Career change might seem like a huge challenge if you’re a professional in your 50s. However, change IS possible and might be easier than you think using a career pivot maneuver. In this blog post we’ll explain the difference between a career pivot and career change, and how to tackle the career pivot process.
Signs a career pivot might be right for you
Many of the clients I work with at this stage in their career are looking to spice up their work life! Some of the top motivators are boredom, a change in interests or a realization of their true career passion. Though after mulling this over and identifying its time for a change, something gets in the way. Either they don’t have the time/energy OR the thought of taking a pay cut or reduced title is not appealing. So, what happens? They start to feel stuck and ultimately resent the career they worked so hard to build.
How a career pivot is different from a career change
If you’re in this situation, I would not recommend a career change but a career PIVOT! Here’s the difference, a full career change would consist of leaving your job for an entirely new position that requires very different skill sets and experiences. This would be something like transitioning from a Project Manager to an Accountant! Sure, you will have some transferable experience like problem solving and analytical skills, but you would still need to learn how to manage a budget and gain technical skills in accounting software. If you’re making a career pivot, you are typically making a small change like a lateral move to a new department that needs many of the skills you already possess or an industry shift.
Prime examples of pivot opportunities for 50+ professionals
For example, if you are a Marketing Director for a Senior Living Community and you want to get into the corporate side of marketing, then I would say a Digital Marketing Director position at CVS Health would be an excellent pivot. Another example, perhaps you’re a Technical Manager at Deloitte, and you’re happy with the company but would like a more dynamic role to add variety in your day; looking internally at say an IT Controls Manager position that works more with clients would fill that missing piece. In short, your technical skills and years of experience are still very much in demand for this new position, but your daily tasks and how you approach your work are quite different!
How to make a career pivot – step by step
Now that you know the different between a career change vs a career pivot, it’s time to get to work! Here are some basic steps you can take to put your pivot into action.
1. Identify your motivation for making a career pivot
I shared some of the top reasons already, but why are you thinking about making a change? It’s important to hash out these thoughts and feelings as a first step. What you don’t want to do is make a pivot and realize you were in-fact happy in your previous job, and then later realize you just didn’t like your boss. Ask yourself a few strategic questions to gain greater clarity:
- What are the top 3 things I want to change about my current job?
- Are these things related more to the company, the culture, the team or my daily tasks?
- Are the things I want to change within my control?
- If I do have control to change the things I don’t like, what is getting in the way of making those changes?
Here’s an example of how this might look:
- Top 3 things I want to change: I don’t care about the company’s product; I don’t like my boss and I feel like I’m an expert in my area and I want something new.
- What are these related to: Company/Team/Daily Tasks
- Are these in my control? No/No/Yes
- What’s getting in the way of making a change? I don’t like the product, but this company offers great job security and I’m afraid to give that up. I don’t like my boss and I have no hesitation in changing that. I know if I try to change teams at the same company, my boss won’t support it. As for my role, I like being the expert and I don’t want to take time or money for a degree or extensive training.
This is a great example of someone that could use a pivot and not a full career change!
2. Review roles that interest you
Once you’ve figured out what needs to change in your next position, it’s time to get crystal clear on where you’re trying to go. If you’ve decided to stay in the same position but you’re switching companies, the title of that role may be different. So, a Director of Strategy Consulting at your company could be called a Director of Strategy of Business Execution at another company. Take a deeper look into these titles. If they sound interesting write them down. I recommend finding a list of 5-7 titles that pique your interest. Then you can either journal this or create a spreadsheet – whatever fits your style best. Once you have captured this, think through:
- What are the positive aspects of the job for you?
- What are the negatives?
- Rate your interest in this role on a scale from 1-10. Do you know enough about this position to make a decision?
- If not what do you still need to learn?
3. Review industries that interest you
If your industry stays the same then it’s easy enough to find a list of competitors on LinkedIn. If you want to do an industry shift this will take a little more time. Ask yourself:
- What are your interests outside of work?
- What publications or articles are you drawn to read during your free time?
- What problems are you interested in solving? Are their products or services you use often that you boast about or swear by?
This is a great way to start the brainstorming process. It’s also a great way to discover different industries and companies for your next move!
4. Conduct a skills gap analysis to determine if your pivot is realistic
Before gathering more information to decide if the new position you want is in alignment with your interests, pause and make sure you analyze the roles and identify skills gaps. Think through what barriers you might face in landing an interview. Think through what steps you can take to be more competitive for this position. When reviewing the job descriptions look for themes. For example, you might notice a theme that every position has a certification listed in the ‘preferred skills’ portion of the job description. Before jumping in, make sure you have a solid grasp on what skills gaps exist, if any. Then, determine if this is a deal breaker for you from a time, interest or financial perspective.
5. Become relevant to your target role and/or industry through strategic branding and networking
After your skills gap analysis, you’ve likely been able to narrow your list down to a top 2-3 positions and/or industries. You can now get to work on building networks and creating a bridge between your old role and your new role. Again, if you’re simply looking to land the same position just at a different company in the same industry, this won’t be necessary. A true career pivot will benefit from showcasing interest in this new career area. For example, if you’re a nurse at a hospital and you want to transition from working with adults to children, consider adding your volunteer position as a tutor or mentor – and add any relevant skills. This will further show your interest, and potential in working with younger patients in your next opportunity. For those of you looking to join a new industry, attending webinars, trainings and conferences is a great way to showcase your interest in that area. For example, if you want transition from an analyst in finance to an Analyst at an energy company, attending a webinar on “The Advanced Energy Economy” is a great way to learn about the industry, showcase interest and of course build connections with professionals in the same space.
6. Tweak your resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letter – and go for it!
Now that you’ve thought through your motivations for a pivot, you’ve explored roles and industries and started to build your network in this new area, it’s time to apply! Before you apply you will want to repackage your brand for a career pivot. Do your best to show a connection to this new career area by listing relevant content on your resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letter. Include information on relevant activities that show a commitment to this new area. Adding relevant certifications, training, or volunteer work is a great way to do this.