Figuring out how to progress your career can be one of life’s toughest obstacles — especially if you decide to change things up a few years in. And it’s especially difficult to figure out how to pivot from the field where you have experience into something you’d enjoy more. But we spoke with the experts and great news: Not only is there hope, but there are also options. Dr. Cicely Brathwaite, who owns a psychological consulting practice that focuses on career and life coaching, and Maggie Mistal, a career consultant and executive coach, gave us the blueprint for pivoting your career like a pro.
1. Utilize your existing network. The most difficult part about a career pivot can be figuring out where to even start. “This is a time to go back to the basics,” says Brathwaite. “Use your network, including alumni connections, to set up informational interviews with people in the field you are interested in.” According to Brathwaite, this is the first step of identifying potential openings — and gaining access to the people hoping to fill them.
2. Consider a bigger role at a smaller company. “When considering potential job opportunities, look for a place that is smaller, where you can engage in multiple job tasks,” says Brathwaite. “A small start-up can provide a great opportunity to do both grunt work and higher level work which could be a stepping stone to an ideal job.” In other words, smaller companies may allow you to step outside of your experience. While this may result in an initial pay decrease, it has the potential to lead to a career that’s much more in line with your goals.
3. Find new uses for your existing abilities. “First, you’ll want to understand what it takes to be successful in a new chosen field,” says Mistal. When you’re going on those informational interviews, make a mental list of the skills you think you’d bring to the table based on your past experience, and make sure you ask about current challenges. That will give you the context you need to talk up the abilities you’ve developed in your current role and the ways they’ll be a good fit in your new field.
4. Don’t just consider the skills you have — consider which skills you enjoy using: “Take the best of the past forward into new territory that matches who you really are and go from there,” Mistal says. In other words, consider which elements of your past work you really enjoyed, and to play those up on your resume. You’ll have a higher chance of finding a new career that you truly enjoy.
5. Start a side hustle to gain experience: If you’re not having a lot of luck finding a new, more fulfilling role, Mistal advises her clients to consider starting a side hustle. She suggests volunteering as a potential option or setting up a small business. For example, if you’re trying to pivot into graphic design, setting up an Etsy Shop to sell resume designs would build out your portfolio and bring in some extra cash.
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