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9 Steps to Pivot Your Career as a Working Professional - A Detailed Guide

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Published by Sreya Madanan on 4 April 2024

Feeling stuck in your career? This guide provides a 9-step plan to help working professionals pivot to a more fulfilling career path without starting over.

Working professionals

Picture this: you're a senior finance manager at a multinational corporation. You've been steadily climbing the corporate ladder for over a decade. You're great at your job, respected by your peers, and making a comfortable six-figure income.

But underneath that successful mask, you're deeply unfulfilled. Your passion lies elsewhere — perhaps in entrepreneurship, non-profit work, or an entirely different field.

Sound familiar?

Well, many working professionals find themselves in similar situations, yearning for a career change but paralyzed by the thought of starting over.

The good news is that you don’t really have to quit your job or forfeit your hard-earned skills and experience. This guide will walk you through a strategic 9-step process to pivot your career as a working professional.

What Is a Career Pivot?

A career pivot refers to a significant shift in your professional path without completely restarting from scratch. Unlike a full career change, where you might go back to school or start an entry-level job in a new field, a pivot allows you to leverage your existing skills, experience, and network to transition into a new role or industry more seamlessly.

For example, an experienced marketing manager could pivot into a marketing consultant role, utilizing their strategic and client management expertise while gaining more autonomy and work-life balance. Or an accountant might pivot into financial planning, combining their numbers prowess with a growing interest in helping individuals manage their wealth.

Signs You’re Ready for a Career Pivot

  • You're perpetually bored or unchallenged at work. The daily grind has become utterly unfulfilling.
  • Your values and priorities have shifted. Family, health, or purpose has taken precedence over money or status.
  • You have a growing passion or interest outside of work. A side hobby or volunteer gig is where you find real joy these days.
  • There are limited growth opportunities in your current path. You've hit a ceiling and the prospect of advancing further seems bleak.
  • You want more flexibility, autonomy or work-life balance. The rigid corporate schedule is no longer sustainable for your lifestyle needs.

If several of these signs resonate with you, it may be time to consider a career pivot to rediscover your professional spark.

9 Steps to Pivot Your Career as a Working Professional

  1. Being With Self-Reflection
  2. What truly motivates and energizes you?
    What are you innately good at?
    What do you really crave?

    Aligning your future career with your intrinsic values and strengths is crucial. To gain clarity, take self-assessment tests or psychometric career assessments. List out your top 5 values and indicate how your current role serves those values. For interests, what topics most excite you outside of work? Ask yourself, where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? When you feel satisfied with your ‘ideal picturesque’ life, start visualizing it and take necessary steps to achieve them, one by one.

  3. Identify Potential Pivot Paths and Explore Them
  4. Armed with self-knowledge, explore alternative career avenues that could be a good pivot fit based on your values, interests and strengths. Some options are as follows:

    • A different role that utilizes your core skills (e.g. project manager —> implementation consultant)
    • The same role but in a different industry (e.g. marketing for a tech startup vs CPG company)
    • A combined hybrid path blending your expertise with other interests (e.g. lawyer + life coach)

    Make a list of 8-10 potential paths to research. Browse job descriptions, growth potential, daily responsibilities, education/training required. Attend industry events or setup informational interviews to gain first-hand insights

  5. Identify Your Transferable Skills
  6. As a working professional, you've accumulated a wealth of valuable skills that can transfer to a new path. Make an inventory of yours, including:

    • Technical skills (e.g. coding, financial modeling)
    • Soft skills (e.g. communication, leadership)
    • Achievements, accomplishments and knowledge

    Speaking with a career coach or a career mentor can help identify transferable skills based on your current role. This exercise will illuminate what you already have in your arsenal for a smoother pivot.

  7. Address Any Skill or Education Gaps
  8. After exploring potential paths, you may identify certain skills, knowledge or education needed to pivot successfully. Create a plan to acquire those:

    • For skills, look into online courses, certifications, freelancing opportunities etc.
    • For education, consider part-time or evening degree programs, bootcamps etc
    • .
    • Read books, listen to podcasts, take seminars related to your new path

    The goal is to strategically upskill while maintaining your current role and income as long as needed.

  9. Prepare Financially for the Transition
  10. Depending on your target path, you may experience a temporary pay cut or gap in income. Get your finances in order:

    • Build a cash reserve to cover 6-12 months of living expenses
    • Reduce any excessive spending, debts or major outlays until stable in the new path
    • Find out if you can potentially downshift in your current role to cut expenses sooner

    If you are married or have to take care of the dependents or elderlies, it’s advised to have an open discussion around budgets, lifestyle impact and their support during the transition.

  11. Refine Your Professional Branding
  12. Your resume, LinkedIn profile, elevator pitch etc. need to be reoriented for your new target path. Update these to highlight most relevant skills, responsibilities and accomplishments.

    For the resume in particular, reconfigure it with your pivot in mind. Emphasize different aspects and change up the wording to your target domain. Subtle shifts in language can make a big difference.

    Create a portfolio of work samples like reports, presentations or recommendation letters you can showcase as well.

  13. Ramp up Your Networking Efforts
  14. Your network is a pivotal asset as a working professional looking to switch careers. Reactivate old connections and initiate new ones in companies, roles and industries of interest. Some tips include the following:

    • Ask for referrals from friends or connectors already in that space
    • Attend meetup events, join professional associations and alumni groups
    • Get back in touch with former colleagues who have transitioned successfully
    • Follow thought leaders, influential voices on social media to stay pulse on trends

    Be transparent about exploring new paths and seek advice on potential openings or people to connect with.

  15. Gain Relevant Experience Through Consulting Projects or Freelancing
  16. Before fully committing to your pivot path, test it out on a trial basis. Take on freelancing, consulting projects or volunteer roles to gain practical exposure.

    Beyond experience, it demonstrates your budding interest to prospective employers. Think creatively - maybe an internal project related to your target domain, pro-bono advising for startups, or teaching classes.

    Any foothold to get first-hand work under your belt will ease the eventual pivot.

  17. Lay the Groundwork for Landing Your Target Role
  18. Once you've upskilled, rebranded and built relevant experience, it's time to land your ideal pivot opportunity. Key steps involve the following:

    • Update resume, portfolio, profiles to convey your transition readiness
    • Prepare tailored cover letters emphasizing your pivot story and transferable value proposition
    • Assemble a list of target companies, roles, people to reach out for leads
    • Practice articulating your motivation for the pivot clearly and compellingly
    • Line up references who can vouch for your new capabilities

    Consider negotiating an extended time off from your current role if making a major career pivot. But don't quit prematurely until you've secured your next step.

The Takeaway

Pivoting careers as an experienced professional requires strategic preparation but is absolutely achievable. By leveraging your existing strengths, supplementing in gap areas, and both repackaging your experience appropriately while trying on the new path, you can reinvent into a role better aligned with who you are today.

lIt's never too late to reclaim your professional spark, and if you need any support navigate this journey alone, our experts at SetMyCareer are here to guide you!

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