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Want to Change Your Career Path? Here’s How

Those at a career crossroads should assess why they’re considering a change and what a new career looks like.

Are you thinking that your chosen career path is no longer the right one for you? Knowing when and how to make a career pivot prevents you from making an impulsive or impractical change.

If you want to change your career path, here’s how.

What Is a Career Pivot?

According to Jenny Blake, author of Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next, a career pivot often comes when you hit a plateau and have a strong desire to do something differently. Blake says a career pivot is a “doubling down on what is working to make a purposeful shift in a new, related direction. Pivoting is an intentional, methodical process for nimbly navigating career changes.”

Pivoting careers is becoming more common. A survey of the Class of 2018 at Stanford Graduate School of Business showed that after graduation, 56 percent shifted to business leadership in a completely different industry.

Blake and others suggest asking yourself some fundamental questions before making any major decisions:

  • Understand the Why. Asking why you want to change career trajectories is a good place to start. Also, ask yourself why you think a new career will make your life better and what the upsides and downsides might be. Going through this exercise may lead you to reconsider a change or affirm your thinking.
  • Define the What. What would a new career path look like? Does it have a name and does it exist? Perhaps the most critical part of this work is assessing your professional capital – the skills, experiences, expertise, contacts, networks and professional brand you would bring to the new career.
  • Determine What It Will Take. If you’re going to jump into a new career, you may need certifications, classes, licenses or other skills to make you a viable and successful candidate. Sometimes, these requirements are easily within reach. Other times, they require a deep commitment of your time, resources and energy to achieve.

Knowing what it will take to change careers can help make the right path clear.

When to Change Careers

The answers to the questions above will form part of your answer about when to make a career change. Blake suggests considering the following regarding timing:

  • Hitting financial benchmarks, such as when you’ve saved X dollars, when you’ve received a certain salary offer or if outside funding (such as for starting a new business) is approved.
  • Setting dates, such as after completion of a major work project or after X months of exploration of a new career.
  • Achieving milestones, such as completing a business plan or leadership development course or landing X clients.
  • Acknowledging outside influences, including industry or regulatory approval, agreement of spouses, partners or key family members or acceptance into a program.

Have a Plan

If you decide to switch careers, it’s important to create an action plan and monitor it. The plan should include:

  • A clearly defined goal
  • An ideal timeline
  • Milestones, such as skills acquisition, networking with others, wrapping up your current job and personal needs that should be addressed
  • Daily and weekly tasks

Career pivots can be a healthy, reinvigorating and empowering turning point in your life. Understanding the what and why help to make the pivot a smooth one.