2020 was a difficult year for many of us, both personally and professionally. All around the world, job security has brought to the forefront in response to social distancing, a move to working from home, and entire industries being brought to a standstill.
Across every profession, people at all stages of their careers are feeling the itch to pivot their careers in search of more sustainable and fulfilling job opportunities.
As a senior executive or professional with extensive experience in your field, making a career shift can be a daunting undertaking, especially during a pandemic. This shift may be prompted by changes in your industry, a layoff, or maybe you are just looking for a more personally rewarding career. No matter your reasoning, a career change at any stage of your professional development can be overwhelming, to say the least.
As you contemplate shifting lanes in your career path, it is important to understand how your skills and experience can still be a marketable asset no matter what new career you choose to take. In my own career, I’ve shifted across verticals from healthcare to SAAS to music while taking with me the skills I’ve developed in other sectors.
As an experienced professional, your skillset is often more relevant to different careers than you might think. As a first step, learning from others who have taken the leap can help to give you the courage to finally take charge of your career shift and make it happen.
We talked to Nick Jaynes, founder of Differential Communications, Terry Newman, Creative Director of View The Space, and Lora Wellington, Founder of Cueniverse, to find out more about their own experiences shifting careers.
To pivot or not to pivot?
If you have a career that pays the bills, why pivot at all? Why lose potentially years of experience, salary increases, and advancement up the corporate ladder, just to start at the bottom again? No matter the scope of your career change, it always comes down to one simple, fundamental question – are you satisfied at work? If you feel like your job has become a dull routine, or that its’ holding you back from your full potential, it may be time to make a change. If your dissatisfaction is limited to one employer or industry, it may be as simple as moving to another organization. However, if that dissatisfaction goes deeper than that, it might be time to follow your gut and take your experience to a more personally rewarding career. While there are many different reasons to stick to the familiar, a mid-career pivot is more attainable than you might think.
For Nick Jaynes, his own career pivot from journalism to product strategy wasn’t all sunshine and fulfilled personal ambitions. “I’ll admit, transitioning from a full-time, on-staff journalist at Mashable to a mid-level communications professional at General Motors wasn’t an easy process at first… [Now] I am incredibly fulfilled — more than I was as a journalist.” For Jaynes, focusing on work that felt personally meaningful has led to his overall satisfaction with his career.
So where to begin?
Deciding to make a career shift is not always simple or easy to do. You can’t be an accountant and decide tomorrow that you’re now a pilot. You need education, training, and most of all, experience to launch your career pivot. This strategy helps reduce the risk involved with switching jobs while contributing to your overall career satisfaction.
Now, we understand this strategy certainly isn’t a feasible strategy for everyone. Some other preparations you can implement to help to manage the risk of a career change include:
- Preparing for an initial decrease in income by saving and decreasing your expenditures
- Job shadowing or networking with people in your new career field
- Taking courses, education, or training while still employed
- Researching your new career, how your skills can transfer and how this industry could benefit from your specific skillset
A career pivot doesn’t happen overnight. It often takes planning, assessing, and research to ensure whatever new career you choose is the right path for you. For Lora Wellington, making the shift from pharmaceutical and medical supply companies into the music industry required a gradual and strategic approach. As Lora shares, “before you take the plunge, spend time researching your alternatives, assess opportunities in the hiring market, and then commit to educating yourself and gaining some practical experience.”
When is a late career change, too late?
As all of our interviewees exemplify, a career pivot can happen to anyone willing to pursue their passion, no matter what stage of their career they’re at. In fact, more and more experienced professionals continue to make shifts into new careers or industries. Terry Newman accredits this shift to the capabilities of the internet to provide a wealth of information and insight. For Terry, being able to research his career move from a graphic designer to a product strategist was made easier due to the extensive number of hours he spent researching both industries and understanding how they interrelated with one another. To him, the more hours you commit to learning about your new chosen industry, the smoother the transition will be.
The New Norm
A career pivot may seem daunting and impossible, but by taking gradual steps, it can be done. In fact, career changes happen in every industry across all experience levels every day. As Terry Newman explains, “the world and its industries are evolving at a rapid rate, so career pivots should be considered the norm, not a rarity.” Becoming familiar with change may actually be a new skill set required by employers in the near future.