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2/12/23 - 3 Key Steps To Successfully Pivoting In Your Career

by Cheryl RobinsonContributor 

Layoffs throughout corporate America continue to shake the nation. With more than 105,000 people losing their jobs this year at private startups alone, the job market is competitive, and the entrepreneurial space is booming, creating more competition.

If the past couple of years taught us anything, we all need to be adaptable and learn how to pivot. Understanding the key steps to successfully pivoting in your career and then applying them to a strategy will put you ahead of the crowd.

There are three core types of pivots: personal, professional and mindset. An example of a personal transition is when someone gets married, moves to a different state or goes back to school for a higher degree. Professionally, people experience a change of positions within the same company, change of industries, start their own company or dreadfully lose their job. Mindset pivots occur more regularly and are critical in leadership and handling life’s obstacles; it’s being able to communicate differently to get the message across, motivate a team and keep yourself focused on moving forward rather than dwelling on the past.

Although all three are critical to survival, when a person loses their job and doesn’t have the proper foundation to handle the challenge, it can negatively impact the other two areas of pivoting.

When something perceived as negative happens, many people automatically assume the worst. However, taking a step back, viewing the situation from a different perspective and recognizing that you’re in the middle of a pivot will help you reframe the current moment.

Top three steps to successfully pivot in your career:

Change your narrative.
As a society, we define ourselves based on our job titles. So it can be challenging to navigate how to market or rebrand yourself. Many people experience an identity loss, especially if it is a dream job or a company they’ve been with for years; they automatically are associated with that organization.

Instead of leading with who you were in a past career life, lead with what you’re doing now. Then, if you’re still looking for the next opportunity, share what you’re working towards. Yes, your past does matter; however, people want to know what you’re currently doing. The misconception is that if you lead with past projects, it automatically highlights your skill set and the value you bring to the table. People’s attention spans are limited. So focusing too long on your past might cause you to miss out on the next position because the person lost interest before you could showcase how you bring something unique to the table.

Build your risk tolerance.
The word risk alone is frightening; it’s the fear of the unknown if you decide to do something and it doesn’t work out. However, the word risk coupled with pivoting is exhilarating. Taking a risk doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to sell your house, move across the world and live in a van. Everyone’s level of risk tolerance is different. What all successful pivoters have in common is that they take one. For some, it may mean going to night school to earn a degree. For others, it means saving up a year’s salary to start a company. And there’s a small group of people where it means they sell their houses, buy boats and travel the world while working from the sea.

The people who successfully pivot in their careers let their drive and determination to succeed overpower their fear; the risk of remaining in the same situation can be greater than the risk of pivoting. The initial decision to pivot does come with reservations; those uneasy feelings are a natural instinct. The important thing is not to become overwhelmed or paralyzed by the lurking fear. Successful people do not let their fear drive their actions when they transition. Instead, they are taking a chance on themselves to pursue a better circumstance.

Building risk tolerance starts with taking small, manageable steps. Identify a low risk, such as reaching out to someone you’ve always wanted to connect with on LinkedIn. Then, for one week, reach out to someone every day. For week two, pick a slightly loftier goal to accomplish. You’ll have laid a foundation and built your self-confidence within a month.

Develop relationships.
The common saying goes, “You are only as strong as your network.” Some people associate networking with just getting to know someone on a business level and only for the sole purpose of benefiting their career. Others view networking as an opportunity to develop and foster relationships to succeed; it is more than just a one-off situation and is viewed as a two-way relationship.

Networking is more than attending an event and hoping someone will reach out from the hundreds of business cards handed out. Social capital, the quality of a person’s network, is more prominent now than it has been over the last decade. In today’s society, it is about developing relationships with people, continually fostering those connections through frequent coffee meet-ups, friendly emails, and extensions of invites to events and parties.

Relationships are a two-way street. Some people go in with the WIIFM, what’s in it for me, mindset, while others understand how developing meaningful relationships can help achieve the long game. It takes time to get to know someone and patience, but in the end, you’ll have a greater return on your investment. Great networkers are always more curious about the other person than they are about sharing information about themselves.

Intentionally practicing active listening allows you to hear the other person and ask questions that drive the conversation. In doing so, you find out what they are working on, how you could add value to the projects, and if they are open to collaboration.

Remember, it’s just a pivot. Anything is possible at this point.

About Cheryl Robinson - I’m a working model, international speaker, author and founder of Ready2Roar. For the past 5 years, I’ve studied how individuals pivot in their careers. Additionally, I successfully defended my dissertation making me a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership. My dissertation was on the art of pivoting. I’m the host the Embrace the Pivot Podcast. My 15-year journey in the Sports and Entertainment industry includes assisting Hollywood agents and former NBA players, helping manage an HBO boxer and involvement with the 2014 NYNJ Super Bowl. I have experienced many highs and lows being an entrepreneur. I take all my experiences, learn from them and help others bounce forward and embrace their pivots.