Personal Development

How to change careers when you’re (almost) 30 and have no idea what you’re doing

Being stuck in a job that you hate can be one of the most difficult periods of your life. On the outside, everything might look great. You might have the bills paid and that mortgage payment covered, but that doesn’t mean things sit right and that definitely doesn’t mean you’re happy.

Professionally being unfulfilled is tough. When you don’t feel like you’re using your full potential, it’s hard to stay motivated and focused. You start dreaming of greener pastures and by the time that happens you’re already halfway out of the door.

You may not have a clue what to do but chances are, if you’re here, you have a pretty good idea that you need to ditch the conventional career rules if you want to radically increase your chances of doing something that you actually love.

Instead of struggling on and off for years on end, take control of your future now and figure out how you can change careers — even if you are quickly approaching 30 (like me) and have no idea what you’re doing (like me).

Some things you need to know…

Sucky jobs…well, suck. They make us miserable and they drag us down and they make us forget to appreciate the special people and things we do have in our lives.

Before making any leaps or doing anything drastic, there’s 3 important things you need to consider:

1. You can’t figure it out by just “figuring it out”.

I’m one of those people who likes to think that my brain is so wonderfully wonderful that it can think out any problem if I just give it enough time and resources.

Unfortunately, just “thinking things through” doesn’t always work. While it would be nice if our logic and lists alone could get us where we wanted, but that’s just not the way it works. You could sit and read more books and take more tests all day long, but finding the next good thing isn’t always found that way.

Take a step back. Assess where you’re at and why you really hate the job that you have. Make a list of pros and cons and remember to be honest. Then, think about what kind of job you actually want. Take your foot off the gas and make a conscious decision to keep moving forward in the quiet comfort of knowing things will happen when they happen.

Don’t overthink it.

2. You’re the biggest obstacle in your way.

If you’re in the wrong job, chances are you see the red flags everywhere. You might be unable to imagine yourself there in the next five years. You might be embarrassed to talk about your work at parties. Worst of all, you may not be proud to be producing the same work when you’re 60 or 70 years old and ready to retire.

These types of warning signs can make you despair and carry you down into a self-destructive and self-defeating spiral that reinforces negative behaviors and emotions that further degrade our relationships and lifestyle. You might feel numb, or stuck; you might feel suffocated by the Groundhog Day-like reality that you face every morning as your slog along to work.

You may not realize it now, but you are your own biggest obstacle when it comes to making the change you’re so desperate for.

We often think the obstacles that are preventing us from making the next leap are external: cuts in salary, availability of careers, opinions of friends and family, loss of status, etc. But really, many of these are scenarios we make up in our own pessimist-based fears and baggage.

Getting stuck in the work whirlpool often leaves you only aware of the surface level, as you struggle to keep your head above water. Because of this blinkered visibility, you might struggle to see other opportunities, or the simple ways in which you could position yourself for a drastic change.

Even if you don’t know what you want to do, step up and take ownership of your own destiny. If you truly want something bad enough, you will look for a way to reach it and you won’t let anyone else (that negative self-chat included) hold you back.

3. You find that dream job by just hunting the job boards constantly.

You might rush to a recruitment consultant or sling your C.V. right up onto Indeed, but that might get you left out in the cold.

Professional recruiters and websites love to promise you that they can find you the perfect job but that just isn’t always true. Usually, what they have to offer is more of the same old thing.

Hours trawling job sites and fielding email alerts is only likely to make you more disheartened, after you see job after job that just isn’t a good fit. You may not have the right experiences for a job you see or you might discover a recruitment consultant that you had a poor experience with before.

Stop beating yourself down and take a step back. Instead, invest in yourself by continuing your education or developing the skills you need that would allow you to make a radical change in your work.

So, here’s what you have to do…

Getting from the old job to the new job can be done, and it can be done with just a few basic changes or solutions. Remember, if you want to make some radical changes to your professional life, you need to take some radical (and different) steps to get where you want to be.

1. Don’t go it alone. The journey is better with others.

We humans are social creatures, it’s just the way we were made.

When we have others around us for support, they can help provide the motivation and inertia we need to continue to push forward even when things get tough. Change is uncomfortable, but with cheerleaders in our corner it becomes more bearable.

Seek out other who also want to better their own circumstances through concentrated effort and drive. Meet and hang out with different types of people and look for those who share the kind of goals and desire for radical change that you do.

The net effect will be a transfer of ideas, connections and accountability, which will help you not only maintain your motivation, but get inspired. This forward movement could take you to places you’ve never imagined before and could equal big results for your future.

Think of changing your career as a journey — not a day trip. Did Frodo go to Mordor alone? Not a chance.

Surround yourself with good people who want to do well and who want you to do well too.

2. Instead of looking at jobs, look at the people.

Yes, the career consultants and the Google searches are helpful, but if you really want to score a good new professional spot, focus on connecting with people.

If you’re like me, you’re an introvert, so connecting with people in real life can be hard. You will never find me working a room at a networking event or signing up to lead a talk at some conference. That’s just not my gig, and it may not be yours either.

It’s okay if you’re not the shining star in the room. Just focus on becoming comfortable meeting people one-on-one and having phone calls with people you don’t necessarily know that well.

Getting comfy with this kind of first-meeting contact can take time, so don’t rush it. You’re going to run into dead ends, and you’re going to get some doors shut in your face. That’s okay too.

Focus on people and getting to know them and who they are. Be interested in the things they’re interested in and really try to get to know who they are as a person and as a professional.

In the long run, this will help you to avoid some of the ruthless filtering that is so common with conventional application processes. You may not be “qualified” to work at that start-up according to the site posting, but the HR rep you shared a joke with at the conference a few months ago doesn’t mind. She knows you are eager and have a willingness to learn, which is more priceless than anything you can write on your resume.

They say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Really, it’s both.

Go out on a limb and get to know people. Remember: people first and then profession.

3. Instead of figuring it out — just do it.

Careers don’t change over night. Often, people spend years and years maneuvering themselves out of professions they hate and into jobs that fit them.

We get trapped in analysis paralysis, frozen by the internal and external threats both real and imagined. It’s a bit like standing in a forest with a couple of paths in front of you. You can’t move because you don’t want to take the wrong path. But the catch is that if you don’t choose a path, you can’t get out of the forest.

A path has to be taken if you want to get out of the woods. It may not be the right one at first, but you can change it. When you realize that, everything will start to change.

Take some time becoming familiar with the skills you would need to make the big change. If you want to become a writer, invest in some journalism courses. If that doesn’t fit, dip your toe into some PR how-to’s or get wild and leave the path completely by trying your hand at some abstract art.

When you step into different worlds, you spark new ideas and at the same time allow yourself to cross off the things that just aren’t a good fit.

Rather than leaving a thousand open “what if’s” lingering, close those chapters altogether by trying new things and getting to the root of who you really are and what you really want.

You can test you ideas in a million different ways that don’t mean you have to leave your day job. Action precedes clarity. There can be no change without conscious action.

The next steps…

If changing careers were easy, everyone would do it all the time. It’s a stressful thing to do and it can cause a lot of turmoil in your life, so it’s something to be approached with a lot of careful consideration and forethought.

That’s not to say it’s impossible. It is possible. But you’re going to have to work for it.

This isn’t just your career. It’s your life. Your work impacts how you feel when you wake up in the morning, it impacts how you interact with your spouse, your children and your loved ones. It rubs off on your health and can change the way you see the world and your place in it.

Read some of these success stories and take a look at the way others have made the professional change that has helped to transform their lives.

We impact this world by being alive, and it is that impact that makes us feel special about being human. Our light is shared by being alive, but that light can be stifled by careers that don’t allow us to share the passion that’s truly inside.

The most important thing you can do is stop and think about what you really want. Ask yourself who you are and what your values are. Are you doing the kind of thing you want to spend your time committed to? Knowing your values helps you understand your own drive and can help you move toward a future that more in-line with who you truly are.

The stakes are high when it comes to changing your career, but they’re much higher if you don’t.

Defeat that limited self-belief and build the confidence and resilience you need to take charge of your path. Remove yourself from people and environments that drain your battery or make you doubt yourself. Stop comparing yourself and start believing in yourself.

Get proactive and make a plan that helps you make the change. Your life, your health and your sanity will thank you.

Follow me for more great tips on getting motivated to manifest the life you want — one step at a time.

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