What Does a Career Pivot Look Like? 5 Critical Things to Think About…


I have been talking to some job seekers lately and I’ve been thinking about how the job search is a perfect time to think about a career pivot. This might be one of the most exciting, and surprising, times of your life!

Before I talk about a general career pivot, and my career pivot, I want you to know that the most important thing for you to think about is YOUR career pivot! We are all on different journeys, going and growing at our own pace, presented with different opportunities and challenges, and to compare yourself to someone else’s journey or pace could be detrimental to your outcome. So please, read this while thinking about not my career pivots but what any of this means to your own journey.

Pre-career Pivot

You aren’t going to pivot from anything unless you are already on a path. My path was simple: Get a good degree, get a good job, become executive of a big company. I was fairly confident that I would get to that end goal, or at least land somewhere very comfortable along the way. One of my biggest concerns was to sacrifice my family, quality time, etc. in pursuing the big executive role, but I swore I’d ensure I had good work/life balance.

I went to school and started working towards this end goal, but, well, things changed. Perhaps most important, I changed. The more I learned about work, quality of life, opportunities, and things that made me happy or excited, the less interested I was in pursuing that big executive role. Plus, reality set in and I realized that maybe I wasn’t the kind of guy who would land or succeed in that kind of role.

I settled into what I found to be fulfilling and rewarding and did the best job I could, while enjoying my young family. I had no regrets and didn’t feel like I was becoming complacent or lazy, I just found a certain kind of bliss that I wasn’t sure I wanted to move away from.

Thing to think about #1: You have to have a plan. You may not follow that plan, but you can’t pivot from something if you don’t have that something.

Forced Into a Career Pivot

Fast forward a few years, my company went through an acquisition and things started to change in a big way. I was moved into the newly-created company and, well, things were quite different. The trajectory I was on, the comfortable and fun one, was no more. I was able and willing to roll with the punches but there were certain things happening that showed that this was not going to be my future.

I was too (insert word here) to move on. Was it that I was too loyal? Probably. Too afraid to look for something new? Probably. Too comfortable to feel an urgency to do the hard work of finding a new job? Also, probably.

Then, one day I didn’t have to make any decisions about my future because the powers that be made the decision for me: I got laid off. I felt slighted. I felt abused. I felt like the years I’d given to that company meant nothing.

I was also a bit shocked because nothing like this had ever happened to be. I’m not saying I hadn’t had failure in my life but I hadn’t had anything this big, and this visible, before. I thought this was something that happened to other people.

Thing to think about #2: Sometimes, your career pivot will come from others, no matter how much control you thought you had, success you are able to show, longevity or tenure, etc.

Turmoil and Confusion

If you think the lay off, or being forced into a career pivot, is painful, this next step was worse. You start a job search like most other people, unsure of how to do a job search. The last real job search you may have done was coming out of college and that was way, way different. Doing a job search as a working professional with some years under your belt, and different earning requirements, is not the same as a fresh-out-of-school job seeker.

There’s also a bit of maturing that has happened. You might have agreed to work at your earliest jobs because the salary was enough, or because someone actually offered you a job. But now, after working in an organization for a few years, learning about yourself and what organizational culture actually is, you find yourself to be more picky. You don’t want to jump out of the frying pan into the fire… you want this transition to be thought through and intentional.

My job search started slow and, the more I put into it, the slower it seemed to get. I didn’t know what direction I really should have gone. I questioned my skills and ability. I wondered if, even though I had accomplished so much, I was even good enough to get back into the job market.

I didn’t realize how much of a mental game the job search was.

But this was a critical stage in my career journey. I needed to get rattled. I need to get out of my comfort zone and have my past ideas challenged.

Thing to think about #3: Your previous plans and ideas might be outdated, unrealistic, misguided, etc. This becomes the foundation of your career pivot.

A Job Board Was Key to My Career Pivot

I was looking for a job in three roles: the one I got laid off from and two that I could have gotten with my undergraduate degree. None of these were horrible options but one day, while perusing a job board, I came across a new-to-me job title. I had never heard of it before, but it was exactly what I thought I wanted. It encapsulated my professional skills and desires perfectly.

I changed my focus in my job search… this was my first career pivot. It didn’t feel like a pivot because my educational and work background was perfect for this role, but it had never been on my radar before. I was excited to have something that felt more right to go after.

You might find this key to your career pivot from a job board, a recruiter, a mentor, another job seeker, from someone who interviews you, an article you read, etc. Be open to all of the information that comes your way. You’ll have to sift through things that are not relevant to you but you should pick up on some real gems that can help you navigate this stage of your career.

Thing to think about #4: What you might do next could be something you have never heard, or thought, of before. It might not even have been invented yet (think about all the people who work in or around AI today). Change and growth will mean opportunities… be open to opportunities as they come your way.

My Career Pivot Pivoted Again and Again

That’s kind of true. I became an entrepreneur, starting JibberJobber (a job search CRM) and eventually doing other stuff (like JobSearchProgram.com). My first big pivot was after I wrote my first book and was invited to speak at a conference for $5,000 (plus expenses). I then spent the next 18 months doing quite a bit of paid speaking. Then, things slowed down and I ended up doing an online course, which has become 43 online courses. I’ve had 3 more books published and have done a variety of things.

I love hearing people ask my family what I do for a living because to many people around me, it doesn’t look like I do anything. I love hearing what my family says… sometimes they focus on my books or my online business (JibberJobber), other times they say I’m a speaker and an author… it’s usually different and it’s always entertaining.

I like the flexibility I’ve created. I can jump in and out of various business lines as I want. I sometimes say I have “business ADD,” jumping from one thing to another to another and then back again. But it has worked for me.

I’m not suggesting that you have to do lots of different, varied things. I am suggesting that you be open to change in your future because, as they say, if anything is constant, it is change.

Thing to think about #5: Be open to continual change in your future. I don’t meet too many people who are doing the same thing they were doing 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Go with the flow, look for opportunities, and always work on your skills so you can be ready when opportunities arise.

 



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