If you’re considering a mid career switch at 30, read this first.
This might be painful reading, but I think it might give you a better idea, before you actually make the move.
A story to begin
In October 2021, my contract as a social worker ended. It wasn’t because I had actively decided to switch my career.
But when the contact renewal conversation came up, I decided I needed something different.
Despite applying for more than 56 different jobs, and going for 9 interviews, no one offered me a role.
Somehow or rather, I found myself in a bind when I had no job, but bills to pay.
At the tender age of 26, I found myself, jobless.
I didn’t know what to do and went back to what I knew. As a fresh-faced 22 year old in university, I was given a chance to write for the university’s blog, and get paid £10 per article.
I started writing. And getting paid. Things weren’t fancy at that time. But the paltry $450 per month kept me going.
This may be you today
You might have had enough of your previous job.
And you just found the work that you signed up not engaging. Boring.
You looked at the clock daily and wondered when you would be able to go home.
You type emails and reports that you quietly know few will read.
This wasn’t your idea of impact.
Then you had the people at work.
You had a bad boss that sapped your energy, and made work more like war, than work.
You felt you had constantly battle colleagues just to push through an idea that you thought would be great for the clients you served.
Somehow, that didn’t happen.
Here are some points to note before you change, so you don’t end up feeling short-changed.
The grass (usually) looks greener on the other side
Whatever job you’re switching to, you don’t know the full story yet.
You probably know that already. But you just don’t know what parts you will dislike. Of course, the easiest way to tell is if you had an internship in that job you are thinking of switching to.
But even with that, coming in at the age of 30 may mean that you’re given responsibilities that may not be the same as what you had as an intern.
Jobs are not meant to be fun and full of flow
Although the grass may seem greener on the other side, you would start to realise problems when you work there.
Jobs are meant to be hard.
The faster we realise that, the easier our lives become. Often we ask questions like,
Why do I not like my job?
Why is this so tough?
There’s no reason beyond the fact that it is a job, and it is an exchange of your time, for their money. It’s not going to be a bed of roses.
What then can be a better predictor of job satisfaction?
Are you moving because your skills are stuck?
Angela Duckworth, the professor behind the book ‘Grit’, studied how people like Olympians, and spelling bee competition winners won.
She found two things.
Firstly, that there tended to be a plateau where these winners would see their skill growth get stuck.
That’s where you may be right now.
Sure, there may be colleagues that make the work tough, but the better question to ask yourself is,
Are my skills growing, and if not, why?
A simple way to assess if your skill is growing is to determine your baseline, and where your skills are currently.
Of course, that requires you to first know what your skills are.
If you’re moving because you want more complex tasks that can supercharge your skill growth, that is good.
But if you’re changing your careers into one that requires a completely different skillset, you may find yourself flailing.
Skill growth is tough, and skipping past this phase will not help
If you’re switching into a place where you’re using different skills, and thus starting the skill growth from scratch, that isn’t the best thing to do.
As tiger mother Amy Chua once shared with Angela Duckworth, the researcher who studied grit,
“Just because you love something doesn’t mean you’ll be great. Not if you don’t work. Most people stink at the things they love.”
Don’t just change because you find your skill growth stuck.
Switch because your strengths are not matched to your job tasks
Often when we ponder a switch, it’s worth thinking about what your strengths really are.
As we grow up, we tend to be taught that we should be well-rounded, rather than fully pushing into the strengths that we are innately born with.
This is dangerous.
As famed management guru Peter Drucker once shared in his famous Harvard Business Review article on “Managing Oneself”,
One should spend as little effort as possible on improving areas of low competence. It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.
Yet most people… concentrate on making incompetent performers into mediocre ones.
Look back at the course of your life and figure out where people have said,
Wow, you’re so good at this.
No one could do this better or faster than you.
This tends to reveal where you’ve outperformed others.
Are you ready for the money drop?
But you also need to be prepared that you may not earn as much money as before.
Many people underestimate just how much this can impact your mindset.
It’s not easy to cope with this, especially if you’re 30, and you’ve got responsibilities.
Sure, if your partner is financially supporting you, you can take the time to switch.
But if not, my advice is to do your ideal switch as a side-hustle, before you fully take it on.
This helps you find out whether you even like doing it.
The career switch doesn’t come in a month
In Singapore, the career switch is not going to be easy.
Take it from me.
Having gone for 137 job applications, 34 interviews, and having had 0 offers, employers don’t usually look kindly on those who are switching, without the associated education qualifications.
Of course, my example was switching from social work into communications.
Yours may be different.
And you might have a better chance.
But you would do well to have a year of living expenses in reserves, before you make the switch.
This would help you be less anxious.
Is switching worth it?
But above all, the overarching advice I’d share is that of starting from strength, rather than passion.
You might be passionate about a new career, but passion can only get you that far.
After a while, it’s your skill, and the desire to continuously nurture that skill that is going to get you further.
I will close with this story.
Leaving my job 21 months ago, I never thought I would last long. But somehow, I did. And managed to make a living too.
Wherever you are in your journey, whether you’re considering it, or you’re already in it, know this.
If you want something badly enough, you will make it happen.