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Looking for a change? How to pivot in your career

23 Jan 2023

Even if you’re not unhappy in your job, a new challenge can be exciting. Here are a few tips on how to approach a career change.

The term ‘job for life’ is becoming obsolete in today’s world. Workers have so much choice when it comes to their careers nowadays – and they aren’t afraid to take risks or leaps of faith to land their dream role.

That’s not to say that changing direction in your career is without its challenges. It can be a daunting process, as many can attest.

While career pivots are different for everyone, there are definitely a few pieces of wisdom out there on the subject that you can apply to your own situation.

Here are a few general tips and pieces of advice on how to approach a career pivot.

Evaluate your reasons

If you’ve been mulling over a new career for even a short period of time, it’s no harm to actually stop and ask yourself why.

Are you unhappy in your current job? If so, that’s usually an indicator as to why you want to change something in your career.

Even if you’re not unhappy in your job, a new challenge can be exciting.

Before making any big decisions, have a think about their potential outcomes first. Jot down a few thoughts or reasons why you want to make a change and some ideas about how you could go about it.

When you finally decide to make a change, you’ll be doing it with a clear head and some semblance of a plan. This will make the uncertainty of it all a little bit easier to manage.

Laying the groundwork

As well as thinking about what you want from a career change, planning a successful transition depends on how well you prepare.

Think of these steps as preparing the groundwork for a career pivot. You wouldn’t go into a job interview unprepared, so why would you take any big step in your working life without preparing?

After you have thought about what you want from a career pivot and why you want it, it’s time to start taking practical steps.

First of all, you should do some housekeeping. This includes things like updating your CV, making sure your LinkedIn profile lists all of your skills, and preparing what you want to say to a co-worker or boss if you’re asking for a promotion or handing in your resignation.

Laying the groundwork also means ensuring that you are personally ready to make a career change. For instance, are you prepared to take a pay cut or relocate?

Even if you’re just changing department, you’ll still more than likely have to deal with a few changes, such as a new workspace, new boss and new colleagues.

Use your connections

It sounds a little bit cynical, but you’ll be more successful at getting what you want out of a career pivot if you make use of your connections.

Think about who is in your network and how they could help you? Perhaps you could help them too?

If you’ve got a great new business idea, why not start reaching out to people that you want to collaborate with? Or simply make a note of who is hiring in your professional circle. You never know, you might find a perfect opportunity if you keep your eyes peeled.

Ask for advice

As we mentioned in the introduction, everyone’s career path is different. So, while it might seem silly to ask a data scientist for advice on how they switched employer when you are a maths teacher who wants to retrain as a mechanical engineer, you might be surprised where similarities will pop up in different situations.

If you’re looking for some inspiration for your own career trajectory, there are many people with interesting stories – you’ll find them online but also in your own life. Career pivots are surprisingly common.

For example, there’s the former construction worker who, by his own admission, took the long road into a career in UX/UI design.

And the former car mechanic who had to change his job because of an injury. A lifelong interest in mechanical engineering inspired him to do a degree in mechatronics. He now works for Bristol Myers Squibb’s engineering team, having worked his way through the biopharma’s intern and graduate programmes.

Or there’s the nursing graduate who now works for tech unicorn Wayflyer and mentors graduates on the side.

Reading about how someone else made a successful career change might just be the push you need.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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