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Changing Careers at Thirty: 5 Gems Of Wisdom From Somebody Who Did It

November 15, 2017
career change - jumping the chasm

You’ve graduated university and got a job. Maybe you’re making good money. But the job that seemed like it would be fun when you went to university or when you applied for it straight after graduating, six or seven years down the road, is now dull, monotonous and ultimately boring. And you’re thinking, “Is this it? Is this it until I’m sixty-five?”

And then you have a mad idea, “Maybe I could change careers…?” So you think about it for a while and then type it into Google and wind up reading this….

Hello 🙂

So let me tell you…

I wasn’t quite thirty at the time, but my impending thirtieth birthday was certainly one of the factors that strongly influenced my decision.

I had the rather mad idea of largely abandoning a career in pharmacy, which is what I’d studied at university, in order to become, of all things, a professional magician.

If you have a look around my website, you’ll probably gather that yes, it worked. I did become a magician. But it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world and didn’t come without everything I can bet you’re experiencing right now just daring to think about your own career change.

The slightly irritating thing is that life has a flow to it. You go to school. You go to college. You go to university and then you enter the job market in a particular industry. Quite without noticing you pick up all the lingo and the culture of the industry you’re in and after a few more years while you’re still trying to find your feet and get comfortable something dangerous happens. You start to feel like you belong. Even if it’s not fulfilling. Because it’s familiar.

That thing that you may have dreamed about doing as a kid now seems miles away because you’ve really no idea how it works. It’s alien. And you’re thirty and everybody’s younger than you.

#1: Changing industries is hard work. It takes a lot of effort and energy but if you’re sure it’s what you want, it’s well worth it.

You’re going to have to work hard. Really hard. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that simply wanting a career change isn’t good enough. You have to need this like you need breath. You have to be a bit obsessed with it. Otherwise the amount of work involved, and the loneliness associated with not being about to do what everybody else is doing, is likely to defeat you.

#2: This reinvention is probably going to take about 5 years before you’re really comfortable in your new career, and in the mean time, it’s going to be a bit scary and uncertain.

As we get older we start to rely on a number of psychological certainties to bring consistency to the world. And for most of us men, one of those things is our profession as a proxy for ‘who we are’. So stepping away from the familiar and into what is essentially unknown territory, is scary. And you have to make peace with operating outside your comfort zone. And get comfortable with uncertainty. Most people find this hard to handle.

#3: If you change industries, you’ll likely have to take a substantial but hopefully temporary pay cut.

The pay cut can be the biggest challenge. Especially if you already have dependents. Cutting back on lifestyle expenses is one of the most difficult things to do. But ultimately, if you’re going to do this, you need to be prepared for it. You’ll have to budget and work out what you can do without, in order to start back at basic graduate pay for a while.

If this career is right for you, however, the temporary pay cut will be worth it in the longer term. I’d also suggest planning the transition in advance and saving as much as you can from your old job to see you through the financial challenge you’re about to face.

#4: As you’re older, you have more general life experience which means you will probably get up the ladder faster

Up to now, it’s all been bad news. Pay cuts and long hours and hard work. But your advancing age, while probably making you feel a bit out of place, does bring  a couple of advantages. And one of them is that because you’re older and (hopefully) more mature, you’re likely to be more focussed than your colleagues and you’re likely to rise up the ranks faster.

#5: You are NOT too old.

As you’re turning thirty and some of the people who went to school and university with are now starting to get married and have children, you can be forgiven for thinking you may be too old to change careers. Who needs all that upheaval when they’re supposed to be settling down, right?

Well… you’re not too old. As well as myself, I know a number of friends who decided to pack in their day jobs and start something new. One of them even moved half way across the world to do it and is now, so far as I know, doing just fine!

CONCLUSION

Some may call me naive (as indeed some have), but I personally believe that a career should do more for you than simply finance your lifestyle and fill your stomach. It should feed your soul. If it doesn’t, sooner or later there will come a time when you wonder what you’ve done with your life. I’ve spoken to a number of older people who all said this happens. (I like talking to old people – they have a lot to say if you ask the right questions).

It was incredibly difficult at times. But it’s lead to a great many experiences than I could ever have had in my previous career and, money aside, isn’t that what counts? When all’s said and done at the end of your life, isn’t that what’s important? Having some interesting stories to tell?

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