The average American changes jobs seven times over a life time of work, and the pursuit of better job satisfaction and financial stability are among the top reasons. Most of these career shifts happen in a person's teens and twenties, when hop-scotching from bartending to telemarketing is more common than not. Mid- and late-career changes, however, are less common, largely because they require the implicit trade of the familiar for the unknown. The risks may be bigger, but the rewards are sweeter.
If the mere thought of jumping from a well-heeled spot on one industry ladder to the bottom rung of another is intimidating enough to prevent you from pursuing the job of your dreams, you're not alone. Later in life career changes can seem impossible when you weigh the financial risks of starting anew with the responsibilities of child-rearing and mortgage payments. But if you're truly unfulfilled at work, over time it will take a toll its toll. So don't let a little fear of failure hold you hostage.
Read on for our roundup of the best ways to transition to a new career after 30.
1. Skill Shift
Grab a pen and pad and take a few minutes to list all your skills — and not just the ones you acquired on the job. Be sure to include those you picked up while volunteering for the Parent Teacher Association, leading your child's Girl Scouts troop, caring for an ailing relative, paying down your debt, fundraising for cancer research, and building the new deck in the backyard. Now brainstorm all the ways you can apply these strengths of yours to a brand new business venture. You just might surprise yourself with how quickly your experience planning a neighborhood block party complete with food vendors, a bouncy house, and live music seems to become more beneficial than what you learned from your collegiate calculus homework. Especially if it's a new career in event planning that you're pursuing. So don't be afraid to acknowledge your outside-the-box accomplishments and play to them.
2. Get Educated
While you may find you have a slew of transferable job skills, the likelihood that you'll need to acquire some new ones is pretty high. That doesn't necessarily mean you need to dole out tens of thousands of dollars for a new degree — although, depending on your new occupation of choice, it might. Education, in all its forms, will counter what you lack in experience. And it will show potential employers that you are committed to your new career choice and driven enough to do what it takes to land a job in your new field. Books, lectures, certification courses, and volunteer opportunities are all great ways of snuffing up.
3. Go Where the Growth Is
There's something to be said for career fields that are forecast to add future jobs. And that something is stability. Job growth means there's less likelihood that your bread and butter will be rattled by economic turmoil. It means you'll have a better shot at securing promotions and making lateral moves with pay increases. So you might want to jot down these fastest-growing occupations: industrial-organizational psychologist, personal care aide, home health aide, mechanical insulation worker, interpreters and translators, diagnostic medical sonographer, and brick mason. All these fields are on pace to see stellar growth rates, which means you'll have an easier time finding a niche for yourself.
4. Stage a Dress Rehearsal
A travel magazine editor might seem like the ultimate occupation, but how often does he or she actually get the opportunity to fly to Morocco for an all-inclusive stay at a posh new resort? There's only one way to find out: Network with people in your desired field, mine for opportunities to shadow folks working in your desired role, and ask a lot of questions. When possible, try out the work for yourself on a limited, exploratory basis to see if it's really for you. You just might find that the travel editor gig you've been swooning for actually brings about more computer eye strains than passport stamps.
5. Tap Your Network
Determining your new career calling is half the battle. The other, of course, is getting hired. But when you lack the typical resume for a career that lies outside your realm of experience, it can be difficult to secure a position — no matter how captivating your cover letter is. So don't rely on a piece of paper to get your foot in the door. Instead, tap your network: Friends, family, former colleagues, past classmates, neighbors, and mentors. These are the people who know your work ethic, smarts, and potential for success in ways that can't be captured in black ink. They can vouch for you. They might even be able to help you land an interview you otherwise wouldn't have scored. The rest is up to you.
6. Rebrand Yourself
If you're going to take on a new role, it will serve you well to look the part. That goes for your online persona as much as your wardrobe. Before you begin the interview process, be sure your social media accounts, websites, business cards and voicemail greetings are reflective of the professional life you want. The fact that you're in a period of transition is no excuse for an outdated or sloppy digital presence.