A successful career pivot starts with a student mindset
As we emerge from the pandemic and many jobs and industries undergo a seismic shift, 2021 could be the year of the great career pivot.
In every career, there comes a point when you may feel stuck, bored and unmotivated, which may trigger a desire to change direction. Similarly, I hit a stride in my professional life a few years ago and, feeling an urge to do things differently, I too started to pivot.
But pivoting is less about starting with a clean slate and instead an intentional shift in a new direction. New skills are not necessarily required, but you need to be able to repackage the ones you have and apply them to a different role.
Research published last month by the City & Guilds Group, a company that works with education providers, revealed a third of British people want a change but as many as 34 per cent are worried about starting all over again. This polled higher than other barriers, such as the prospect of a lower salary (26 per cent) and a lack of confidence (19 per cent).
There are practical elements to a successful pivot but really a shift in mindset needs to take place. Often this is what holds us back from trying something new.
I could list a few famous career pivots, such as Ava DuVernay, who went from being a film publicist to film director, or Jay Shetty, who went from consultant at Accenture to prominent purpose coach. But to many of us the prospect of change is still frightening.
For me, one of the scariest parts of pivoting from banker to writer and brand strategist was letting go of fear — and my ego. My mentor at the time helped me do this by reframing how I saw things. Instead of thinking about my next move as what I want to do and what would suit me, they suggested I think about what I wanted to learn.
Suddenly, things felt more exciting and, most importantly, less daunting. Starting from a place of, “what do you want to learn?”, allows you to consider opportunities you may not have thought of, in fields that do not immediately translate as a good fit.
By embedding a life-long-learning ethos at the heart of my career, I have shifted my mindset to that of student, always developing — this is why I now find the concept of the dream job grossly outdated. We should not see our careers as something to master, with an end destination. We are students of our careers, where we collect useful and valuable skills along the way.
The key to successful pivoting is the ability to hone transferable skills and leverage them to propel ourselves on to a new path — time and time again.
Pivots become essential to personal growth. When you see your path in terms of skills and not job roles, it helps you to spot opportunities.
It can be uncomfortable at first to venture into a new industry and you may find yourself in a situation where you know the least. But successful pivoting requires letting go of the fear of failure, being open-minded and letting go of the ego. There were times I would allow self-doubt to creep in but, ultimately, my drive to learn outweighed it. Do not let your self-critic get you down before you try.
There is an important caveat: pivoting does not happen overnight. It takes preparation. It is essential to start to build an understanding of your desired industry by keeping up-to-date with the latest developments. Adopting a student mindset it can be compelling. I started to immerse myself in my chosen field, following key people on social media, industry publications; I signed up to newsletters and joined online events.
It means when you meet new people you are able to make conversation that goes beyond the surface. When I was making my move, I reached out to a relevant person for coffee. They were gracious enough to meet me and were able to give an insider’s perspective on the industry, as well as some advice on how to best position myself.
Coping with change in a volatile working world is essential. Future proofing your career requires the ability to adapt because nothing is more constant than change — but first it requires that shift in mindset.
The writer is author of the forthcoming book ‘The Reset: Ideas to Change How We Work and Live’