Beginning in 2021 at the onset of the Great Resignation and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, American workers began to rethink their careers. Millions voluntarily resigned from their positions; others began to mull career changes or a new company. Still, for many, a complete career change wasn’t in the realm of possibility. Lost income, uncertainty, and fear led to doubt about quitting or starting a new career. But one option remained viable: a career pivot.
As an alternative to a drastic career change, a career pivot can provide ambition and reason in your work, but only if you have the tools and knowledge to successfully complete the transition. By choosing to embrace change and pushing fear to the wayside, you can avoid burnout, regain your excitement for work, and ultimately create a purposeful meaning behind your career path. Here’s how to do it.
What Is a Career Pivot and How Is It Different From a Career Change?
A career pivot is an intentional shift in career direction. Most typically, it’s a change in your position or role at your present company or assuming the same role at another company.
The difference between career pivots and career changes is locked in semantics — some might say that a career change is part of a career pivot, and they’re not entirely wrong. However, a career change may necessitate an entirely new skill set, while a career pivot typically requires you to take your hard and soft skills and utilize them in a parallel path. To this effect, a career pivot is as drastic or mild as you desire. A career change could be part of a career pivot, but not necessarily vice-versa.
Why Career Pivots Have Become More Common
According to a Microsoft study on hybrid work, 46% of respondents claimed that they were considering a career pivot within the next year. An additional 41% of respondents also claimed that their intended pivot was the result of poor management or dissatisfaction at their current job—but that’s only part of the story.
Career pivoting and its surge in popularity is also the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as more workers were able to step back for lengthy self-reflection and analyze their happiness, work-life balance, satisfaction at their job, and priorities. During this time of contemplation, workers shed the fear of switching jobs, albeit the exact reasoning is unique to the individual, ranging from a “life is too short to be unhappy” mantra to simply a new way of thinking about work in general.
From your own perspective, you may want to consider a career pivot for one of these reasons:
- You want to start your own business or switch to freelancing or contract work.
- You want more responsibility or a different role within the same industry.
- You’re at a dead-end job, or your company has little room for promotion or a salary increase.
- You desire the ability to work from home in a fully remote or hybrid capacity.
And despite some major companies laying off workers en masse in early 2023, the U.S. economy continues to add jobs at a rapid pace, surpassing estimates and giving workers even more options for a career pivot.
How To Undertake a Successful Career Pivot
A career pivot isn’t as simple as sifting through job openings online, although that’s certainly part of the equation. If you’re serious about it, you need a full-fledged plan. Follow these steps to organize your career shift and streamline the process.
Let Go of Fear
Making a career shift is a nerve-racking experience, and uncertainty, doubt, and fear are common. Drastic change and even minute change incite these negative feelings. Any time that your livelihood is threatened, your brain is likely to kick into fear mode. When you step outside of your comfort zone, the same thing happens.
The thing about a career pivot is that you’re doing it all at once. However, it’s just part of the journey. Don’t let fear rule your decisions, and you’re more likely to follow through.
A career pivot necessitates a period of self-evaluation. During this time, you need to ask yourself a few questions that can put you on the right path. Consider your passions, talents, and natural gifts, and how they apply to your career aspirations. You should also assess your strengths and weaknesses to fill any knowledge gaps and tout your best abilities to employers moving forward.
Self-evaluation should also include research on job roles or industries that might feel like a great fit. Think about these skills, what you would like to do, and possible industries or jobs that would embrace your selective skillset and interests. You can also take this one step further by researching specific companies to see if they fit with your values.
Be Financially Prepared
You don’t necessarily have to quit your job to do a career pivot, but you certainly need to analyze your finances beforehand. If you have enough savings, you could quit your job, which will give you more time to focus on your career pivot. But if you don’t have the financial means, don’t worry. You can still keep your job and conduct a career pivot at the same time. The only downside is that your journey may take a bit longer, but you at least have money coming in to counteract the length of time it takes.
Personal Branding: The Most Crucial Part of a Career Pivot
A career pivot isn’t exactly the same as just getting a new job. It’s all about championing yourself, demonstrating your greatest attributes, and showing how your skills and strengths are an asset to a business. And that leads us to the most important part of the career pivot plan: personal branding.
Personal branding is the combination of your skills, experience, expertise, and goals that make you unique as a professional. The most integral part of your personal branding during a career pivot is assessing the skills you have and which ones translate and create value in your new position or industry. Self-reflection can help you build a personal brand, but you should also consider some of the following:
- Build a following or credibility by creating content. This could include writing pieces for social media consumption or making your own website to demonstrate your abilities and skills.
- Put together your elevator pitch. This succinct statement is your value proposition, essentially persuading an employer or client to hire you without taking up too much of their time.
- Invest in your education and professional development. Certificates and degrees aren’t always required for jobs, but they certainly add clout and credibility to your profile during a career pivot.
- Freelance on the side. If you’re trying to break into a new industry, you might want to dip your toes in the water a bit. Use your network to start your pivot by doing a bit of work — you can see if you like the job and gain valuable experience at the same time.
- Use your network to find the right contacts. You never know when a person from your past will provide the link that helps your career pivot.
You should also embrace the idea that a career pivot isn’t something that happens quickly. Even with a plan in place, expect a career pivot to take between six and 12 months. Don’t let fear overcome you because of time — it’s a marathon, not a race, and good things come with time. Trust yourself and trust the process to implement your career pivot with success.
Utilize All Available Resources for a Promising Career Pivot
Even if you follow the plan above, going it alone isn’t always tantamount to success. Not everyone has the drive and discipline to complete a career pivot entirely on their own, and more importantly, there’s no shame in finding a helping hand along the way.
If you’ve felt a dip in morale or a surge in doubt, a membership with Virtual Vocations could be the answer you need. With inspirational career coaching services, a career center to acquaint you with popular remote industries, and cover letter and resume writing, we have exactly what you need to turn the idea of a career pivot into the next exciting chapter of your life.
What do you think about career pivoting? Have you ever had to pivot into a new job? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts and tips. We’d love to hear from you!
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