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5 Insider Tips on How to Pivot Your Career
5 Insider Tips on How to Pivot Your Career

Is the changing job climate causing you to consider adjusting your career trajectory? Whether you plan to reinvent yourself for a new role or transfer your skills over to a new industry, it’s important to balance your desire for change with a solid plan for your transition. However, the path isn’t always simple, so I thought it would be helpful to draw on my experience as a veteran career coach and share these five tips on how to pivot your career to help make the process seem less daunting.

1. Make a Firm Commitment to Your Career Change

As with most challenges in life, switching careers takes patience, hard work and discipline. If you go into this process in an unfocused, half-hearted way, there’s a chance you won’t reach the finish line. Be sure to start any career change effort by committing to hunting for a new role until you succeed. Put in place whatever types of systems, tools and frameworks you need to hold yourself accountable and help avoid procrastination.

When one of my clients decided it was time to start his own business, he told all of his friends that he’d buy them a lobster dinner if he didn’t have his new company launched by a certain date. Needless to say, he got the business started on time and saved himself quite a significant expenditure, much to the dismay of his friends!

2. Find a Bridge Between Your Current and New Path

Contrary to what some career books or assessments would have you believe, it’s rare somebody shifts into a career that doesn’t connect in any way, shape or form to their prior work history. For many career-changers, the path to a new field involves finding a bridge between the work you’re doing now and a new occupation or industry.

In most cases, you’ll want to repurpose a skill, strength or body of knowledge you possess in a fresh and profitable way. For example, many journalists with years of experience in public speaking and persuasive writing end up shifting into PR and corporate spokesperson roles.

Other times, it’s easier to find a new position within your current field. For example, one of my current clients is an accountant who has been recognized frequently for his positive attitude and excellent interpersonal skills has decided to pivot into a new sales career. However, he’ll be sticking (at least to start) with targeting roles in accounting and financial service firms where his accounting knowledge can be the tangible bridge that sets him apart and maximizes his chances of success.

3. Do Your Homework

When changing careers, the way you go about job hunting is a bit different than what you’ve likely done in the past. It’s unlikely you’ll land a significantly different job from an application alone. There’s just too much competition. And if all an employer knows about you is what’s on your resume, there won’t be much incentive for them to take a chance on you.

Instead, when trying to leap to a new field, you must hunker down and network like crazy. Reach out to people in the industry for informational interviews to learn as much as you can about the new career path. Find out what the job involves, what the industry trends are and what qualifications would make you an attractive hire.

Next, get your biggest supporters to tap into their networks, make introductions and help you get in front of recruiters and managers in your target field. That’s where the magic usually happens and how most career changes get accomplished.

Don’t expect employers to come to you. You’ve got to go to them. And the more homework you’ve done on their field, the more convinced they’ll be that you’re serious about the role. You’ll come across like an insider, not an outsider, which will significantly level the playing field.

4. Tell People Your Intentions

Over the years, I’ve seen a variety of job hunters try to pull off a career shift by taking their current resume and inserting a different objective or headline at the top. In most cases, however, this isn’t going to get the job done. If you’re making a serious change, you’re not going to fool any readers into thinking you’ve held a similar role in the past. Some might even think you accidentally sent them the wrong resume or that you’re spamming documents out there out of desperation.

When making a significant career shift, be upfront about your plans. Include a few sentences at the top of your resume explaining the type of pivot you’re trying to make, the reasons behind it and the skills/strengths you feel would make you successful.

Same thing with networking. When trying to enlist people as allies in your search, make sure your passion and enthusiasm come through. Tell the story of why you’re interested in the new field and why you believe you’d be a good fit. Inspire people, let your excitement come through and get them to jump on your bandwagon.

5. Increase Your Skills

Recognize that every professional-level career path is constantly evolving, and specialized competencies are needed to succeed. Be sure to build-in an educational component and game plan as part of your career-change initiative. Find an expert mentor who can teach you how to use new tools or programs. Or enroll in an online certificate program or course to brush up on your skills.

The good news? Learning new skills has never been easier. Not only are well-established institutions like the University of Washington offering flexible, affordable certification programs in a number of fields, but they also offer a variety of free and self-paced study options. Given the pace of change in many fields, even a few months of training in a newly popular piece of software or emerging topic can pay dividends and help you jump the curve!

Just like many companies are swiftly moving away from their traditional business models to maintain an evolving customer base, when it comes to pivoting to a new role, you must be able to adapt quickly. Switching careers isn’t easy, but with hard work and follow-through, you’ll be on your way to a successful future.


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Matt Youngquist

Guest writer Matt Youngquist is a recognized career coaching expert and LinkedIn trainer in the greater Seattle area. He’s the founder and president of Career Horizons, where he helps clients across the Pacific Northwest tackle the challenges of job hunting and employment transition.

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