The Career Pivot

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Change is constant, prevalent, inevitable. We experience it in the weather as temperatures vary, in the seasons as spring cycles to winter, and within ourselves as we accumulate experiences. For most of us, these changes or transitions are characteristically familiar. Similarly, we embrace characteristic changes in our careers, expecting a familiar, linear path of advancement within an organization, within the same industry. This typical paradigm describes the traditional career ladder.

However, a paradigm shift has occurred. Change is still constant, prevalent and inevitable, but it is now faster and more pervasive because change is broadening and deepening our ability to connect. The Internet, now a tool rather than a phenomenon, and technology, itself rapidly evolving, enable instant communication. We have global access, so our relationships are expanding and our perspectives of others are broadening.

On this new stage, today’s professionals change careers multiple times. These “career pivots” allow people to make agile transitions and follow different, better paths for themselves. Even employers are noticing the advantage of people who can pivot. Reid Hoffman, a cofounder of LinkedIn® who has pivoted often in his career, asserts, “Markets are rapidly changing. Everyone will have to change and adapt. Because markets are changing, companies need help in adapting; this affects how you develop your skill set, which is not a typical ‘career ladder.’” (1)

What defines the career pivot and what is its value as a framing strategy in directing your career? How do you manage your achievements so as to translate them into the currency of transferable assets? What are the opportunities and benefits for both the career changer and the new employer? Let’s take a look…

What is a pivot?

A pivot is a shift in direction. In sports, such as basketball or martial arts, a pivot takes place with one foot rooted in place as the other foot moves into a different space. The pivot cannot be executed unless the planted foot provides stability. Think of the anchor foot as your foundation of values, accumulated experiences and achievements, which provides balance and strength as your other foot moves into a new area. Both work in concert to achieve change, as well as stability. When you pivot in your career, you are not throwing away what you have accrued in skills and experiences; rather, these are the underpinnings that help you shift in a new direction.

Why pivot?

Because many motivators drive a shift in direction, this requires that you accept an element of uncertainty in your career. Some professionals are unhappy and need to try something new, some become unemployed, some want to build upon a strength or improve a weakness, and for some, life intervenes or dreams change. Others purposefully apply their own formulas to career changes so that they are constantly evolving. In this last instance, pivots serve as a framing strategy to direct their careers and to refresh how they market themselves. With this approach, you can evaluate your assets and highlight how they benefit the particular needs of a potential new employer.

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