Career Change at 30: Building on Your Skills

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Sometimes a career that was once fulfilling and inspiring may no longer be the career you are interested in. Learn more about how to plot a career change in your 30s.

[Featured Image]  A person in a dark shirt sits at a long brown table reviewing his resume as he thinks about changing his career.

Considering a career change in your thirties can feel like a major decision, especially if you’ve remained on a fairly steady path throughout your first career. Your inclination to redirect your career path can also be a growth indicator, reflecting a desire to explore possibilities you weren’t aware of or that didn’t feel accessible to you when you first entered the workforce.

Although you may have spent roughly a decade working toward your current position, you’re likely closer to the beginning of your career than the end of it. Many people will retire well into their sixties— even their seventies—which gives you three or four more decades to define and redefine your career destination.

You can change that destination as many times as you’d like to, and people successfully change careers at all stages of their life. In general, the steps remain the same:

  1. Assess your current career.

  2. Clarify your career goals.

  3. Research potential careers.

  4. Research job listings.

  5. Define your course of action. 

Learn more about how to prepare for a career change with our step-by-step guide.

In this article, we’ll discuss how you might use your established work presence to frame a career change in your thirties.

Changing careers at 30

Any adjustment to your current career path will require some investment, whether that’s in the form of time, energy, money, or otherwise. However, regardless of your desired outcome, you’ve likely already made a substantial investment into your career, and you can use that investment to your advantage.

Think about this next step in your career as if you’re refining your path rather than completely changing it. Your career path is a collection of your experiences, contributions, and successes, and you’ve built new skills at each stop along your journey which you can take with you to the next. Over time, your path will uniquely qualify you for new opportunities—and it’s up to you to decide which opportunities you’d like to explore.

How do you know that it’s time for a career change?

Deciding to move your career in a new direction is a personal choice, and there’s no real way to know with certainty whether or not the time is right. However, the mere fact that you are asking the question may indicate that you desire for something to be different. Figuring out specifically what it is that you want to change can help you determine the type of career move that will make the most sense for you at this time.

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Decide what's next.

Knowing that you’re ready for a career change is a productive first step toward making it happen, but having clarity on the direction you’d like to take your career is the key to ensuring you get the type of job you’re after.

Regardless of your specific experiences, you know more about yourself, your needs, and your preferences now than you did when you first entered the workforce. Use those insights to help determine your path moving forward. There are two broad areas worth considering: what you want to do and how you want to do it.

  • What you want to do encompasses the tasks associated with your future career. What tasks would you like to continue doing? What would you like to do more of? What would you rather leave behind?

  • How you want to do it involves the lifestyle and environmental considerations that will enable you to approach your work in a way that feels good for you. What type of office setting do you prefer? How much money do you want to make? How much flexibility do you need? Are any employee benefits particularly important to you?

There are many additional ways to keep assessing your priorities, from external resources like career coaching and career quizzes to internal exploration through meditation and journaling. There’s no right or wrong way to figure out your next steps. Find the mechanism that’s going to bring you comfort as you interpret your wants and needs.

Learn more about how to choose a career.

Embrace your accomplishments.

Although you likely still have much of your career ahead of you, you’ve probably already started seeing some of your investments in yourself pay off. Take stock of all you’ve accomplished and learned in your career as you approach your next steps.

Reflecting on the successes you feel proud of and why can help reveal what you value in a job. You may want to consider future roles that enable you to continue expressing those values through your work. Meanwhile, considering the specific tasks you did to make those successes happen can help illuminate your top workplace skills. You’ll likely be able to highlight some of those skills as you apply for jobs and use them to secure a lateral (at the same level as you are now) or advanced position along your desired career path.

Consider transferable skills.

Transferable skills are the skills you take from one job to another, like communication, problem solving, teamwork, and management. These skills tend to be important to roles across job functions and industries, and you can use them to demonstrate that you qualify for roles beyond entry level, even if you don’t have direct experience with your desired function or industry. As you research your next role and build familiarity with the associated job tasks, take note of similarities with your current position.

Learn more about  how to use transferable skills to land your next job.

Keep in mind that different industries may use different language to describe similar skills, and in some cases, it may help to reframe the language on your resume to better align with your desired future position. For example, you may have considerable experience coordinating the needs of various people to achieve a singular goal. In some roles, you may use that experience to highlight your customer service skills, and in others, you may consider that stakeholder alignment.

Tip: To help determine the terminology that best aligns with your desired future career, consider taking an introductory course online. You’ll likely be exposed to the crucial skills and phrasing common to your desired position.

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Learn new skills.

As you learn more about your desired future career, you may notice some core skills that you haven’t yet developed. There are many ways to learn new skills as you move toward the next phase of your career, including taking courses, earning a professional certificate, or getting a degree.

Filling your skill gaps will likely require some investment on your end, whether in the form of time, energy, or money. Ideally, you’ll be able to leverage this short-term investment into long-term career gains.

In many cases, you’ll be able to find flexible options to gain new skills, such as remote online classes, that enable you to continue working or tending to other responsibilities while you learn. You may also be able to find relevant free online courses or other resources that enable you to easily demonstrate newly acquired skills. 

Learn more about  how to create a goal-oriented career development plan using our free template.

It’s never too late to keep learning. Most students pursuing their bachelor’s or master’s degree on Coursera are 30 years old or older [1]. The median age of all learners on Coursera in North America, both men, and women is 34 [2].

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Finding a cultural fit

Workers in their thirties, specifically millennials, tend to change jobs more frequently than other generations. According to a Gallup poll, millennials feel less engaged with their workplaces but want to feel purpose in their work. They generally seek development opportunities over job satisfaction. When looking for a new role, they tend to consider factors such as growth opportunities, management practices, interest in their work, and jobs that offer strong work-life balance [3].

As you consider your next career move, you may want to think about your lifestyle and cultural needs, in addition to your job function preferences. One way to figure out your cultural needs is to assess your current and previous workplaces: what about them made you feel empowered, motivated, and able to succeed, and what about those environments felt discouraging?

If you want guidance as you begin considering roles that may better align with your lifestyle needs, here are some ideas to start your search:

Keep learning

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Article sources

1. Coursera. “Drivers of Retention in Online Degree Programs, https://about.coursera.org/press/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Courseras-Drivers-of-Retention-in-Online-Degree-Programs-Report-1.pdf.” Accessed May 24, 2022.

2. Coursera. “Women and Skills Report: 2021, https://about.coursera.org/press/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Coursera-Women-and-Skills-Report-2021.pdf.” Accessed May 24, 2022.

3. Gallup. “How Millennials Want to Work and Live, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/238073/millennials-work-live.aspx.” Accessed May 24, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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