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Skills you need to start a completely new career in your 30s

Do you think you can’t make a career switch in your 30s? Well, you’re wrong. The idea that we’re too old and have to stick it out is completely inaccurate. In fact, their people who have switched careers a bunch of times have a wider skill set and are more capable than those who stick to one career path.

And really, that’s not that surprising. After all, every time you switch jobs you’re forced to learn new skills, new rules, new ways of working and how to interact  with a new set of people. And so you learn a whole new set of ideas and enhance your brain plasticity to boot.

So that’s the good news. Now let’s focus on what skills you should actually learn to help you make the switch.

First, the soft skills

The first thing you’re going to need is to boost your soft skills. Because let’s face it, those will be useful not just when you’re in your new career but also when you’re looking for the job. Now, ‘soft skills’ are a broad category. They include:

  • Self-awareness
  • Emotional regulation
  • Communication skills
  • Writing and presenting skills
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking
  • Teamwork skills
  • Time management

There are two strategies you’ll want to take in terms of these kinds of skills. The first one is to boost the ones you’re already particularly good at. This will be helpful as you’ll be able to stress these abilities at interviews and use them during jobs. What’s more, as it’s enjoyable to do things we’re good at, this can be quite enjoyable.

That’s not enough, however. You’ll also need to take steps to improve at the ones you’re worst at. Now, this will be a lot less fun. At the same time, it’s essential you deal with your shortcomings. The reason being that bad is stronger than good and when you lack an essential skill this will weigh far more heavily against you than you being able to demonstrate you have a bunch of others. So, you might be a great rewarded essays writer but if you can never hit a deadline, you’ll probably not be hired by an agency.  


Next, you’ll want to self-assess. This is a skill all its own and it’s vital if you’re going to be able to make a switch. Why? Because if you’re good at self-assessing then you’ll have a good idea of what kind of job you could do. More importantly, you’ll have a good idea of how your attempted change will be interpreted in the sector you want to move into. Will they see you and think ‘okay, we can work with this’ or will they think ‘that’s not going to happen’? Based on this you’ll be able to assess if that will actually be a feasible career change.

Note, if you’re not that hot at self-assessment that’s not the end of the world. Just don’t do it alone. Ask other people what they think might be good options for you. Even better, go get some career counseling. These people will give you a good idea if you’re on the right path or if you’re going to have to reconsider the career change you have in mind. And yes, that might not be nice to hear, but it’s better to do so before you’ve made the switch than after you’ve failed at making it.

Find out the skills you need and focus on them

Once you’ve got a good idea of whether it’s actually possible to go for the job you’re interested in, start picking up the skills you’ll need. This is much easier today than it was in the past, through such online teaching opportunities like edX and other institutes like it. There, you’ll be able to follow courses – many of them for free – which will give you a serious leg up, without having to go back to school.

Even better, by taking these courses you’ve got a final opportunity to see if this is really for you. Do you enjoy the courses or are they not what you imagined?

So, take that vacation time you’ve saved up and spend them on finishing some of these courses. In that way, you’ll get paid while you’ll learn and you’ll be in a much better position when you do quit.

Last words

Career changes can be scary when you’re at the start. They’ll require a lot of adjustment and there might be a period where your pay takes a hit. At the same time, they are far from impossible – in your 30s or even in your 40s. So go for it. Don’t let yourself be held back.

After all, if you try it for a few years and it doesn’t work out, you can always go back to what you were doing before – a lot wiser and with a bunch of different perspectives that might give you a whole range of new insights.