Closing the book quote

Starting a new career at 30

a new career

Image: Pinterest

There comes a point in your career where you have to decide to try harder or give up. Fact. That point came for me at age 27. I had been working in arts fundraising since graduating and had made some progress up the career ladder but had hardly excelled at my job. When my line manager left and her job came up, colleagues inevitably asked if I was going to go for promotion. I fobbed them off by saying I wasn’t ready, that I wanted to gain more experience and that I would get that by working with a new manager. The truth was that I didn’t want the job. Simple as that. What wasn’t so obvious (to me anyway) was why I didn’t want the job.

Over the weeks that followed I did some serious soul searching about why getting a promotion didn’t appeal to me. At first I blamed the organisation I worked for. Maybe it wasn’t the right environment for me to really thrive. So I started to look around at other organisations for that next rung on the career ladder. I had reached the point in my career when I had to try harder. After several months of searching I admitted defeat. There were no jobs out there that appealed to me. Why? The truth, I came to realise, was that I found my career boring and just didn’t see myself doing it long-term. It was time to give up.


Lifestyle is more important than finding your passion when it comes to changing career

To cut a long story short, I spent close to a year finding a new career. I’d love to say I ‘found my passion’ but that would be a lie. If you’re looking for an inspirational guide about leaving your corporate career behind to pursue your dream then this isn’t for you. Stop reading now.

The fact is, I don’t neccessarily believe your job has to be your passion in order for you to enjoy it. It’s more important that your job fits the lifestyle you want to lead. For example, a friend of mine was really passionate about her allotment. So therefore she should look for jobs as a gardner right? Wrong. Pottering about on her allotment to feed her family is very different from being a landscape gardener, working for clients who want half their garden covered in wooden decking! So instead, she got a job as a Postman. Where’s the logic in that, you might ask. Well, being a Posty meant her working day was over by 2pm, so she could then spend the rest of it pottering about on her allotment. For her it was win win. She gets to pay the bills whilst having time to pursue her passion.

How I started a new career in four simple steps

1. Firstly, I ditched the crap written by ‘experts’ about finding my passion and identifying my transferable skills. I wanted a total career transformation, certainly not one were my report writing skills would come into play! So I started in reverse and tried to pin down all the things I hated about my job. Top of the list was sitting at a desk all day producing masses of paperwork that just got filed away never to see the light of day again. It became clear to me that I needed a more practical career.

2. Next I looked to friends and family for inspiration. My sister is a radiographer and I liked the practical element of her job and the fact that she couldn’t bring work home with her. For a while I even went back to college doing an evening class in biology but soon realised the whole science/health thing really wasn’t for me. I had a friend who retrained as a plumber and whilst the thought of unblocking u-bends for a living didn’t appeal, I did like the idea of having a trade. After months of having all this stuff swimming around in my head, my eureka moment came whilst talking to an artist’s assistant. This guy had made three perfect marble spheres completely by hand. I was in awe. And that’s when it hit me. I needed to produce something physical, I needed a craft. I had at last found the focus of my new career search.

3. I immediately started researching different crafts to see what fitted with my interests. I narrowed it down to traditional building crafts as I had an interest in historic architecture, having done a degree in Heritage Studies. I contacted relevant organisations to find out about routes into the career and checked job adverts to see what qualifications and experience employers were looking for.

4. It was the Roman philosopher Seneca who said ‘luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’. Well I guess I got lucky. Having decided that I wanted to try and secure an apprenticeship in stonemasonry, I was looking for somewhere I could get some work experience to put on my CV. The cathedral in my home town had it’s own workshop so I went onto their website to see if I could find the correct person to contact. Out of interest I clicked on the ‘Get involved’ page. My heart skipped a beat as the page uploaded and there in front of me was a job advert for an Apprentice Stonemason! I applied. I got the job. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.


My advice to anyone looking for a change in career is keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to experiment. People will tell you you’re making a mistake, that what you are doing is a massive risk. In truth, if you hate what you do, then you have nothing to lose. And let’s face it, all your years of experience aren’t wiped off your CV just because you change career. If you hate your new career then just quit and go back to your old one. The likelihood is that you won’t look back. I certainly haven’t.


    • Slaven says:

      Life Though the Kitchen Window recommended that I stop by for a visit glad I did!!! Looking frwraod to reading about your adventures I love your concept and will be following for your ideas. Looking frwraod to our ongoing dialogue!

  1. Russell says:

    Just read this post and it has certainly given me some hope. I recently quit my job and moved interstate – lifestyle element you speak of. The last week I have been job hunting, for the same old boring jobs Ive previously worked in, feeling sick to the stomach that I will not find anything. I realise this isnt the answer, and like yourself have no clue at this point in time what my passion is. Now to find it – its nice to hear there is a way for people of our vintage to start a new direction in our lives. Now to figure out where I want to look!

  2. Emma says:

    Great article! I love your boldness in saying ‘ditch the crap about finding your passion’ and how ‘lifestyle is more important than passion.’ I’ve never really thought of it like that but since you mention it I totally agree! So all that’s left to do now it get clear on the sort of lifestyle I would like!

  3. Christy says:

    I whole heartedly agree that finding your passion and attempting to find work that relates to it is just plain dumb. (I know you didn’t exactly say that in your article.)

    Coming from someone who has followed my passion in my career so far… well, it has left me at a dead end in mycareer and salary. I am so over what I thought I would never stop caring about when I was 23. Now I am 34 & my life is different. And I want something completely different out of my work.

    • thirtysomething says:

      You make a really good point here – that our interests and needs change as we get older. I think what’s also interesting is that you mention getting to a dead end in your salary – I know when I was 20, doing what I loved was far more important to me than earning lots of money but by the time I reached 30, I had learned that money can give you a lot of freedom and it’s something I wish i had understood more back then.

      Thanks so much for adding to the conversation. I’d love to hear more about what you want out of work now – it might help others to figure out what direction to take their new career in.


  4. ashok says:

    vry nice post….i left my job @ 29, coz i was not happy with the career, the way it was taking its route……i thought a lot about it, talked with family, nd looked aroud for insiprations(for leaving d job) before leaving d job…its been 8 months now nd m glad i took that decision..

    • thirtysomething says:

      Well done ashok on taking the leap! Change can be scary but I think when you do it for the right reasons, it almost always turns out to be for the best.

      Thanks for stopping by, Vic.x.

  5. JZ says:

    Great perspective. This approach definately removes the stress of the process. The creative in me is loving umhow you found a new craft.

    The stressed mom wants to add… that even though experience doesn’t get wiped out, it may however become obsolete.

    Based on my own experience in leaving the administrative world during a pregnancy.

    Simultaneously new versions of software were released and struggling to relearn didn’t help when we had a bad financial pitfall.

    We’re recovering financially but lessons learned…

    Even during your transition, stay current on your old industry tech and software and build association contacts in case you do need to turn back for a few paychecks.

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