Making a career pivot
Need to change jobs? Read five tips to help you redesign your work life.
The past year led many of us to reflect on a tough question: Am I doing what I really want to be doing, career-wise?
Perhaps you were laid off and are seeking new employment. Maybe you’re wishing for more meaningful work, or feeling burned out with increased demands at work, at home – or both.
Whatever the reason for considering a new job, here are five tips to help you find your path forward.
Take stock of your talents
Before you start sending out resumes, the best thing you can do is thoroughly evaluate your starting point: your skills, passions and experience. From there, think about how you could apply them to a different job or field. Oftentimes we end up in a certain industry by accident, or through family tradition, and realize later that it’s not the right fit. Give yourself permission to start all over again.
Create a short list of possibilities
When it comes to changing careers, it’s best to chase down many leads. That’s what Herminia Ibarra, a London Business School professor, has learned after 20 years of researching the topic. “Career change is never a perfectly linear process. It’s a necessarily messy journey of exploration – and to do it right, you have to experiment with, test and learn about a range of possible selves,” she wrote in the Harvard Business Review.
Interview your future self
Once you’ve made a list of interesting jobs, search your network for people working in those fields. “These people are your experts; they are you in the future,” Bill Burnett, co-author of “Designing Your Life,” told the Washington Post. In his book, Burnett urges job seekers to ask these experts for what’s called an informational interview – a conversation that can help you discover what that career is really like. Questions like “What do you like about the work?” and “What certifications or education did you need to get your current role?” can be telling.
Remember, this is not a ploy to ask for a job – you simply want the story. “Informational interviews are the secret weapon to transition to a new industry,” LinkedIn’s senior editor Andrew Seaman told Fast Company.
Consider the financial implications
Many people change careers to earn a bigger paycheck, as shown by an Indeed survey. But there’s more to consider than your pay rate; instead, think in terms of your total compensation package. You’ll also want to get on the same page as your spouse on the lifestyle changes that would accompany a shift in jobs – whether it means using savings to pay for schooling, or moving to a new city.
An advisor can help you assess how taking a new job might affect your short- and long-term goals and adjust your financial plan accordingly, including planning a financial buffer for transition costs. They can also help calculate the value of your current benefits – including insurance, retirement plans and profit-sharing – so you can assess what you’d be giving up if you left your job.
Reconnect with dormant ties
If you need a little help imagining your future, it’s time to rekindle old ties. Your former colleagues can provide clues – and connections – that can help you. For example, maybe they’ve changed industries themselves. This is your chance to reconnect with them through social outlets like LinkedIn or email and find out how they made that shift, and whether they like where they landed.
In Ibarra’s research, she has discovered that strong ties – your family and those closest to you – aren’t likely to help you think outside the box about your future. She says the advice professionals receive from dormant sources tends to be more novel and useful.
This is also a good way to access opportunities that aren’t advertised to the outside world. By making a connection based on genuine curiosity, you gain a new foothold in your job search.
Job hunter pointers
- Recruiters still expect that you’ll want to negotiate a job offer, but be mindful of the financial shape the company is in.
- Focus on virtual networking opportunities (LinkedIn, Zoom or FaceTime).
- Treat a video interview similar to an in-person one: dress for the occasion and try to make “eye contact” by strategically positioning your camera.
Roles to consider
According to Indeed, these positions rely more on soft skills and less on formal degrees – making them ideal for someone changing careers.
- Social media manager
- Sales representative
- Market researcher
- Business consultant
- Web developer
- Project manager
As you explore different careers:
- Reconnect with old colleagues, seek out online forums for career changers and talk with friends and family about your ideas.
- Try an online class in a field that interests you and connect with classmates who can offer support.
- Talk with your advisor about how changing jobs might impact your financial plan.
If you’re feeling career angst, know that you’re not alone. The more you explore different paths and seek input from those around you, the closer you get to figuring out the right next step.
Sources: The Washington Post; Fast Company; Harvard Business Review; Indeed; Forbes