By the time your 30s roll around, you've probably put in your fair share of time in the workforce. And now that you're well past the days of entry-level work -- and earnings -- it pays to take stock of your career and see whether it's serving your financial and emotional needs. Here's how.
1. Make sure you're being paid fairly
Even if you're generally satisfied with your salary, there's no reason you shouldn't keep tabs on the going rate for your title. Glassdoor estimates that the average American worker is underpaid by a whopping $7,500 per year, and that's a lot of money to potentially be giving up. If it's been years since you've researched salary data for your industry, take the time to do some digging.
You can start by searching for open jobs in your field and seeing what salaries (or salary ranges) they command. An even better bet is to talk to recruiters who know the local job market and specialize in your line of work. They'll be able to give you a good sense of how fairly you're being paid based on your responsibilities and qualifications. Along these lines, you can also use Glassdoor's "Know Your Worth" tool, which will give you salary data based on your job title and geographic location. That way, you might get your hands on a wider set of data than a recruiter can provide -- and you'll do so anonymously.
2. Fight for a raise if your salary stinks
Whether you're unhappy with your current level of compensation or your research finds that your salary isn't up to par, it pays to negotiate a raise at this stage of your career. While you may have shied away from asking for more money in your 20s, by the time you reach your 30s, you have enough experience under your belt to approach that conversation with confidence.
The key to a successful salary negotiation is data, so be sure to go in prepared. Present your boss (or whoever's in charge of the decision) with the information you've gathered and show that your compensation is lacking. Furthermore, jot down some key talking points that highlight your greatest accomplishments at work so that you can easily tie them into your request. If you remind your boss how valuable an asset you are, you're more likely to get your way.
3. Develop some new skills
It's easy to settle into a routine when you've been working for a decade or more. That's why your 30s are a great time to shun complacency and take an active role in advancing your career. That could mean signing up for a course that adds to your knowledge base or pursuing a professional certification. It could also mean expanding your network and learning from others in your industry. No matter what steps you take to further your career, don't make the mistake of getting stuck in a rut during what could be a pivotal time to advance -- because the more of an effort you make, the more you stand to benefit financially.
4. Make sure you're really in the right industry
Perhaps you took the first job offer you received out of college and stumbled into your current field at random. Or maybe you've been working in what you thought was the right industry, only to recently start bemoaning that decision.
No matter the circumstances, your 30s are a good time to re-evaluate your career choices and figure out whether you'd be better off making a switch. That's because if you do decide to shake things up, you'll have plenty of time to recover from the financial consequences that ensue. Remember, starting over in a new career often means taking a hit to your salary, and that, in turn, means saving less money. But if you make a move now and get back on track by your early 40s, you'll still have a good 20 to 25 years till retirement to catch up and meet your financial goals.
The career moves you make in your 30s can set the stage for several more decades of success. Sink some time into assessing your career, and you'll be happier for it in the long run.
The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.