How to Change a Career in your 20s: 10 Tips

Your 20s can be the perfect time to make a career change. Here are several tips to help you navigate such a big decision at such a young age.
Are you in your 20s and thinking about a career change? Unlike most people who usually ask, “is it too late for a career change?” you might be wondering “is it too early?” Well, you’ll be delighted to know that changing careers in your 20s is doable and can actually be one of the best times for a variety of reasons.
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The unique position of changing your career in your 20s

If you are in your 20s, chances are you have not been engaged in your career for very long. 

Some people may have started an apprenticeship right out of high school and could have 10 years of a career under their belt before they are 30 but chances are you probably only have a handful of years in a given career (if even that).

The beauty of this is that you have your whole life ahead of you to do something that you truly enjoy. Something that offers you high levels of satisfaction.

But this also means that you’re not going to have a whole lot of work experience to pull from in a lot of cases. 

Instead, you might be looking elsewhere to distinguish yourself such as your education.

We will talk about how to tap into the advantages of your youth below but first, it’s important to think about whether you need a job change or career change.

In some cases, it may just be the employer you are working for that is the problem. 

Some workplaces can be extremely political, filled with gossip, and just miserable places to work because the culture is terrible.

Also, some workplaces just don’t do a good job of recognizing the potential or value of young contributors. They can be a little too “old school.”

If you feel like the workplace is the problem then perhaps you just need to find a better employer and make a lateral move.

However, if there’s something that bothers you about the type of work you do on a fundamental level that is quite another issue. 

For example, if you find yourself constantly dreading the work you’re doing or bored out of your mind while engaged in the work, then it might be a matter of you being stuck in the wrong profession.

In those cases, it doesn’t matter how awesome the workplace is, that work will never fulfill you in any meaningful way. 

That type of situation is a major red flag that you need to consider a career change, and not just land a new job.

How to change careers in your 20s

Assess your financial situation

Oftentimes, seeking a new career requires a lot of time

Plenty of people work full-time while pursuing a new career but as a young person it may be easier for you to ditch your current job and focus solely on changing your career.

If you’ve only been out of college a few years, there’s a good chance that you may not have much debt or bills tying you down. 

Even if you have student loans you can opt to get those deferred or get your payment reduced via an income-based repayment plan.

Having some flexibility and financial freedom will allow you to explore career paths or at least give you time to research them without being hampered by a full-time job.

You can use this time to do informational interviews, shadowing, networking, etc.

If needed, perhaps you can join the majority of young adults and move in with your parents or a friend for a while to help you reduce your living costs while you plan for a new career.

Also, relocating may be a lot easier for you and that could open a lot of doors for new and exciting career paths.

So be sure to assess what type of financial situation you are in and take advantage of any flexibility you can because many people don’t have that luxury.

Get rid of expectations from society, family, and yourself

A lot of people in their 20s are still trying to satisfy the expectations of others. Not just in life (like we all do) but specifically when it comes to education and career paths. 

For example, if you earned a degree in architecture, you might feel like you have to be an architect

Obviously, you have the requisite education to become one and it makes sense to go into a field that you just spent a few years of your life studying in, but if your heart is not in that profession you likely will burn out, sometimes in a spectacular way. 

Either that, or you will spend potentially decades going through life doing something that you don’t truly love and that can be a scary place to end up.

In fact, not pursuing a passion is one of the most prominent career regrets.

This is why it is so important to cast away any expectations that you may feel from others or even from yourself. 

It doesn’t matter what you went to college for or what everyone always thought you were “supposed” to be while you were in high school. 

It’s up to you to decide what you truly love to do and you owe it to yourself to pursue that.

So one of the first steps in changing your careers during your 20s is to not be afraid to chase your passions.

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” ― Steve Jobs

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Use your education to your advantage

For many employers, soft skills matter more than your college major. 

As pointed out by Forbes, ”93% of employers believe that critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills are more important than a job candidate’s undergraduate field of study.” 

But as a young person changing careers, if you excelled in school – whether it was high school, community college, or university – you want to squeeze as much value out of that as you can. 

If you were a standout student try to leverage that as much as possible.

While it is true that education only means so much and that if you are jumping into a new field, your degree credentials may have limited relevance, you’d be surprised how much they still might matter.

For example, if you graduated from a reputable university or college there’s a certain amount of credibility you’ll have regardless of what type of industry you’re trying to get into.

Don’t be afraid to draw attention to your academic achievements because they could help you stand out when you’re trying to break into a new career.

Utilize your “fresh” network

The other great thing about being recently out of college is that your network may be stronger than it ever will be, at least when it comes to your fellow classmates. 

It’s often the case that you begin to drift apart from members of your graduating class as each year goes by. 

But because you will be fresh out of school by only a few years, you can utilize those relationships before they weaken.

Start reaching out to people on LinkedIn and making connections to anyone you think that might have value to add in your new career change.

In particular, try to find people who have been working in the field you want to go into for around five years. They should have enough experience to give you some real insight.

Also, don't forget to reach out to former professors. They can provide a lot of valuable career advice.

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Use courses to jumpstart your learnings

You may have already spent several years in school during your 20s but I’m here to tell you that you don’t always have to dedicate yourself to your education for years to get something meaningful out of it.

Often, you can take short courses that can fast track you into certain careers or at least provide you with the foundation to build upon. 

Unmudl helps you find courses that connect you with jobs so that is a wonderful place to start.

On the other side, maybe you have not pursued education and now you are ready to do so.

A great place to start might be enrolling in a local community college. 

You’ll be able to save a lot of money while you figure out what you want to do. If you want some tips on applying to community college, check out our guide here.

The power of your youth

Your youth can be a powerful asset when exploring career changes.

When I started working at a law firm in my early 20s, I remember working really long days and putting in 80 hour weeks like it was just the norm. 

Now, in my mid 30s putting in that type of effort just does not sound appealing.

But there’s something about your 20s that just allows you to grind hard.

And not just that but you also often have a fresh perspective on things.

You can use that energy, enthusiasm, and unique perspective to propel you during your career change job search and make yourself appeal more to employers.

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Don’t underestimate your ability to be an expert

To be a true expert at anything it takes experience and experience takes time. 

The thing is, time does not apply equally to everybody when it comes to building expertise.

And no, I’m not talking about Einstein’s famous theory of relativity. 

Some people are fast learners, some people are just more dedicated to the craft than others, and some people just have a natural talent for certain types of work.

Just because you’re in your 20s, that does not mean that you cannot be a bona-fide expert in your given field.

How do you know you’re an expert or are approaching expert level status? 

Answer these questions:

  • Do you regularly have insights that others don’t have in your field?
  • Are you able to carry on in-depth conversations about your field effortlessly?
  • Do people come to you for advice to solve problems in your field?
  • Have you established any type of online presence in your field?
  • When listening to experts in your field, do you find their advice “obvious?”
  • Do you constantly feel like you’re more qualified than your managers?
  • Are you giving any talks or presentations in your field?

These are all signs that you could be an expert even if you are still in your 20s.

If you happen to identify as an expert in a given field and you feel passionate about working in that space, consider yourself lucky.

That is a recipe for long-term success and if you can begin building that foundation in your 20s by the time you are in your 30s, your trajectory will be amazing. 

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Take advantage of online platforms

Social media and other online platforms have made life difficult for a lot of people and have caused a lot of harm, no doubt.

But at the same time these platforms have created opportunities for people to launch new careers on an unprecedented level.

As someone in your 20s, you probably have grown up using these platforms and may be very adept at creating great content on them.

And the best part is there is no barrier to entry.

Nobody is stopping you from creating a YouTube channel or from generating content on platforms like Instagram or TikTok. 

And no, you don’t have to create silly reels, be a viral dancing sensation, or try to be the next Kylie Jenner.

Just start by cranking out helpful and valuable information that people will find useful. 

Do your best to make it at least a little bit interesting or entertaining and that’s all you need to do to get started.

If you do this, you need to remember to not be discouraged at the beginning. 

If you’ve never spent a lot of time creating content, it can feel very unnatural and you might feel like you are just stumbling through the process of editing videos, doing voice overs, etc. 

That’s normal.

Just stick with it. Give yourself 3 to 6 months (at least) to get past that learning curve and you might start to enjoy sharing your expertise a lot more.

Eventually, you’ll build a following and then you may be on the start of your new career in whatever space it might be.

Take inventory of your skills

When considering a career change it’s always a smart idea to round up a list of any skills that you would have. In particular, think about skills that you can transfer to virtually any profession.

Some examples of transferable skills include:

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Organization
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management
  • Active listening
  • Research abilities
  • Analytical skills
  • Project management
  • Client relations
  • Writing skills
  • Public speaking
  • Creativity

If you’ve been at your career for the better part of your 20s then some of the advice we have for changing your career in your 30s might apply to you. 

Check out that article to learn more about how to discover your soft skills and transferable skills you may have acquired over the past decade.

Find a mentor

In addition to finding a good course, one of the best ways to expedite your learnings and your overall path to a new career is to get guidance from a mentor.

You have to be careful with selecting a mentor because you want to make sure you’re getting good advice. 

An easy measuring stick for finding a good mentor is to simply find someone who has already done what you want to do.

An advantage of being in your 20s is that many mentors will be more willing to give you guidance.

Final word

After reading this article, I hope you realize that your 20s can be a wonderful decade of your life to make a career change. 

If you can identify what your passions are at this stage in your life and build upon that, you can coast through your 30s doing something you truly love instead of regretting your career choices.

Frequently Asked Questions

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