It’s the middle of the night and you’re staring at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep. When you’re at work, you still can’t seem to focus—your gut is telling you something just isn’t right. Then it hits you: Your unhappiness at work is seeping into the rest of your life. It might be time to ask yourself Am I in the right field?
While pivoting used to be startup speak for taking a new direction, it’s now more widely used to address the many career changes that women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond are making in droves. Given the average person changes jobs 10 to 15 times throughout their career, it's only natural that this spans different industry, as our interests and personality changes.
Unsure how to master the move? We sought the expertise of Belma McCaffrey, founder and creator of strategic life-coaching company Work Bigger, to find out how to change careers and pivot with poise.
If you’re feeling unfulfilled at work, take the time to think about why these issues are coming up. Dig deeper: What’s driving you? What’s working for you, and perhaps more important, what isn’t? Make a list of the pros and cons at your current workplace, and let that list guide you in a new direction. The moment you realize that you desire change is the moment you can start fresh, while still allowing your past experiences to inform your next steps.
If you’re considering a new job in a completely different industry, identify any skills you currently have that could be applicable in the new field. When do you feel your best? According to McCaffrey, “This is an indicator that you’re in the zone and that you’re working at your highest level.”
Next, think about your interests. Think about the type of content you find yourself devouring or what hobbies you seek out. It can be difficult to identify your “passion,” but we all have things we prefer to read and discuss with friends and family. What are they? McCaffrey adds this: “What’s most important to you at this point in your life? You can identify your values by thinking about key experiences you’ve had.” Write down your goals and values in a notebook, or create a vision board.
Elli Sharef, co-founder of employee marketplace HireArt, explains this tactic in her Forbes article, “An Entrepreneur Tells All: How to Make a Career Pivot.” She recommends approaching former colleagues about “teaching you the ropes in your new field.” Think outside the box and inside your network: Perhaps there’s a former co-worker or even classmate working at a large company who can help you get your start in a department you’re passionate about.
As you talk about your decision to pursue a new career path with others, be prepared that there will likely be some people who just don’t “get it.” These are the naysayers who will question you and fill you with self-doubt. Stay strong and resolute, and don’t get defensive. In any case, you’re best off keeping your plans limited to your very inner circle.
Ready to make the pivot? Tap our Second Life series to hear from other women who have changed careers.
This story was originally published in August 2016 and updated in April 2018.