Career pivots are challenging! I’ve experienced it long enough, walked many miles, and finally settled in my role as an Executive Coach. I thoroughly enjoy a satisfying journey of helping aspiring professionals at crossroads align their core values to their career visions. I’ve met countless aspirants looking for guidance in a noisy world and it takes me back to those days of my career pivot from investment banking to people development. It was a daunting experience to flex myself to a new discipline.
Having said that, I understand the emotional peaks and lows one goes through. It is not easy changing jobs, moving homes, or embracing a new career. This is especially true when it affects our everyday realities. Given the fact that we spend most of our waking hours at work, changing careers can be disrupting.
On a personal note, career pivots have made me nostalgic. I tend to get deeply rooted in people, places, and routines. As a result, moving to a different role, and starting all over again has been laborious. Despite the discomfort, I’ve come to realise that without pivots, there is no personal and professional expansion.
The predominant reason why many of us refrain from career pivots is that we are afraid of change. We prefer to avoid reinventing the wheel. As a result, it affects us psychologically. We stay put in roles we do not enjoy but because it offers a paycheck and security of a day job, we avoid starting that side hustle because no one will notice, we develop unhealthy behavioural patterns of constant complaints and bickering. We’re too afraid to apply for that next role, start a business or take a leap of faith into unknown waters.
Here are seven excuses that keep us from making career pivots. If you are contemplating a pivot and unable to make that move, think hard if any or all of these are affecting you.
1. Pivots are lengthy
This is the most common excuse affecting one’s decisions. We think it’s a long winding road that will consume too much time and effort to start from the ground up in a new career, business venture, or even look for a different role. This also affects us when we contemplate asking for a raise or a promotion.
Indeed, there is a certain amount of discomfort involved in weathering a pivot. Yet, the return on investment on every effort made brings fulfillment and a guaranteed career advancement. The downside to this is to remain stuck and waste the prime time in our lives merely building castles in the air.
What to do: Embrace the fact that you may have to put in the work but at the end of the day it is your dream endeavour that you are chasing. List down all the advantages to your pivot and see yourself at the victory podium. Compare your efforts with victories and that will give you the courage to get going. Your pivot will open doors to many avenues. You may acquire new skills, expand your income streams, and find fulfillment. The groundwork that you do will most definitely bear fruits if you nurture it incrementally each day. But if you are looking for quick fixes or get rich quick schemes, then you may want to stay where you are.
Remember, it will be a long road with meaningful lessons and recognition in the end.
2. The timing is not right
Blame the pandemic, busy schedules, personal life demands, and the never-ending laundry, the timing always seems to be off. Sometimes, there isn’t enough time during the day. Don’t bother curating a pivot strategy! Your efforts will hit a roadblock.
The truth is that life gets busier as we grow and there will never be the right time for anything or any change you want to make. The only way to know how far you will go is to simply get started.
What to do: Stop waiting for divine intervention and craft your schedules. Define your pivots and map out the support you need. Divide your action items into giant leaps and small milestones. The only way to progress is to make incremental shifts each day. When I started writing my book “The Future of Work In An Evolving Economy”, I curated my schedule to dedicate 2 hours each day for 30 days to write, edit, and self-publish my book. Each day I made incremental shifts along with my full time role and although I felt I was crawling initially, it alternatively gave me a satisfying feeling of progression each day. You can also use these free productivity trackers to keep you going.
Remember, the timing may never be right, but your efforts will be.
3. I don’t know where to ask for help
This is one of the biggest excuses surrounding pivots. Many of us think we have to sweet talk our way through life. When planning a pivot, we often think of whom to ask for help. Who can help you get through an interview for the job you’ve been eyeing for a long time? How can you find a business mentor? How can you apply for that leadership role in a different department?
Networking is an important business skill. The right tribe can fast track your pivot journey. Not knowing the right people is one of the reasons why many people hesitate to make that move.
What to do: Not having the right contacts need not be an impediment to your pivot progress. When I pivoted to the people development profession, merely sharing my aspirations with people in my area of influence connected the dots and sometimes put me in touch with influencers and decision-makers. Most of my career breakthroughs have come to me in informal environments; over a cup of coffee or a leadership awards night. Also, understand that you may not find your mentor at the drop of the hat. In fact, what has helped me is having a pool of mentors as I was exposed to diverse thoughts and opinions. The TED article on “The 5 types of mentors you need in life” explores the concept of why you need different mentors in life. Sometimes, the theory of six degrees of separation may not get you the desired outcomes. Keep talking to people, join associations, attend industry conferences and seminars (in-person or virtual), host or attend soirees and you never know, you may just bump into your next big opportunity in an informal way.
Remember, you may not meet your mentor but you will certainly sharpen your networking skills and learn from your own pool.
4. I don’t have the money to invest
Some career pivots may need a preliminary investment. For example, you may need capital to start a small eatery. Many of my friends and colleagues have taken the courageous step of venturing out on their own without a financial cushion. However, not everyone is valiant in their actions. When Jenny Blake, the author of her book “Pivot” and also a career strategist quit Google to start her own business, she was confronted with the dilemma of staying afloat until her business picked steam. She recommends trying a “career pilot”, an experiment as a side hustle to test whether or not you enjoy the pivot before going out on your own. This could be embracing freelance opportunities, volunteering with startups, consulting as a side hustle, or operating a home-based business before renting an outlet. That way you mitigate the risks of plans going astray.
What to do: If you decide to venture out on your own by quitting your day job, ensure you have an emergency fund or a financial base for atleast 6 months to pay your bills and other daily expenses that will allow you to confidently focus on your dream pivot. At the same time, track and reduce frivolous expenses or habits that impede your progress. Attending conferences and networking events, job searching, or even revamping your wardrobe to suit your next role can burn a hole in your pocket. Yet, it should not keep you from pursuing your passions.
Remember, a grip on your finances inevitably builds your worth.
5. People will call me a fool!
This is another common excuse affecting career pivots. Most of our worries stem from the opinions people have about us. What will people think if you change tracks during your peak? Or change jobs when all seems to be going well? Or pivot to a new department or an organisation to start all over again? Questions like these can bring uncomfortable feelings as it impacts self-esteem and self-worth. It also challenges our risk appetite and decision making capacities and eventually our overall reputation at professional and societal levels.
What to do: We all crave social approval. Many of us wrestle with self-doubt throughout our lives. When we have a stable day job, we doubt our abilities to do something different and stay put. When we challenge the status quo and step out to fulfill our purpose, we fear burning bridges with our loved ones and face social rejection. We wrestle with self-doubt regardless of circumstances. In my article on 5 Techniques to Overcome Self-doubt, I share psychological reasons for this dilemma and how you can address it. You may also want to consider a short litmus test by simply asking yourself, “Will it make a difference 5 years down the line?” If the answer to this is no, then don’t feed your imagination with unpleasant thoughts.
Remember, people will have opinions regardless, so give them something to talk about.
6. I am not skilled enough
Skills can be built through multiple avenues. If you don’t possess all the skills desired for a particular career or business, that should not prevent you from making a pivot. Thanks to social media for offering countless certifications and skill-building programs at our fingertips. If you feel the need for a graduate school, make a realistic assessment of your direction and the availability of financial capital to invest in a premium pedigree. You will acquire a lot of skills through interactions and volunteering initiatives as well. Most of the skills are acquired on-the-job and with time you’ll become a subject matter authority confident enough to pivot in your desired direction. As an investment banker, I repurposed my strengths in communication, presentation, and relationship management to develop business relationships with Fortune 500 clients and facilitate programs as an executive coach. With time, I managed to add more certifications to my repertoire. Therefore, look within, locate your strengths, and bring them to the fore.
What to do: Create a list of skills you already have for your desired role or career. Avoid focusing on your incapacities. Evaluate your strengths and align them with your core values. See yourself in a positive light. Leverage the formal and informal capabilities you’ve developed over time that you’ve used in your current role. Work with what you have and build your exposure to fill the gap.
Remember, education will help you create a foundation and your strengths will fuel your pivot.
7. What if I fail?
The fear of failure keeps us from making pivots we desire. Most of us lose the prime time of our lives watching others progress and celebrate milestones purely because they embraced uncertainties on the way with courage. We tend to have strong exit strategies but a weak plan of action to make things work. We think of all possible calamities and create baseless predictive analysis. This keeps us from researching or even making an attempt towards a pivot. Failures are lessons and redirections. They are designed to test our abilities to become resilient and cope under pressure. When Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan was fired by his own mentor, Sandy Weill, CEO of Citigroup, Jamie said “It impacted my net worth, not my self-worth.” One of my favourite articles is 6 Failures You Should Experience If You Want To Succeed In Life that outlines the importance of calculated risks and failures in personal progress.
What to do: Keep your eyes focussed on the prize. Visualise victory at the end. See yourself celebrating success with all your loved ones after you’ve successfully navigated a critical pivot. Deal with failures head-on! If you happen to fall, get back on your feet again, dust yourself and move on.
Remember, failures are inevitable. Without failures, people and organisations cease to mature with grace and wisdom.
Have you been contemplating a pivot?
What excuses are you giving yourself?
What would it take for you to get going?
If you need help to map your pivot strategy, let’s connect.