Afraid You're in the Wrong Job? How to Pivot Your Skills, Not Start Over
Advice and tips for how to use your professional background to make a satisfying change in your job or career.
Career transitions are a regular part of the trajectory of being a modern professional.
Lots of different estimates exist for how frequently the average person changes jobs, but data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that Baby Boomers had changed jobs about 11 times by the time they hit age 40.
The bottom line is that job changing is common. By the way, this isn't specific to employees. With the growth of the gig economy and so many people choosing self-employment, sometimes job changing means switching your business, gig or consulting work.
We also change jobs for other reasons. Sometimes you just feel ready for something new or want a new challenge.
I know from my own experience when that feeling hits, it can provoke a lot of emotions, including being overwhelmed. You start thinking that because you want a change, you have to make dramatic shifts and sometimes it can be difficult knowing where to start. Or to put it another way, when you're thinking about change, it can be challenging to know what to hold onto and what to let go of. Just thinking about it can cause stress -- and that's before you even make a switch.
Here's the secret of what to do when you find yourself wanting a professional change: pivot, using the experience you already have. There's no need to completely reinvent the wheel. By using skills you already have in a new way, it will help you find satisfaction in the change you create because you are drawing upon the experience you have built over time.
I did this. After years of working as an auditor, it was time for something new. As the daughter of an entrepreneur, watching my mom run her business made a big impression on me, and I knew eventually I'd like to help struggling small business owners turn their businesses around. I wasn't quite sure how I'd get there, and in my case, it kind of happened by accident.
When I finally took the leap of faith, I started a business offering bookkeeping services. I knew this wasn't all I wanted to be offering, but with my background in accounting, it seemed like a good place to start. In those early days of the business, I'd get calls from prospects who were asking questions about their business numbers. What I found was that they not only wanted someone to do the data entry, but they also wanted me to provide some analysis. I quickly found that I was able to draw upon my audit background and experience with these clients. I utilized that skill in a new way by digging into the numbers for my clients and loved getting "my hands dirty" to help them see new revenue opportunities and address their problems. Eventually, I pivoted my business to offer more advisory services, not only bookkeeping.
So what should you do if you want to make a similar pivot using the skills you already have?
Step back and write down what you're good at and/or your areas of expertise. Think about the types of industries that would be exciting for you to work in based on your personal hobbies or passions. For instance, if you like rock music and you have been trained as an accountant -- you could bring your accounting skills to a music company or work as a band manager or maybe open a music school.
If you're not sure how to combine your skill set with your area of interest or you just aren't sure exactly how to use your skills in a new context, think about starting your pivot as a side hustle. Or if you really don't know where to start, I'd suggest trying something that you used to love when you were younger. Maybe that means starting music lessons or putting time into an instrument you used to play to offset your daily job, rather than making a change in your career.
The key is to avoid being paralyzed. You literally have to put one foot in front of the other if you want to start in your new direction. In my case, I started with one business and taking those steps led me to a business model that was a great combination of my creativity, skills, and passion. By not overthinking it and jumping in, you can do the same.
This post was originally published on Inc.com on April 20, 2017.