People are no longer working the same jobs for forty years with the safety of pension plans waiting at the end. The average job tenure is now four years, and falling. Roles change constantly. Even smart, motivated people hit professional plateaus.
“What’s next?” is a question we all have to answer more frequently. But how do you advance without getting stuck?
That’s the question posed by Jenny Blake, co-creator of Google’s Career Guru programme, in her book ‘Pivot’. Jenny had been working at Google for five years in training, coaching and career development when she hit her pivot moment.
“Even though I loved working there and had a perfect-on-paper role, something was still missing”.
First, she says, you need to understand the difference between a crisis and a pivot – whereas a major life event like a death, a redundancy or getting fired can force you into a full life re-evaluation, a pivot is ‘a change you make of your own volition when you have reached a point in your career when you are ready for increased challenge and impact’.
If you are recognising yourself in the words above, are a potential pivot-er without a clue where to start, then consider these questions.
The outcome is not, of course, guaranteed, but you can reduce the risk a little by carrying out the necessary evaluations before you jump
Stage 1: Plant
What is working and where do you want to end up?
Start with a view of your core values, a clear understanding of your strengths and interests, and a compelling vision for the future.
When you invest in what comes naturally and easily to you – in work that makes time fly – your ability to make an impact, and enjoy yourself while doing it, is exponentially higher.
- What excites you most? What does success look like one year from now?
- Avoid the ‘tyranny of the how’ – i.e. spending too much time thinking about how you will get there. For now just try to put fear aside, start with big picture ideas and then begin to narrow down what is really important to you.
- Study your past for patterns – where have you excelled, seen great results, what is your reputation within your industry, what are you marketable skills?
- Fund your runway – what is your timeline for making changes and what do you need to do to get your finances in order to achieve it.
Stage 2: Scan
Once you’ve figured out where you want to get to, now it’s time to start looking for the people, skills and opportunities to help you get there.
Consider the following questions:
- Who in your network could help, or is there someone just outside of it that you can build connections with to help you figure out if you’re headed in the right direction.
- How can you bridge any potential gaps in your skills or expertise? This doesn’t necessarily mean taking a course; it could be listening to podcasts, reading books on your chosen industry or skill, it could be reaching out to someone already doing the job you want.
- How can you make yourself discoverable to the right people? Build your visibility by becoming a subject matter expert, building a community of interested people around your chosen area, or just reaching out to the right people to let them know you’re available.
Stage 3: Pilot
Test what’s next. “Reduce risk by conducting small tests”, says Jenny, “then expand upon what is working to launch in the most promising direction.”
Ways to do this could be:
- Taking on an advisory board position in your chosen field.
- Volunteering on a project related to your vision.
- Sampling new ideas on social media to see what resonates.
Stage 4: Launch
This is when you make the big decision that completes your pivot. The outcome is not, of course, guaranteed, but you should have reduced the risk a little by carrying out the evaluations above.
“Ultimately”, says Jenny, “you will know it is time to launch when you are ready to risk failure – knowing that you had the courage to go for it – for the possibility of success, challenge, and personal growth.”
As a final checklist, consider the following:
- What is the optimal launch timing from a financial point of view? When can you afford to move?
- When – how long is your notice period, when makes sense from a personal point of view etc
- Progress milestones – Do you need to have a certain number of clients onboard to formally start? Is there a project milestone that needs to be reached first?
- Trust you gut – if you feel the time is right, it most likely is.