You People and Your Problems: ‘I’m 30 and I Want a Total Career Change!’
Here at HappyNiceTimePeople, we’re not afraid to be servicey. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your advice questions on any topic. Now, on to a question from a young lady who seems to think she is much older than she actually is.
How in the actual hell do you make a career change at 30 if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up? I’ve done really well in my career for the past eight years, but it’s no fun. I want to have fun. I have a few ideas but am afraid to commit to any of them. What should I do?
You’re 30. You’re only 30! I know that probably feels very old and crusty and crotchety at times, but that’s because you don’t have the benefit of hindsight, i.e., being older than 30. These days, folks often use their twenties to figure stuff out personally and professionally. That’s what I did. I lived in Boston, New Jersey, North Carolina, the Southwest, and New York City during my twenties alone! I think I had, oh, six jobs or eighteen jobs. It took me about that long to figure out what I wanted to do (in my case, writing and comedy) and how to do it (work different writing-related jobs to make money; do different comedy-related things to make money; do dreamy dream projects and hope that one day I can make money off them; when all else fails, I know how to make coffee.)
So I suggest you dream big and come up with a goal. Maybe it’s not a goal for your entire life, but a goal you’d like to achieve over the next ten years. Write a letter to yourself at 40 from yourself at 30, imagining what you hope to be true. This is not for you to share with anyone, as it is a completely cheesy idea (sometimes ideas that work are actually pretty corny). Say “I hope you are…” and “I believe you are…” and “My wish for you is…” and things like that. Envision the life you’d like to lead. Then retro-engineer it through a series of baby steps.
Let’s say you realize that your one true dream is to be a published author. You’ve got a novel just sitting in a box somewhere. You love it and think everyone should read it. Don’t say to yourself, “First, I must get an agent.” That’s too big a step. First, make a list of authors whose work you admire, authors who serve as role models for you, authors who are alive and not dead. Next, you look up their agents online or simply see who they thank in the acknowledgements section of their books. After that, you decide which agents you want to query. Then you open a file in Microsoft Word or what have you and save it as “Query letter Avril.” Then you look up examples of query letters online and consider taking a stab at writing one in that file you created. Then you draft a query letter. And so on and so forth.
You can take all these steps in a day, or over the course of years. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take it one tiny step at a time and reward yourself for each bit of progress. This makes the process of achieving your dream fun and not arduous (although it will suck sometimes, of course).
Maybe your dream requires more education. Well, it’s worth your while to spend time researching the right college programs online. Maybe your dream requires more money. Okay, there are many ways to make money. Do you know about investing? Do you know about finances? Buy a Suze Orman book, why don’t you! She’s a power lesbian with a delightful blonde hairdo. She’s great. Get into her stuff.
My number one bit of advice is to take it slowly and give yourself a break. Baby steps, Avril. You can get there. I believe in you.
Now get to dreaming. And don’t try to plan your entire life in one fell swoop. Think ten years ahead, or five years, or one year. Then figure out how you’re going to get there. The plan will change along the way, but you’ve got to start somewhere. You’ve proven you can succeed in one career. Use some of that can-do energy to change your life into something awesomer and more fun.