They say the 30s are the new 20s. The age-old stigma of ‘getting your life together’ or ‘being sorted’ by the time you hit the triple-decade mark is part of a woebegone history, and we have evolution and changing social stigmas to thank for it. In fact, people are waiting until their 30s to dive off more aeroplanes, trek higher mountains, or delightfully snorkel among dolphins. Assuming that they are financially more stable and less reckless than they were in their 20s, people in their 30s can ‘afford’ to have some fun.
Personal life aside, there are certain parameters that 30-somethings should set as their vantage point, especially when it comes to productivity and success in their personal lives. While there is no official guidebook on becoming the next Zuckerberg by 35, there are a few things you should definitely keep in mind in terms of your career before you hit that milestone.
Know if you’re in the right field
Your 20s are often considered your most experimental period, considering that you have the option of dipping your toes in multiple fields, subjects, and industries. Statistics suggest that almost 80 percent of workers in their 20s wish for a change in their career for various reasons. When you’re rallying for a beginners-level-job in your 20s, changing fields and starting from bottom-up isn’t an unfathomable expedition. However, if you’re looking to make a 360-degree professional change in your 30s, then the transition may not be as flexible. To save yourself the pain of battling this out in the future, it would be a good idea to settle this right in your 20s.
Have a Plan B
In your 30s, if you haven’t already, you will realise the truth that nothing is permanent. And this is perhaps most true when it comes to your job, which isn’t binding from either side of the spectrum. To this end, you should make it a point to have a Plan B, be it another company, another post, or even another field, just in case Plan A doesn’t fall through.
Recognise your strengths (and use them too)
Most of us have nosedived into the rat race in our 20s and are consequently getting to learn something new, while still sashaying around the impressionable part of our career. Highs and lows, victories and losses – take it all in your stride and make a note of the places you came through when you least expected it. Those are your strengths, and focusing on them can lead you a far climb up the proverbial ladder.
Accept your flaws and work on them
While it is necessary to recognise your strengths and rally forward, it is equally important to accept your flaws and attempt to work on them in the future. By the time you hit the golden age of 35, you may have in all probability taken a trip down the rabbit hole and emerged back up through it, knowing better the second time around.
Give and accept feedback
The entire point of giving or receiving feedback is to offer an air of suggestions for improvement on both sides. Too often, people tip-toe around their colleagues and bosses, either in fear of being chastised or fuelling ego-wars that they believe will set the company aflame. The truth is that accepting feedback and working on its suggestions will only help you in the long-run, a factor that you should be well aware of within the initial years of your career.
Make mistakes and learn from them
Even superheroes have their flaws. You may be a model employee, but chances are that you might mess up more than once through the course of your career. And that is just a part and parcel of professional growth. Do you think Steve Jobs and Bill Gates didn’t face their fair share of pitfalls? Just like a phoenix rises from the ashes, you too have the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and become ten times better at your job.
Head a project or campaign
While this isn’t mandatory and applicable in all cases, it would have definitely helped to have the responsibility of overseeing a project or campaign by this time in your life, considering it certainly entail well-rounded professional and personal growth for you. Outcome aside, it is the experience of carrying out this responsibility which will help you secure a greater position in your immediate future.
Delegate your work effectively
Being a team player is mandatory for any professional journey. While the occasional clashes between team members do happen, the problem can be countered with a positive spirit and managing tasks accordingly. By the time you hit your 30s, you would have probably been schooled in the challenging prospect of working and delivering as a team. And the first trick to managing this efficiently is to delegate the workload among the right people in the right amount and value.
Manage an effective schedule
While to-do lists may seem like class-room terminology, its adult counterpart consists of fixing up a schedule which best suits both your professional and personal life. While your 20s are all about working late into dawn, taking on extra shifts, and eagerly accepting more roles and responsibilities to impress, your 30s are all about prioritising. Hence, this is the period in your life where you need to roll out a schedule that works best for you. This includes the number of hours you can actively work in a day, the minimum amount of sleep-time you require, and the time you can dedicate to your projects.
Work outside your comfort zone
It may be a cliché, but the magic really does happen outside your comfort zone. While people in their 20s possess the zeal to experiment and indulge in new activities, they are still in the process of disjointing from their cocoons before forming the wings they need. For individuals hitting the 30 and beyond mark, it is high time to have worked outside your comfort zone, especially when it comes to furthering your career. As the song goes, ‘if you never try, you’ll never know.’
Know your limits
Amidst the motivational posts glorifying the process of working yourself to the bone, we stand by the fact that working in your 30s entails knowledge of your limits and how to process within them. There is nothing commendable about overworking, since it will only lead to burnouts and long-term ineffectiveness.
There is an all-round need to practise and achieve a healthy work-life balance. Your 30s are when you learn how to prioritise every aspect of your life and consequently achieve a greater balance between your two worlds.
Be a good negotiator
It’s imperative to be a good negotiator when it comes to your job, be it in terms of sales, your salary, or even working on weekends. Without negotiating, your professional life will always be overloaded with work that doesn’t fall under your profile, to be completed in the hours that aren’t scheduled in your contract.
Know when to say no
Keeping to the theme of negotiating effectively, you need to also know when to say no. Too often, in our attempt to keep our peers and bosses happy, we offer to bite off more than we can chew. We even tend to submit to what we even know to be subtle exploitation, just to avoid a full scale blowout. This is not only hazardous to ourselves, it’s equally detrimental to the office space in general. So do yourself a favour and have the courage to say no when you know you know you’re being asked or told to do something that isn’t your responsibility.
Dip your feet in alien branches
Although your 20s are regarded as your experimental age, it is never too late to try your hand at different feats alongside your daily work. You could take up singing classes, start blogging, enrol in part-time university classes, or even try working a different branch in your own company.
Build a good and reliable network
By the time you hit the 30 mark in your professional career, you should have built up a strong professional network. Not only will this help you in your future if you wish to start something of your own, it will help in effecting your present-day deals and furthering contracts. Try landing the business cards of individuals from all walks of the professional world – you never know when a contact will come in handy.
Have a few go-to mentors
You should always have a few trusted advisors you can approach in times of professional need. This too comes from building a strong network with people in the same field who can provide you with suggestions born from personal experience.
Understand the long-term gains
By the time you hit the 35 bench-mark, you should recognize and understand the long-term gains of your profession- where applicable. There is no point being stuck in a dead-end job if it isn’t going to help you grow professionally in the next five years. Evaluating early will always help determine which side of the door you should choose to stay on.
Maintain a professional reputation
This is a bit of a debatable proposition, considering that it is difficult to keep your personal life under the wraps on account of social media today. However, it probably isn’t advisable to post a dozen pictures of the debauchery you were up to over the weekend at this point in your career, considering the fact that (wrong as it may be) your colleagues, bosses, and clients will judge your capabilities through every spectrum of your life they gain access to.
Build a good portfolio
This doesn’t just apply to newbies looking to enter the job market. You should always have your portfolio updated and ready, just in case the ball drops off your present job or even if you need to make your case for taking control of a project. ‘Pitching’ is a term which in every form is an integral part of one’s professional life.
Have experience through multiple sources
Normally, a 30-something working professional has a wider range of work experience than 20-somethings. While there are cases of individuals having worked their first jobs for decades at a time, you should still have experience from outside your standard work. This will only help make your case stronger.
Absorb the basics of making a sale
You don’t need to be a part of a sales team to know how to make a decent sale. This is an additional skill you should cultivate through observation and practise at your workspace.
Write a professional email
While this may be considered pretty standard, you’d be surprised at how many people still struggle over constructing a formal mail. Obtuse as it may sound to some, people do judge email recipients and the brands they represent on the basis of the kind of mails they send out. Sounding too cavalier will only bring about a drop in the brownie points. By the time you’re in your 30s, you should definitely have figured out how to pen an impressive professional mail.
Learn to own up to your mistakes
The idea of effecting damage-control without your boss hearing about the epic mess you made in that project may sound necessary in your 20s. But in your 30s, you have a different kind of responsibility to your company and peers, and the need to include and improve rises thereof. To this end, if you have indeed messed up at work, you should come clean to those you are working closely with. And instead of moonwalking out of it and causing more confusion, brainstorm on how to find a solution to the problem.
Know how to execute damage-control
At the same time, damage-control is important, and at this point of your career, it is assumed that you possess the skill and aptitude to clean up the mess you made.
Understand your energy-levels
Don’t overwork yourself. As harsh as this may sound, your body-cycle isn’t the way it was in your 20s when you could function a whole day of work on just four hours of sleep. Recognise your energy-levels and figure out a workable schedule that meets it the best.
Have a good rapport with your colleagues and bosses
Today, employees in their 30s function as the middlemen between the older and younger generations in the workforce. They help the two groups work together and thus bridge the age-gap in the office. This makes it vital to develop people skills and enhance your rapport with your colleagues and managers.
Work under pressure
By this point in your career, you have probably faced more than your fair share of panic-stricken moments where you need to deliver well under mounds of pressure directed your way from all avenues. To you brave-hearts, we say: Chin up and soldier forth.
Stop making excuses to and for people
Keeping to the theme of subtle exploitation mentioned earlier, you need to stop making excuses for this, be it when it comes to yourself or your peers. Even your closest friend at office does not get a free pass to load off all her work on you because she needed a ‘weekend-getaway’. Similarly, you can’t shake off your work in light of the same excuse and expect others to get it done in your stead. The concept of ‘each to his own’ applies fourfold in this situation.
Pick up a side project
Human beings, by nature, tend to get bored very easily. The usage of words like ‘monotonous’ and ‘saturated’ are a consequence of working on the same thing every single day of the year. To avoid falling prey to the disillusionment with your job and the unproductivity levels it brings with it, take up any kind of side project and dedicate a fair share of time to practising it. When things get too tough on the main front, you can always have this to fall back on for a release.
Have the courage to quit
If you are unhappy at your job, then quit. If you don’t see any positive prospective in working at it for days on end, then just pack up your desk and leave. While your 30s are still your growing years in many ways, it is also the age to discover what it takes for you to be happy with what you’re doing in the long run.
Prepare for impromptu meets
You never know where an opportunity can be lurking or which random stranger in a bar can end up becoming your next client. Always, always, be prepared with a pitch up your sleeve. This only comes with a lot of trial and error, and first-hand experience.
Treat yourself (smartly)
For those of you watching Parks and Recreation, you probably understand the concept of ‘Treat Yourself’ that the characters often indulge in. For those who don’t, it refers to one or more days in the year where you are allowed to ‘treat yourself’ in any way or measure you wish, on account of the hard-work you have been busting out in office. While there is tendency to go off the stray in this aspect when you’re 20, by 30 you begin to understand the simpler luxuries to indulge in.
This applies to professionals across ages and industries. However, it deserves a special mention in this list for those in their 30s, considering the growing dependence all professional fields on it. So it is inevitable that they will have to adapt.
Finally, it’s time to address the elephant in the room. You’re in your 30s and you probably have an idea of how you want the next ten years of your life to pan out. You might be pretty confident of your field of choice. Now do you have the savings you need to make your ten-year vision? If the answer is no, then maybe it’s time to start planning smartly.
That being said, your 30s, like every other decade of your life, are bound to be filled with their fair share of highs, lows, and everything else in the middle. Our advice? Take it in your stride and learn from every single minute of the journey – one you will remember fondly for the rest of your life.