Never Worked at 30: What to Do

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If you’ve never worked at 30 and are now looking to begin a career, there is no doubt that you’re behind the eight ball. But that doesn’t mean that you’re unemployable, and it’s definitely not too late to begin a meaningful career.

The way that you approach starting out your career is going to vary a bit depending upon your situation and the reason that you haven’t worked up to this point. To that end, this article is going to review different reasons why you may never have worked at 30 and provide recommendations for what to do for each scenario.

Reasons Why You May Have Never Worked at 30 and What To Do

Included below are the most common reasons that I’ve seen from people that haven’t worked at 30, and what to do in each scenario.

1. Stay at Home Parent

The first thing I’ll say here is that if you have been a stay at home parent up to this point in your life, you have done some of the most important work there is. My favorite definition of work is from Dallas Willard who defines work as “the energy we put forth to produce good.” And you have done a tremendous amount of good with your life to this point.

The good news for you here is that if you’re looking to start your career, employers will definitely recognize the way that you gave yourself to something important, and are unlikely to view your late start to a traditional career as any type of a negative.

What To Do If This is Your Situation

If you’ve been a stay at home parent, you’re in one of the better situations for not having worked at 30. In general, you’ll more or less be treated as a new graduate starting your career. 

Now, if you have some credentials like a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in a particular field (which doesn’t necessarily guarantee a great career these days), it will have been a while since you completed your studies so, depending upon the job that you’re pursuing, it may be a good idea to refresh your credentials in some way.

Once you’ve done that, and go out and start applying to jobs, I would recommend calling out the fact that you were a stay at home parent in your resume and cover letter to make it clear that that’s what you’ve been doing since school. It will also help to have some strong references that can speak to your skills in the area that you’re hoping to work.

2. Lack of Interest in Working and/or No Financial Need to Work

Many people that haven’t worked at 30 have not done so simply because they haven’t had a financial need to. It could be because they’ve been able to live with their parents, or received some type of large inheritance or trust fund.

Whatever the reason, there are folks out there that simply haven’t been interested in working without a hard financial requirement. 

And if this is your scenario, and you’re reading this article, you may be coming up against some financial pressure that is causing you to need to enter the workplace.

What To Do If This is Your Situation

If you haven’t worked because you haven’t needed to or haven’t been interested in doing so, this scenario will be one of the biggest red flags to potential employers.

To address that, you need to take action to show that you’re serious about wanting to get out there and start a career.

Here are some good things to do that show that you’re ready to enter the workforce and make an impact:

  • Volunteer in your field of interest
  • Start a side hustle
  • Take courses and/or complete your degree
  • Take a job just to get into the workforce while you look to get into what you really want to do

My big point here is that you need to start contributing and hustling to show people that you’re ready to make a change in your life. You need to get out there and start taking action.

From there, once you have some evidence to show that you’re serious about entering the workforce, you can craft a story for your cover letter and resume that shows why you decided to make a change and how you’re living that out.

3. Anxiety

I’ve read stories from a variety of people who haven’t entered the work force due to stress, anxiety and/or related issues.

You’ll hear folks talk about how they tried to to work, but when they enter an interview or start a job, they feel completely overwhelmed with anxiety and struggle to function. 

What To Do If This is Your Situation

If this is your situation, my biggest recommendation is to seek professional help in the form of therapy to build the necessary skills to deal with the overwhelming anxiety that you feel when faced with work situations. 

Once you develop the ability to cope and function in those types of situations, then you can look at starting your career.

4. Physical Health

Another possible reason that people haven’t worked at 30 could be due to physical health related reasons. 

In cases like this, there is often a significant accident of some sort or an unexpected illness that requires an extended recovery period, which prevents people from working.

What To Do If This is Your Situation

In this case, the most important thing to do is to get your health in order and ensure that you’re totally healthy and in a good place to work.

If that’s you, and you’re ready to get back to it, you may consider refreshing your credentials as well as getting out and proactively networking. You’ll also want to make sure that you make reference to your situation in your resume, cover letter, and interviews as you’re out applying.

Hiring managers should understand your situation and will not ding you for a late start to your career.

5. Couldn’t Find Something in Desired Field and Gave Up

Another common reason that I see people not working by 30 is that they couldn’t find a job in their desired field and then they gave up. 

Maybe you were looking to get into a competitive field and couldn’t quite get your foot in the door. Or maybe you were interested in a field like engineering that commonly involves challenging pre screening exercises that you struggled with.

Whatever the reason, it’s common not to be able to get into your preferred field. And some folks get discouraged and think that if they can’t work in the field that they want, then they won’t work at all.

What To Do If This is Your Situation

The first thing that you need to do is to start working in some capacity. You need to get out there, develop some type of work experience and start contributing. 

While you’re doing that, I would recommend conducting a situation assessment in parallel. Work to understand the root cause for why you weren’t able to get into the field that you wanted. Was it credentials? Was it experience? Was it lack of interview skills?

From there, whatever the reason, work to address the root cause. If it’s lack of credentials, go take courses. If it’s experience, you can gain that by a side hustle or by volunteering.

Ultimately, in this situation, you need to start working in some way, and close the gap holding you back from your desired career at the same time.

6. No Idea What Work You Actually Want to Do

The last common reason that people commonly don’t work before 30 is analysis paralysis. They simply don’t know what they want to do…nothing sounds appealing to them and so they never take real action. Maybe they take courses in different areas and try to learn all they can about different fields, but it never actually results in going out and finding work.

What To Do If This is Your Situation

If this is you, and you’re stuck in analysis paralysis the first thing that you need to do is get out there and start working in some capacity. Find some type of work to do to build some experience, that’s ideally aligned to your interests in some way.

At the same time, go through an intentional process to try and discover what it is you really want to do and start building the skills to pursue that on the side. I lay out a full process to figure out what to do with your life in this article.

Consider Your Financial Situation

The last general comment I’ll make about what to do if you’ve never worked at 30 and are looking to get started is to consider your financial situation.

If you’re in a situation where you need to start making money to simply get by, then you need to have a sense of urgency and just go find something to get started.

If you’re in a solid financial situation, but just think it’s time for you to get out and start working, then you can be a bit more patient and try to find something that is in line with the longer term path that you want to go do down.

I’d recommend creating a zero sum budget to start to get a sense of your current financial situation and how much of a financial buffer that you need to have before you go find a position.

Conclusion

If you’ve never worked at 30, it’s not to late to start on a meaningful career. To do so, you need to assess your situation and take action based upon where you’re at today to hopefully get a job offer that you’re excited about.

But make sure to have a sense of urgency, as you’ll want to get started down the right path so you’re not in a similar situation by the time that you’re 40.

About the author

Dan Slocum

Dan is the founder of Best Fit Work and is a business professional with over 10 years of experience. He has been a hiring and people manager on multiple occasions, and has also gone through the hiring process himself at a variety of different companies. Dan serves as a career counselor on the side. He writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

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