Leading Change
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Leading Change in Your 30’s

“The people who are most satisfied with their jobs are older employees – those age 50 and up. The most dissatisfied? Those between the ages of 30 and 39.”–The Discontented Thirties 

young maple tree

As a 34 year old I resonated with this entire article. I have to define dissatisfaction as discontent with the present reality, not necessarily discontent with my role or even my present responsibilities.

I see my 20’s as exploration and discovery. I explored a variety of roles, and saw mild to medium levels of success. I discovered my strengths and weaknesses, primarily through experiences, and with little intentionality.

My 30’s have been different. I know what my strengths and weaknesses are, and over 50% of the time my roles and responsibilities reflect these. It’s much easier to say no to things out of my zone, and I’m much more intentional about taking on projects and roles that will enhance my strengths and minimize my weaknesses.

Yet inside I am not content.

“That is the stage of life where people typically start a family and have young kids at home,” says Wharton marketing professor Cassie Mogilner. “Therefore, these people are more likely to feel the strains of balancing work and life, thus pulling their minds away from being fully engaged” on the job. In addition, notes management professor Nancy Rothbard, this age group “is in an intense career stage where they are often engaged in continued on-the-job learning, with greater responsibilities.”–source

Many days I see what I want to do but lack the capacity to execute the way I want because of this strain of balancing work and life. I thoroughly enjoy this stage of life with three young children, but it definitely limits my focus (right now my son is playing Puss and Boots on the Wii, and my twin girls are running circles around the kitchen table where I’m blogging).

Mentors and challenging projects provide focus. 

If you are in your 30’s and do not have a mentor you are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to develop in this challenging season of life. I started pursuing mentors in my late 20’s (apart from my organizational structure), and have sought to have at least two that I’m interacting with on a monthly basis.

Mentors not only provide life experience but a model to line up your time. Often times leaders wait until a crisis to pursue career guidance and accountability to make needed changes. This often has the effect of removing water from the boat but not providing the rutter or oars to truly change direction.

I’ve noticed that most peers in their 30’s have not yet found their “dream job.” Seeking out challenging projects has been a great way for me to develop my strengths, build new relationships, and refine what I even think of as a dream job. If a challenging project does not exist it’s worth creating one and pitching it to your leaders, or finding like-minded people from outside your organization to partner with you on making it happen.

Has your 30’s been marked by discontentment? What are some steps you have taken to develop your leadership ability? 


  1. andrea buczynski says

    thought- provoking, Brian. those tensions are no doubt there. I would add an additional factor: your thirties is also the time when there is a lot of soul-shaping going on that is pure preparation for the future ministry. the intensities, whether career or family, are training ground for the kind of choices that form you as a person who can have the capacity to execute on the dream. all of that depends on our responsiveness to the Lord in the everyday.

  2. Great post. This line resonated with me in particular:
    “Many days I see what I want to do but lack the capacity to execute the way I want because of this strain of balancing work and life.”

    I don’t have a mentor (and really never have). How did you seek one out? How is it so beneficial? Beneficial life-wise or career-wise (I guess, probably both)?

    • i looked on twitter first, blogs second.

      then i built the relationship via comments/@ replies/etc and asked for one 30 minute phone call. from that call i determined whether it was worth developing the relationship as a mentor.

      i try to have at least one mentor like this and some who are just over email (i email them questions, they email answers). this has been huge.

      my focus has been on career/skill based mentors since CCC does not offer a lot of formal training on areas where i need to develop (entrepreneurship, social media, multi-channel marketing).

  3. good job B, feel you on this one. I was thinking earlier today – what in the world did I do with all that time I had when I was in my 20’s? My 30’s have been complex. Life is constantly changing with each new kid while I expand my influence and pursuits more in line with who I am and my sense of purpose and calling.

    I totally resonate with Andrea’s point too. I just turned 37 a couple weeks ago and the last 7-8 years have been much more intense in terms of my awareness of self and who I am and some of the big areas of passion as well as development and growth that shape how I engage people and my pursuits day to day.

    I love what I do right now, but resonate with a measure of the dissatisfaction. I often can’t put my finger on its origins, but I think you put your finder on some of that dynamic here.

    • yeah dude i think the constantly changing stuff happened a lot in my 20’s as well, but now that i know where i want to be/go those things have become even more irritating.

      the contrasts are greater i guess for me.

      thanks for the thoughts.

  4. Wow! This totally describes my life- as if you’ve been reading my journal. Good stuff and I’m glad to know its normal to feel this.

    I agree Andrea on the soul shaping!

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  6. Rasool says

    The fact that it took me like a month to read this reminds me of the tension you touched on in this blog. I feel you! Yet, I am trying to live in the wisdom my coach recently gave me: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

    (no elephants were harmed in the making of this response).

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