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At one time, you got a job right after you finished high school or college, and you’d work the majority of your life for that one company. You might go up the career ladder at one or perhaps two companies for the duration of your career, and then you’d retire. That’s not the case for many workers today. The average worker in the United States changes careers about 10 to 15 times before hitting retirement in their 60s or 70s. Or, they may even work beyond that age now that certain social safety nets such as Social Security are under threat.
If you take into consideration that in many industries, wages are somewhat stagnant, it makes sense that a lot of people switch careers to find new opportunities. The switch can mean more success later on or a more rewarding job if the new career is the right fit.
Sometimes, the career change happens because you had other ambitions to begin with and have decided to give those other goals a try. In other cases, some workers try a specific job and realize that they didn’t enjoy it as much as they thought they would. They decide to take their skills and ideas elsewhere. Careers are more akin to climbing a lattice, which you go across, up or diagonally, instead of just up one specific corporate ladder. Some people work for a handful of companies throughout their lives and then go on to work part-time during their retirement.
Careers aren’t as stable as they used to be, but there’s more flexibility now to change over to a new job and career when someone feels disillusioned with their current job. Some workers say that a career change has made a huge difference in their emotional health and has revitalized their enthusiasm for going to work. Either way, changing career paths takes some help and strategizing. There are several things to consider when making the big switch.
Making a Career Change at 30
When you consider making a career change at 30, you have some leeway, especially if you had interned in that same field for a few years of your career. For example, if you’ve had several journalism internships and a newsroom job or two, you could can take on media-adjacent jobs such as working in communications at a corporation or for a non-profit.
If you’re considering a transition, try to meet as many of your current coworkers as possible, so you can ask them for references at a later date. Additionally, attend as many get-togethers and networking happy hours after work as possible to meet new people. An important factor of making a career change at 30 is having an online portfolio or account on a site like LinkedIn. Maintaining an online presence and making sure that potential new employers can learn more about your work history and work ethic are important for making that career change at 30.
Change of Career at 40
Embarking on a change of career at 40 is different from changing jobs at 30; sometimes, the transition is more difficult, unfortunately, due to ageism. If you’re over 40, it may be more difficult to find a new job and transition into a new career path, but that doesn’t mean that a change of career at 40 can’t work out with the right connections and planning. Build a network before quitting your present job in search of a new career. Building and networking also could lead to freelance work or more networking opportunities.
You may not land a new job right away, so having the opportunity to freelance and build a network is important to keep a steady income. Save up and plan for some downtime when searching for a new job at 40 and attend networking events and other career development opportunities. You may want to take classes on weekends or evenings while you’re still employed. You may feel overwhelmed, having to do all these extra things on top of everyday chores and meals, but switching jobs, much less careers, takes a bit of strategizing.
At the end of the day, opting for a change of career at 40 is not impossible. A new career is a necessary recharge for many, and it can revitalize how you feel about working. If a switch from one career to the next means a higher salary, a healthier work environment, a better commute or work life balance, it’s definitely worth the hassle.
A Personal Career Change Quiz
You may come to the decision that the position you’ve held for a number of years is just no longer for you. Change is sometimes necessary. If you think you’re ready to make the jump, take a quick personal career change quiz:
- Do you often feel burned out or exhausted? If you feel this way frequently, then it may be time to consider changing jobs and even careers. Some workers may switch to a few jobs in the same field, and if that hasn’t worked, changing careers altogether is the next step.
- Is it hard to feel enthusiasm for learning new skills and ideas on the job? If that enthusiasm and zest for learning new things on the job has gone away, and seemingly nothing is bringing it back, it’s a huge sign. People can be good at jobs they don’t like, but if they keep at it for a long time, their performance will suffer after a while.
- Do you feel like your decent (or even great) salary doesn’t compensate for the negative feelings anymore? There are a ton of people who stay in their career paths solely because they like their salary and their health benefits, not because they want to work at that particular job. If that feeling becomes overwhelming, it’s a huge sign to consider a change.
- Do a lot of the “right” career choices feel wrong? For some careers, especially those in a corporate space, there are guidelines for making the most out of job opportunities. Some workers go through milestones but don’t feel like it’s something they want. Many workers look forward to raises and added responsibility, but when that excitement is gone, it’s a sign they’re feeling worn out.
- Does the thought of quitting or needing change come up a lot? Even though you may not be constantly telling your friends and coworkers that you hate your job, that doesn’t mean the thought doesn’t come up. If that thought is more prevalent than trying to find a new path within your existing career, then you need a change.
If you answered “yes” to three out of the five questions on this personal career change quiz, it may be time to start planning a career change. It takes time and planning to make that leap, but it can be worth it, especially when leaving a toxic environment or a dead-end job. The personal career change quiz doesn’t mean to drop everything and get a new job tomorrow, but it may mean that it’s time to start planning and looking at every available option.
A job or career can’t meet every single need, but it’s a huge part of many people’s lives. It’s not worth staying at a job where you feel miserable, and it’s not worth putting more time and skills toward something that isn’t working anymore.
Angely Mercado is a writer for Career Trend, a managing editor for Bushwick Daily, and a freelance writer for several NYC based publications. She has written about career development, management and writing for The Billfold, Medium, Vice and more. She aims to help educate readers through her posts about different career paths.