource to use. Each career includes information on how to become that type of professional.

You may already possess some of the skills that are needed. If there are consistent skills being mentioned that you don’t have, you’ll want to obtain those so that you can optimize your job search.

How Do I Get Experience in a New Field?

There are several ways to get experience in a new field. You might consider:

  • Online education. You can learn skills on your own device, on your own time, and get a certificate or degree that can help boost your résumé.
  • Start a side hustle. You could start an entry-level side job in the new career field you’re pursuing, so you can learn the ropes under someone else and gain experience. Or, you could explore volunteer/adult internship opportunities that provide you with experience.
  • Work with a career coach. If you want to switch careers, a career coach can help you find connections, guide you in the right direction of what to learn and provide you with recommendations for skills to study before you embark on a job search. Working with a career coach is an investment, but it may pay off in you finding a better career.

Another way to learn how to get the experience you’ll need is to talk with a hiring manager in the industry you’re interested in. Ask your contacts if they know human resources professionals you can talk with, or make new connections on LinkedIn. Ask hirers what they look for and any certificates or training they recommend.

You Can Still Go After Your Career Dreams

Changing careers in your 30s can be both scary and exciting. You’re entering a new world, one that can bring you more joy and happiness at your job, where you spend so much of your time.

If you’re thinking about switching careers, know that you’re not alone. Job hopping is typical for Millennials and younger generations.

To stand out among candidates, you’ll want to:

  • Apply for a career that uses your strengths, passions and talents.
  • Possess the skills and education required of the job.
  • Convey how your prior experience qualifies you.

Online education is a great place to start if you want to build up your knowledge and skills. For more tips on career evolution in your 30s, download our ebook, “Job Search Handbook for 30-Somethings.”

The Wharton School is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and is authorized to issue the IACET CEU.