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changing your career in your 30’s…(part 1)

Changing Careers in Your 30's

Changing Careers in Your 30's

As someone who loves my job, I am super passionate about helping people discover what they really want to do for a living and figuring out ways to get there. Our "career" is something we think about from the time we're a kid with everyone asking us what we want to be when we grow up. And then we start to get more serious about our future careers in high school, then more so into any additional schooling after that. But what happens when the career you went to school for or that you've been working at for years and years isn't what you thought it would be or isn't making you happy?

Two of my employees, Julia and Courtney, both came to Oh Joy from different careers with no prior experience in the jobs they now do at Oh Joy. Julia was a reality TV producer and Courtney was a lawyer. They both changed careers in their 30's and are much happier ever since. I am not sure why your 30's tends to be a period of life changes, but it seems to be a time of reflection for a lot of people to change the course of their lives (both personally and professionally) for the better. In a two-part series, I wanted to share their stories and hope it will inspire those of you who may be stuck in a job rut that you, too, can find your true happiness in your career…


Julia Wester, our Creative Producer and Stylist, crafts, styles, and puts together most of the visuals that you see here on this blog. She started at Oh Joy as a part-time assistant then moved to full-time and has gone from being an assistant to blooming into her role and doing more than I had ever expected and planned for her when she started working with me three years ago. Here's Julia's story as interviewed by me… 

How long were you at your former profession and why did you want to change careers?

In addition to internships throughout college, I worked in TV for about 8 years. Most entertainment gigs are freelance, and you work in chunks of time based on the length of the show. So I was constantly trying to make sure I had another job lined up after the current one ended. When I was in my 20s, the ability to work for a few weeks or a few months straight and then getting to take a break between gigs was great. But as I got older, the grind of constantly looking for my next gig got more frustrating. I was about to get married and my fiancé worked in the entertainment industry as well. The long hours and lack of consistency wasn't appealing anymore. I loved TV and most of the time I loved my job, but there were always things that I loved more and wished I would be doing instead. I'm a creative person and although working in TV had its creative moments, it didn't bring me the satisfaction that I had hoped for. 

You won an Emmy from one of the shows you produced! How did you feel about the idea of leaving a career that you were so used to (and good at)?

It actually wasn't very hard. I was working on a gig that was wearing me thin and was so emotionally draining that leaving it was easy. I had a string of gigs that weren't fulfilling and stressful, and I just wasn't happy anymore. 

What made you decide to take the leap to make the change?

I had finished a gig and was about to start looking for my next one, then my husband (fiancé at the time) suggested that I take a break and use my time off differently. He suggested that I see what else was out there and maybe even find an internship in a career that I was actually interested in. The funny thing was, I had just won an Emmy for a show I just worked on right when I decided to leave.  

Were you apprehensive about a change in pay because you were starting over in a new career at an assistant level salary? What made you feel okay with the change in pay check?

I was apprehensive about the salary change. I had spent 8 years in TV and made a great living. At times that made it feel hard to leave, but you shift things around and you work your butt off. Budgeting became more important than ever. There were things I wasn't able to do or things I wasn't able to spend money on because I didn't have as much of a disposable income as before, and that was a rough adjustment in the beginning. My husband was very supportive about the change, and I don't think I would be where I am now career-wise without him. It was a lifestyle change for the both of us to make it work. We were in the middle of planning our wedding and buying a house so money was tight, but we shifted things around and it seemed to fall into place.

How did you begin the change in your career?

I was in the middle of planning my own wedding which I really enjoyed. So my husband suggested I look into jobs that would give me the same type of joy I found in that process. I liked planning events and creating pieces for the wedding, so I started by interning for a local Event Designer. Around that time, a part-time assistant position opened up at Oh Joy. Joy didn't want to hire me originally because she thought I was over-qualified due to my many years in production. I remember emailing her telling her she was making a mistake (in a nice way). She did end up hiring me part-time, and my husband and I decided that I'd take the job and give it a year. Thankfully my part-time job turned into a full-time one. I think what really helped me was that my friends and family were extremely supportive and no one ever told me I was crazy for making such a drastic change at 30. 

Now that you’re in your new career, how has your life changed?

Everyday I wake up feeling so thankful and lucky to get to do what I do everyday. I no longer wake up on Mondays dreading the start of a new week. I never thought that was possible. I know its rare to be able to say that I actually have a job where I never really complain about anything, but it's possible. 

How do you think your current life as a new mom (to an 8 month old cutie pie) would have been different if you were still at your old job?

It would be way different. I don't know if I'd get to see my daughter before bed each night. Each day would be different and trying to have a set schedule would be hard. I like that my work days are now consistent and I have a really good work/life balance.

What would you tell others considering a career change?

You may have to start from the bottom up and thats okay. If you work hard and love what you do, you'll get to where you want to be. Most importantly be persistent and don't give up. I honestly have never been more aggressive or persistent about getting a job as I was when I applied for the position at Oh Joy! I essentially applied for a part-time assistant position which I was definitely overqualified for but that didn't matter to me. I was told a bunch of times for other positions I applied for that I was overqualified or told that I didn't qualify for an internship because I didn't get school credit. But I kept pushing and now my part-time assistant position has turned into a full-time position as a Creative Producer and Stylist. I kept showing Joy all the things I could do and the things I was good at and it convinced her to keep growing my role at Oh Joy.

So my piece of advice is to stop talking about it and just do it. Make it happen and stop putting it off "until next year" because there's never a good time.

Just leap. The net will appear. 

{Photo by Casey Brodley, styling by Julia Wester.}


  1. Thanks for this timely post! I’m pushing 30, and I have already gone through a career change by going to grad school for something totally different. But now that I’m back in the real world, I’m not where I want to be and not excited about working every day. I’m super scared about a salary dip due to student loans, and I’m EXACTLY where Julia is — planning a wedding, just bought a house. This is giving me a little bit of courage to go back to something creative!

  2. I love that Julia didn’t accept no for an answer! Go Julia! 🙂 Thank you, Joy, for making a series about this topic! I think there are many of us out there that are in this position right now, and it’s always helpful to glean wisdom from those that have walked the same path… Ohhh life.

  3. Yeah!! Love stories like this of people who chose to take the leap into what they’re really passionate about as opposed to just staying complacent. Thanks for sharing, Joy & and congrats Julia for taking the risk! Very inspiring!

  4. Such a great post! I frequently speak to college student groups, and assure them that they don’t have to a career mapped out at 21. In fact, many of their dream jobs don’t even exist yet. I started my business as a lifestyle expert & TV spokesperson a decade ago – something I could never have imagined when in my 20’s.

  5. Thank you for sharing! What a great post! I’m 36 and I’ve been pushing myself to do things that I love. I’m a very creative person and I love to challenge myself trying out new things. I’ve been working on my own projects for about 3 years but It started to pick up the beginning of this year. What I’ve learned it just go for it and don’t hold yourself back. I’ve been surprised on how people have responded to my work and I’m so happy. Again, I’m just beginning but I would love to do this full time! I know my time will come I just have to keep on working on it! Thank you for your inspirational post! LOVE IT!

  6. This post is a great idea – such good inspiration! I quit my teaching job (my supposed dream job) after having worked toward it my whole life. Figuring out that the job was not a good fit for me was devastating and I was basically in mourning for a while. After about a year and a half of searching, I found an amazing job that was exactly the right fit! The organization unfortunately hit hard times, and they had to let almost the whole staff go, including me. So now I’m on the hunt again!! Reading stories like this is helpful in keeping my attitude positive! Looking forward to part two. Thanks so much!!

  7. I loved reading this! After 17 years in engineering and finance, I am switching to running my fashion / travel blogging business full time.
    It’s a tough transition in many ways, but on the other hand, I’ve never been happier!
    Thanks for sharing this.

  8. This you ladies! This advice couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Transition is hard and scary and I need to hear that there is really no good time to make a change like this. I am wanting a shake up in my life and to go freelance, but its darn scary. So glad to see it can be done and successfully!.

  9. I love this post! It’s great hearing about Julia’s experience. Who says we have to have our career all figured out by our 30s. I love hearing about others taking the plunge to doing something not what they originally had started early in their careers. Keep up the great work, Julia! Joy: you have a wonderful team! 🙂

  10. This is such a timely post for me! I’m 35 and in the middle of a career crisis. It’s so hard when you feel like you’re stuck (good salary, toddler, Master’s degree) in your current job but are so unhappy. I’ve been applying for other positions left and right but so far I’ve been just getting the over qualified or “not fitting in the right box” responses. It’s driving me bonkers, but these stories help me stay motivated. Thank you for sharing!

  11. What a great post. Thank you Julia for your honesty, your boldness and taking the leap! I too made a bold change of career in my career and in my 30’s and its so refreshing to hear of others who have persevered in their quest for happiness.

  12. Thanks for posting it! I´m about to do a career change from Law to Marketing and it was good to read this post. Btw, I love this website!

  13. Refreshing! I totally feel you! When it comes down to it, it really is what makes you happy. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  14. Totally in the same boat (a couple years older than you) but having trouble defining where I want to go — but know it’s not here!
    Good luck!
    And this post was an example of it being done! 🙂

  15. Wow Joy and Julia, thanks for sharing this story! I am in my 30s, finishing my MA and although I have a great job, it is good to be reminded to strive for something that is really making me happy. Thanks!

  16. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Julia! I just checked out a few Jon Acuff books from the library and this post is perfect timing! There are so many people in their 30s longing for and working toward something better and different (including me!). I’ve had to push hard for those creative jobs with that same aggressiveness–you really have to prove yourself and push your way in, especially for creative jobs that your resume might not show experience for. I also feel like it’s a lot more difficult to take on free or low paid internships when you’re supporting yourself and don’t have a significant other to lean on. But that doesn’t make me any less determined. 🙂 Can’t wait for part 2! xo

  17. Thank you for taking the time to do this series! As a coach to leaders, working Moms and Modern Women, i hear so many women talk about how they’re scared to start over and yet they’re living life on autopilot. They lack joy, purpose and freedom. I loved hearing Julia’s story and how she now is doing something that’s fulfilling, fun and inspiring. Amen to that!

  18. You could have replaced your name with mine and everything else is pretty much the same (good salary, preschooler, Master’s Degree) and that feeling “stuck in my current job”. I have been dabbling with changing my career to something more creative for at least a year now. However, I am afraid to take the leap because I am still trying to figure out what really interests me (I have such varied interests) and don’t know where to start. These stories help me stay motivated too!

  19. What a fantastic, inspiring interview! I love Julie’s advice at the end: “Just leap. The net will appear.” I’m at that scary place in between what I used to do and where I want to be and this reminder was right on time. Thanks for doing this series!

  20. Hi …!!
    Thank you very much for sharing your story!!!
    I’m 30 n this is my second year for officially changing my career path !!! (from graphic designer to researcher; ))… I sometime think “is this too late”….. but after i read Julia’s story .. I feel more comfortable .. and I’m not alone ; ) …
    Thank you vey much … : )

  21. this hits home for me. i’m only 23 but i’m slowly realizing that what i had thought i wanted to do for so long maybe isn’t exactly the right fit anymore.
    it’s a scary thought- but is also exciting!

  22. LOVE THIS! So glad you thought of this post.I am a lawyer working towards being a TV producer, so I am totally psyched about part 2!

  23. Amazing post. Really very effective for me. Most of people don’t show the brave to change their jobs at this age. But this post is helpful and spirit-full for them. Thanks for sharing a great post with us.

  24. changing careers like this and overcoming the “overqualified” label takes an employer who can see beyond one’s current job title/description to the value in their skills and the passion in their application. Kudos to Joy for recognizing what Julia and Courtney could bring to your studio.

  25. Thanks Katherine!
    As an employer, it was really hard to do (particularly with Julia because she was my first experience with someone changing careers later on) that I originally didn’t hire. But she convinced me she was the right one and I took a chance. By the time Courtney came, I had the experience with Julia to learn that the qualities they picked up from past/previous careers was actually a great asset even in a different job role.
    Thanks for your nice comment!

  26. Oh my! Thank you for this. It couldn’t be more timely. I just recently quit my full-time job to pursue my love and passion and start my own design business. It is a super scary leap and didn’t come without a lot of thought and preparation (we have two kids and a Bay Area mortgage!) but I couldn’t feel more excited about this big change. Thank you for sharing this and reminding us all to follow our inspiration and dreams.

  27. Amen! Thank you for shining a light on this subject. I am in the process of making a huge career change at the age of 31! It’s both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

  28. Hi joy, i keep going through this post and when i read it it fills me with so much hope and sadness at the same time.
    Im a 32 yr old engineer and moonlight as a kidswear/homeware designer whenever i could. It is my biggest dream to quit my job and do what i love totally, but as a mom of one and a breadwinner, i cant afford to lose my comfortable pay. I am slowly working towards it and hoping one day it would not be controversial enough for me to quit (i come from a traditional asian family and mentality)
    Keep doing posts like this. It fills me with so much joy, empowerment and encouragement.

  29. Timely for me too. Thirty one and in the midst of a leap too. Trying to relish in the free fall and not focus to much on what the net will be… Glad to know I’m not the only one…

  30. Thank you for sharing your story! I’m catching up on blog reading so just read this. I feel so much better about my current career stage. I switched careers about every 3 years that I’m about to turn 30, yet I’m just an intern. I’ve been feeling guilty about this, but reading your story inspired me to keep going. I had a similar experinece, worked in a field for few years, realized it didn’t bring me fulfillment and joy, and I was burnt out. I spent six months trying to figure out what I truly want with a career coach and then to get these internships. This post is a good reminder for me to stay focused on my goals, but it’s hard to not feel insecure about it. Thank you again for sharing your career path!

  31. Thank you so much for this post. I’m 30 years old, I just quit my job as Data Analyst in Maryland and I recently moved to Los Angeles. I’m unemployed now and getting anxious and thinking about a new career. I got lost in your Instagram account which I love and every time it brings me so much joy. I’m really grateful for it, specially now in a moment of so many changes and uncertainty. I love the colors and the joyful designs and I was wandering if you had any job openings, because I would love to be part of the Oh Joy team. I didn’t find openings but found this post and helped me a lot. I will stay tuned for job openings as it would be a dream come true to be part of your team. Best wishes, Coni


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