While your parents (and grandparents) may have steadfastly remained loyal to one company — and one company only — for their lifetime, that’s not the prescription for success today. In fact, the average professional in the United States will change their careers 12 times, and the average amount of time they’ll spend at one gig is 4.2 years. If you’re part of this crew, you’re more likely to jump ship — and sometimes, even jump industries.
Coined as ‘pivoting’, this is making an intentional shift in a new direction, yet related to your core professional identity, according to certified career coach Emeline Roissetter. As she explains, you may currently work in human resources, but now want to shift toward specializing in leadership and development. Or, in a more extreme case, you are logging hours in finance, but you have aspirations to take those skills to the fashion industry.
Whatever the case, it takes time, resources and plenty of hustling to pivot from one job description to another. Most of the time, experts recommend preparing for a full year ahead of when you’d like to move to set yourself up for success. Here, how to do it.
If you’re frazzled by your current employer, there’s nothing you wish for more than to quit on the spot and head to greener pastures. The keyword there, though, is ‘green’ — and by that, we mean money. It may not be the most fun conversation to have with yourself (or the most comfortable) but career expert Wendi Weiner says it’s essential for success.
After all, when you pivot, you could have a few gaps of unemployment, or you may have to take a pay-cut to start from the bottom in a new industry. She recommends focusing on both the next four to six months, as well as the next 18 to 24 months. This allows you to take bigger risks, and ultimately, be happier in your career shift.
“Make a list of financial goals you need to have fulfilled — that can be money set aside for online courses, training, and certifications, as well as extra money for additional learning materials or even a cushion in case the pivoting in your career does not work out,” she recommends.
Though it has probably been a while — read: a decade or more — since you were in college, Roissetter has some homework for you. As you think about pivoting from one avenue to another, she suggests making two columns: the skills you have and the skills you need. And forget about being humble here — and rather, be honest. If you can write 500 words in a hot second but spreadsheets are not your strong suit, write that down. The purpose here is to figure out what areas you need to improve and what ones you don’t need to give your attention to. It also helps to build your self-esteem to have the good, along with the not-so-good.
“Most people suffer from impostor syndrome when making a career shift, regardless of how small the shift might be. This means they feel as if they are under-qualified, out of place or a complete fraud,” she explains. “By identifying the skills and knowledge gaps between your current job and your desired job, you will be able to pinpoint what you need to learn or improve in order to feel more confident through the shift.”
Once you figure out what’s missing from your resume to make you qualified for a job, you can start searching for programs that will continue your training. “A training course or a certification can go a long way in making you feel legitimate for the position you are aiming for. Have a look at job descriptions for the role and identify any specific skills, knowledge or certifications that seem to be required by recruiters,” Roisetter suggests.
Perhaps you know that you aren’t exactly stoked to be working in public relations, but you know you’d like to stay in marketing and sales. Career expert Amanda Augustine says it can be helpful to reach out to your network and set up informational interviews with people who currently work in fields that pique your interest.
“These casual information-gathering sessions will help you determine how your talents could be applied to a different field and what skills you may need to build to become a more desirable candidate,” she explains. And since you put in the extra effort to buy someone a cup of coffee, they’ll be more likely to remember you when an opportunity within their community becomes available.
Once you’ve started the course training, working on the skills you were missing and started to figure out the direction you want to head, it’s time to match your brand presence online. Roissetter suggests targeting two places: your LinkedIn profile and your resume.
To start, you should change your summary, the description of your jobs, your keywords, as well as your interests and proficiencies to make you appear attractive for the opportunities that interest you. This could help employers find you, and by having a polished-and-ready resume, you will always be able to send over requested info on the fly.
As the last three months of your year of the pivot are coming to a close, it’s time to step far outside of your comfort zone and network like crazy, according to Roissetter. You should connect and reach out to potential future bosses and decision-makers.
Then, build your reach by attending events and coming prepared to ask questions and take feedback. Most importantly, you have to invest the time and energy to successfully transform your path.
As Roissetter says, “Build genuine relationships and make an effort to surround yourself with people who can help you pivot.” They are the keys to your ultimate accomplishments — and new job title.
This article originally appeared on The Ladders.
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