Changing careers and starting your own business in your 30’s – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Last week I went to a fantastic live event – Your Year in PR, with Janet Murray. I’ve been following Janet’s work, have been a member of her Studio and a fan of her podcast for about a year now. And I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve learnt in this time. The event really was fantastic, but the best part for me was knowing I’d get to spend time with the many friends I’ve made from being a part of her membership. And at some point during the day, it dawned on me. Like me, so many of these women were changing careers (or had already successfully pivoted their career) to start their own business.

Like me, maybe they were in search of the freedom and flexibility to be able to the there for their children and family. Or maybe they just wanted a more fulfilling career to what they previously had. Regardless of the ultimate ‘why’ or drive behind the move, changing career in your 30’s (or even later) isn’t an easy-to-make choice. The path through career change can be bumpy and rocky. But all in all, anyone will tell you it’s been worth it.

So what’s so good about changing careers in your thirties? 

Changing career in your 30's to start your own business - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Mind your Mamma

Changing careers – the good

You get to re-invent yourself

Well, if you’re in your 30’s, you’ve probably had your share of jobs and work experiences by now. You’ve progressed on the career ladder. You know a thing or two about what it means ‘to be professional’, ‘be a team player’, as well as being ‘self-motivated’. You know how to do a job. You’re probably an expert in your field. And if you’ve been working for someone else, you now have enough experience to be able to ‘fly solo’.

Or maybe your day job isn’t exactly something you can easily do from home and totally on your own terms. Maybe what you need to do is to find a way to ‘package up’ all that experience, skills, passions, and your own personal traits to create your own brand. In other words, you get to re-invent yourself and do something totally new. Exciting, right?

You get freedom and flexibility

If done right, this is probably the best part of the process. Unless you get yourself so busy with whatever you go and do, leaving your 9-5 job behind means you can now have the freedom and flexibility to work around your own needs and your family’s. This is probably something you never had before! Now you finally get to go to Sports Days, class assemblies, and school Nativity plays. And you no longer have to feel awfully guilty telling your boss that one of your children is ill. Again. You get to decide when you work and how you work. And equally, you decide when you’re going to shut up shop and prioritise something else – be it your well-being or any other life commitments you may have. Perfect!

And maybe you can start living now

Corporate, 9-5 careers are plain hard to maintain when you’re a mum with so much more going on at home. You may hit a point when you just have to admit to yourself that you can’t go as fast as you did before. You probably can’t put in the long days and unpaid overtime anymore (not without a huge amount of effort and further juggling involved). And maybe, your priorities have changed in such a way that you actually no longer want to. And that’s ok.

If you’re also responsible for childcare arrangements (including picking up the pieces when things don’t go to plan) and the running of the home, over time, being a mum with a full-time job can become stressful and overwhelming. You’ll feel rushed, on-the-go, and with so many things on your mind that you’ll often feel like your head might just explode. Even binge-watching Netflix series on the sofa on a Friday night doesn’t quite feel like the relaxing activity it should be. (In fact, bonus points if you even made it to the sofa and didn’t fall asleep while putting the children to bed). When you have too much going on for too long, you end up exhausted all the time. Grateful to have barely survived another week.

That’s why changing careers makes sense. Becoming self-employed, being your own boss, and working on your own terms hopefully means you can set the pace for your own life. And turn it into something more sustainable. Finally, you can stop being in fight or flight mode all the time. This is the part where you stop barely surviving and start living instead. Now you can actually breathe again.

Changing careers – the bad

Heartache and decision-making

But leaving your job and career behind isn’t necessarily easy. You’ll have doubts.

  • Are you making the right decision for your family, your children, and yourself?
  • Will you regret it?
  • Are you throwing all your hard work and ambition away?
  • Will you have to start all over?
  • Are you letting yourself down?
  • Will your friends and family judge you?

This list could go on and on. I don’t think anyone leaves a job or career behind lightheartedly and with a little (or a lot of) doubt. For some of us, leaving our day job can mean leaving the Certain and Known behind. And venturing into the Uncertain and Unknown. That’s scary, right? And even if you have it all figured out before you take that big step, the decision-making process can be hard and long.

Financial worriesChanging career and starting your own business in your 30's - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Mind your Mamma

A big part of the decision-making process will have revolved around money. Will you be able to afford to leave your job and salary behind? And if you do, what does it mean for your lifestyle? Will you need to make adjustments and compromises? And if so, are you and your partner/family prepared to make them? Will you need to replace your previous salary with alternative income? And if so, how much will you need? And how will you earn that amount? All these questions have the potential to literally keep you up at night! And staying close to your financial situation isn’t something you can overlook for too long.

Changing careers – the ugly

The loneliness

The bit you probably don’t think about before you leave your 9-5 is that starting your own business can be a lonely job. Unless you make a conscious, intentional effort to find new ‘colleagues’ and peers, you may be in for a very lonely ride. You haven’t only ‘lost’ your work friends – the ones you could have a good moan to in the morning over a cup of coffee – you’ve also lost any form of career support or development.

Whilst it feels great not to have a boss anymore, you’re now in charge of your own self-development. Unless you have a business partner, you get to decide where you go, what training you need (and pay for it yourself!), and make your business decisions (mainly) on your own. You have no sounding board, no one to bounce ideas off with, no one to help you direct your career. And if you find that this doesn’t work for you, that’s where you have to purposely stick your neck out and go find business friends to share this journey with. You may even decide to start working with a coach.

The self-doubt

Am I good enough? Can I really do this? Can I pull this off?

Self-doubt, impostor syndrome, and negative self-talk will creep in. Often they’ll come nicely packaged up with feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and impatience, just to name a few. Not to mention the dreaded bouts of comparisonitis. Why are they doing so much better than me? Why is no one coming to my website/webinars/buying my products or services? And why have they got it all figured out, and I don’t? 

This is something that most small business owners (or whatever-preneur you like calling yourself – pick between solopreneur, mumpreneur, and a range of a million others) go through on a fairly regular basis (if not on a daily basis!) I know this because I go through this myself, and I know a lot of other women in similar situations do too! And it’s something that we need to learn to deal with. Remember – you can’t compare your chapter 1 with someone else’s chapter 10!

The pressure

There will be times when you’ll feel so much pressure to have it all figured out! To have all the answers from the word GO. To know exactly where you’re going – always. You have to have a vision, a goal, take intentional and consistent action. Push yourself outside your comfort zone and never give up. Except that some days you’ll wake up feeling only human. And you may wobble. You may disappear off social media. You may just be unable to show up for your business. And you’ll probably give yourself a really hard time for it. too. Because we’re so good at not being gentle with ourselves. And because on some days, it will feel like everything’s going the wrong way, and you don’t have any of the answers.

Whilst the pressure can feel real, you just have to remember that:

  • Everyone goes through it.
  • No one has it all figured it out all of the time.
  • Most people make mistakes along the way and ‘get there in the end’ – it’s what makes them who they are today.
  • Having bad days (or bad times) and losing your mojo is normal. It happens to everyone. It really really does. And whoever is saying otherwise (or ‘showing you’ otherwise on social media) is just talking about one half of the story.

Changing careers – you need a community! 

Whatever you decide to do, changing career and staring your own business isn’t always easy. It has lots of perks, of course, but you’ll need support, friendships, and a safe, friendly community where you can learn, be yourself, and even vent when you need to. Having this support in the last year or so has been crucial for me, so come and hang out with me and my business friends!

You can find me on social media on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter or in the Soulful PR Studio with Janet Murray with lots of other fantastic, inspiring entrepreneurs. And if you’re local to West London, come and join the West London Working Mums Social Club and say hi!

Don’t forget – for more tips and information on how to stay sane, overcome stress and overwhelm, and (hopefully) make life a little more intentional, you can join my weekly newsletter (see below) and become part of my fun community of friends! 

Did you leave your 9-5 job and career behind to start your own business? What has it been like? What’s been the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly for you? Can you relate to any of the above? 

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