15 Reasons Your Career Gets Better in Your 30s

15 Reasons Your Career Gets Better in Your 30s

30 doesn’t mean what it used to mean—and we’re completely on board with that.

It seems to us that the adage that life ends at 30 is finally falling out of favor. Thank goodness! In the contemporary world, 30 really is the 20 of 40 years ago. That is, it’s become much more common to complete a four-year degree and not get a job in your field right away. The process of discovering what you want to do can be more confounding than the last few generations, somehow both offering more options and fewer well-paying jobs.

Even if we get jobs in or near our chosen fields right out of college, we still face all sorts of hurdles and switchbacks and redirects that look a lot more like a scribble that goes in circles than a straight line toward our overall goals. But by our thirties, a few things do get easier. Here are 15 reasons why your career might actually be better in your 30s than earlier in your life.

1. YOU’VE LEARNED WHERE YOUR ETHICS AND VISION REALLY STAND

Idealism is a great state of being, but it rarely survives our twenties intact. That’s okay—what we take with us from our first few jobs is a much more honest and proven set of values that represent your baseline. That makes it easier to vet new potential career positions, as well as romantic partners and friends.

2. YOU’VE GAINED A MORE PRACTICAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE IMPACT YOU CAN MAKE

Hopefully this means that you have realized that those unique factors that make you you really are valuable, and really do matter. You’ve got a better idea of what actually makes you happy. By your 30s, you may find that you love making happy customers more than you actually care about that corner office.

3. YOU GET BETTER AT SAYING NO

To arbitrary tasks, mostly, but also to some of the hard stuff. Because you’ve got three decades of experience standing up for yourself, and your twenties to thank for learning what you don’t want to do.  Oh, and you’ll be better at saying yes to the right things, too.

4. YOU REALIZE YOU’LL SURVIVE BEING LAID OFF OR FIRED

It’s hard to not make it through your twenties without losing one or two jobs. By your 30s, that’s old news—you’ll have learned how to grow from those experiences. {click to tweet}

5. YOU’LL HAVE LEARNED THE VALUE OF NOT GETTING WHAT YOU [THINK YOU] WANT

Not only do we learn how to pivot when we’re left in circumstances we weren’t expecting; we learn how to leverage what we do get, instead of just being prepared for what we’ve dreamed up.

You’ll discover that sometimes, other people are really great at identifying what you’re great at before you do, and that’s okay.

6. YOU WON’T GET TRIPPED UP BY LESS THAN IDEAL COWORKERS

By your 30s, you’ll have picked up skills that help you work with people who aren’t easy. This includes problem coworkers, who might gossip or sew discontent within a team, as well as bosses that aren’t great leaders or are absentee puppeteers or controlling micro-managers.

7. YOU’LL HAVE THAT MUCH MORE PRACTICE SOLVING PROBLEMS

"Already on it." 

8. ACCOUNTABILITY GETS EASIER IN YOUR 30s

This is likely mostly due to practice. It can be challenging to learn how to take responsibility for the roles we play that lead to non-ideal or disastrous outcomes. We learn to be accountable, but to also focus on solutions, which means we reduce the likelihood of repeated mistakes.

9. NETWORKING GETS EASIER

You know more people. You’ve attended more networking events. You got this.

10. IT’S EASIER TO PRESENT TO A GROUP

Note: easier, not painless. (But we hope it’s painless, too.)

11. YOU KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT YOURSELF TO KNOW YOUR BEST ENVIRONMENT

Meaning which environments are best for focus and productivity, and you’re willing to use them, and advocate for them.

12. YOU’VE LEARNED THAT LIFE’S BETTER WHEN YOU BALANCE WORK AND PLAY

Because you’ve probably tried both extremes.

13. YOU’VE LEARNED TO ACCEPT CRITICISM GRACEFULLY

This can sometimes take a bit of practice. That’s in part because there’s a wide range of criticism methods that you might encounter, and some of them are easier to decode and respond to than others. It’s not that people under 30 don’t have the opportunity or capacity to handle criticism with grace—it’s more that with age, we gain the hard-earned wisdom to discern between useless commentary and useful, constructive criticism.

14. YOUR PATIENCE WILL EXTEND, GREATLY

The older we get, the more we deeply understand that not everyone will tackle the same problem or task the same way. You’ll discover somewhere along the journey that patience on your part makes a huge difference, and that outcomes will often be more than adequate, even if the path to the solution is opaque to you.

15. YOU’LL DISCOVER YOU’RE BETTER AT MANY MORE THINGS THAN YOU THOUGHT AT 20

You never know what you might discover you’re good at. Even if you start with a business degree, you might find that you’ve got an incredible gift for project management, or for financial planning, or for employee placement. You’ll discover that sometimes, other people are really great at identifying what you’re great at before you do, and that’s okay too.

The most important thing that you might learn in your thirties about yourself and your career as you leave your twenties behind is that there is a kind of unspoken freedom at 30 that wasn’t available in the previous decade. Think of it as a kind of permission to quit thinking about permission to be yourself.

What got better for you in your thirties?