How to Make a Career Pivot

At some time in your career, you may reach a point where your current job or path is no longer the right fit. Maybe it’s due to the economy or maybe your interests have shifted. How do you determine when it’s time for a career pivot, and how do you make a change?

A career pivot is a planned, purposeful change in career direction. It can be a move to a related field, or to something completely new. Whatever its direction, a pivot is a meaningful change that requires thought and careful planning.

Do I Need to Pivot? 

Time for some self-reflection. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Am I dissatisfied with my career or only with my job? Could I find satisfaction in a similar job within the same field?
  • Are the environment/working conditions the biggest cause of dissatisfaction?
  • Do I feel that I could make better use of my innate abilities and skills in another occupation?
  • Am I able to express my identity and values in my present job situation?
  • Am I feeling a consistent or growing lack of interest or engagement in my day-to-day work?
  • Am I noticing a decrease in energy and enthusiasm for my work, a sort of heaviness or fatigue?
  • Am I staying at my current job solely because I don’t know what kind of other career I might pursue?

If you answer “yes” to many of these questions, you will want to carefully consider how you might move into a similar role in a different environment, seek other opportunities with your employer, or pivot into a different role with a new employer!

The Career Pivot Process

1. Analyze Your Situation

Make a list of the aspects of your current job that you like and dislike. What functions are you best at? What do you wish you could do more in your current role? What is the source of your dissatisfaction—the work itself? The field? The company culture? Something about your boss? Asking these questions helps you not overlook the obvious option: seeking a change in role or environment within your current job.

2. Inventory Your Skills and Interests

Take stock of the transferable skills and experience you’ve amassed so far. Think about activities and topics that you enjoy most in your life. What gives you energy? What gets you out of bed in the morning?

3. Brainstorm New Career Directions

Research career options online in areas that seem to align with your skills and interests. Talk to family, friends, your career coach, and trusted colleagues in your network. Or, use the Career Explorer tool to generate new ideas. 

4. Research Specific Jobs

Do an online search to explore and compare potential jobs in your field(s) of interest. Look at job postings—what is the compensation range? What are the skills required? Don't overly focus on the experience requirements at this point. Also consider an entirely new role in your current field. Changing roles within your field allows you to leverage your industry knowledge and contacts, which may mean an easier transition. Schedule career conversations to get further insights.

5. Fill the Gaps

As you begin to zero in on a new direction, it is time to acknowledge the skill and experience gaps you may have. Building knowledge in a new field may involve a combination of online research, virtual skill-building, and industry webinars. To expand your network into the new field, consider locating the appropriate professional association and getting involved.

6. Revamp Your Brand

Refresh your personal brand and elevator pitch to fit your new direction. Update LinkedIn and social media accordingly. Does your LinkedIn profile tell a compelling story about your pivot and showcase your transferable skills? Does your social media explain how your unique experience adds immediate value for an employer?

7. Update Your Materials

Reframe your resume, integrating points you identified in revising your personal brand and elevator
pitch. Remember, once you begin applying for positions, you’ll want to tailor your resume for each opportunity by using keywords in accomplishment statements.

8. Get the Word Out!

Be sure to let your professional network know you’re looking and ready for opportunities. Of course, be careful if you need to avoid word getting back to your current employer.

Your Launch Plan

Once you are committed to your career pivot and are building your capabilities, develop a detailed launch plan. Outline financial considerations like your personal living expenses, minimum salary/benefits requirements, and savings plan to prepare for the change. Create a time frame or milestones for skill-building or savings goals, and include a target date for searching and applying to new positions.