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3 Keys to Making a Career Pivot

Making a pivot in your career can be incredibly rewarding yet also overwhelming and I’ve seen many people give up far too soon. I’ve successfully navigated two career pivots and can tell you that it’s absolutely worth the effort, patience, and persistence to go after what you want. I’d like to share three keys to help you get on track with a successful career pivot.

Know What You Want and What It Takes to Get There

A really important step is to do your research. Obtain as much information as you can about this next move that you want to make.

  • Do you have skills and experience that will transfer over to the new work that you’d like to do? If you have a resume, a resume writer can help you to translate these skills to appeal to potential employers. Do you need more schooling or a certification? Consider if there is additional training or experience that you may need in a new role.
  • Informational Interviews – Find people who are in the job you want and ask if you can interview them. At one point in my career I had considered making a switch to work in non-profit. I asked friends and former colleagues who they knew that I could interview. I ended up connecting with several interesting people! After these conversations, I decided that non-profit wasn’t the best next move for me in my career. The information I gathered was highly valuable and helped me to decide my next step.
  • Break the Process Down into Smaller Pieces – What are the next couple of steps that you need to take? Breaking it down will make the process feel more obtainable and less overwhelming.
  • Financial Considerations – Will the pivot to a different type of work require a pay cut? If so, are you prepared for the reduced income? Will you need to take out a loan for additional schooling?

The more prepared you are to make a pivot in your career, the smoother the transition will be.

Make Connections

  • Tell People What You Are Up To – The more people know about the change you want to make, the more they can help you along your path. Let people know what you are up to both in your casual conversations with friends and with anyone new that you meet. That new person you just met may be the very person who can help you with the transition.
  • Build Positive Relationships with Everyone You Meet – The first time I decided to make a pivot in my career, I was able to make a transition fairly quickly because of the great relationships I had already built with the people that ultimately helped to connect me.

Avoid Getting Stuck

  • Stay in Action and Don’t Give Up – Set a goal to make a transition within X number of months or years; this target may move but it will keep you moving forward. The transition may not happen as quickly as you’d like but it’s important to not give up. Keep moving toward what you want.

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”  – Vincent Van Gogh

  • Think Long-term – I have my coaching clients do what I call “Future Thinking” – Where will you be in 2, 3, 5 years if you invest the time now to make a transition? Keeping the bigger picture or future in mind will help you to stay motivated when the process feels slow now.
  • Ask for Help – Talk through your options with a friend or family member. I have also found that finding an accountability buddy (someone who will hold you accountable to your own goals) helps tremendously. Someone who will simply ask how things are coming along or what your next step is can be a huge motivator.
  • Stay Open – In the end, you may end up choosing a different path than you initially thought, however it was the process of getting curious and putting things into motion that got you where you landed so it’s all good!
  • Get Creative – Consider creative ways to make the pivot happen. For example, can you reduce your current work hours to try a new side gig or take on an internship to get the experience you need?

This process can be quick for some people and it can also take some planning. Either way, set yourself up for success by staying informed, using the resources available to you, and taking action. I’ve seen people move from Administrative or entry-level jobs into Technical, highly-paid jobs. The world is full of possibility—you can make it happen!


A Declaration of Change

Marwa Doost When you think of a physician, you imagine someone standing in the center of a hospital, maybe even the Emergency Room, with a commanding persona. In one second they’ll be shouting out  a code blue which often reflects a cardiac arrest, and often times they’ll be yelling for IV’s which the nervous residents scramble to get. And funny enough, I imagined myself to be like that too.

But I wasn’t, not truly. I was passionate about it, about the fact of saving lives. Even today, the mere concept of the emergency rooms raises goosebumps to my skin.  I mean, how could it not? The emergency room is a battlefield, a place full of determination to save the lives of those who wish to live. But sometimes, it just didn’t feel right.

Really, if you were to open my heart the way a cardiac surgeon does, you would find millions of words inscribed into the little pockets of the right and left atriums of my heart. If you go even deeper, you’ll find quotes flowing through the valves.

So I’m a writer.

And writers tell stories.

This one begins in the heaven or hell of every student; the counselor’s office. I had initially gone in with the intention of figuring out my Fall schedule at Ohlone College as a pre-med. Guess what? I walked out with a completely different perspective.

“So kid, what’s your major?”

“Biological Sciences.” I replied with a huge smile, excited and nervous because counselors were just so intimidating.

Ooh, ooooooh okay.” Really, I wasn’t sure what to say as I rambled to fill in the silence.

“Or well English, you know? I love writing and for Medical School you only need to do the pre-reqs so I’m also leaning towards an English major as well.” Clearly, this wasn’t the right thing to say because next thing I knew the counselor had slammed her pen down and glared at me.

“So what? You want to go to medical school with an English major? You want to be the kid who gets in because of the unique major but can’t graduate because she only knows English and not chem or bio? Let me put it this way, while your classmates who majored in chem and bio have years of foundations, you have nothing and will be starting from scratch. So yes, you’ll get into medical school with your major but will you graduate? No.”

I was shocked, to say the least.

I didn’t mind her being straightforward because I often found it refreshing instead of the wishy-washy tone so many counselors used nowadays. But I hadn’t expected the response I got either. It was true, I never considered how an English major would put me at a disadvantage compared to others. I had never also considered life after “getting into medical school.”  It was then, while I watched her compare the biological science majors between UC schools that I began to feel afraid.

Why? Because suddenly I wasn’t sitting in the counselor’s office, suddenly I wasn’t 18 and stressed with how I would get into UCLA or Stanford. Suddenly, I was my thirteen year old self who had just finished writing a novel in the middle of a packed house ready to move to CA in 2015.

I realized my dream back when I was a kid and it was simple.

“I want to be everything a writer stands for.”

I wanted to major or minor in English, not biology or chemistry or biochem or anything of that sort. It wasn’t me, it wasn’t who I was, and it isn’t who I want to be.

I blankly stared at the lists of science related classes I would need to take in fall and was filled with dread. I was afraid, because going from medical school to an English major was drastic. I was a girl who liked stability and organization, and I didn’t know if my English major would provide me that. But it filled my heart with passion and life, and at the moment, as risky as it was, I decided to play the “follow my heart game” and see where it got me.

I was simply determined to major in English while searching for my true purpose in today’s society.