Prototyping Your Career Pivot

Prototyping Your Career Pivot

Have you ever wanted to pursue a completely different career but didn’t know where to start?  Although the pandemic has given us time to reflect and consider how we want to spend our time, navigating a new career path now has presented new challenges.  Zoom networking anyone? And if it’s been a while since you last changed jobs, you’ll want to have a game plan. 

No question that having a steady paycheck is enviable right now. Sometimes, however, that steady paycheck isn’t sustainable and you know the end may be near. Maybe you’re in a dying industry or maybe your company is part of a national entity that isn’t doing so well.  Or maybe you’re ready for reinvention and want to pivot. 

Changing careers means changing ourselves says author Herminia Ibarra who wrote, “Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career”.  Fear, excitement, apprehension and dread are common feelings when considering a complete pivot.

It’s a transitional process and an opportunity to look closely at other possibilities. She talks about creating “future selves” and meeting with people who have careers that you’ve thought of doing for a long time. While carving out your future self, it’s equally as important to take a step back and reassess.  What are your main skills and qualities?  Where do you think you’d thrive?  What kinds of people would you like to be surrounded by?

Margo, a friend of mine, wanted to build an eco-friendly shoe company for fashion-minded women age 50+.  She learned everything she could about footwear materials and her target market.  When she met with an award-winning footwear designer, she was eager to figure out if creating a footwear line was feasible.  She’d been working in traditional media and she was ready to explore her future self.  Even though designing shoes was outside of her experience, she was inspired by the Allbirds founders who had zero footwear design background.  She’d experienced a few moments of clarity (and irritation) at work and she thought, “life is short.  I have more to learn and so much more to offer.” Herminia Ibarra calls these moments “triggers” and we can use these work irritations to propel us forward to discover a new and more meaningful path.

Herminia refers to “unconventional strategies for career pivot success”. 

Here are a few:

  1. Take action: By taking action, you can figure out how you feel about a particular career path.  It’s important to step out (instead of looking inward) and as a result each additional step will be less challenging.

  2. Consider all possible selves & prototype yourself: Don’t get caught up in figuring out your one true self.  Everyone has many selves but we tend not to nurture them - so write them down and begin testing them out.  Ask questions and study a person’s background to find out how they got to where they are now.  It’s called “prototyping yourself” and in a time of tech acceleration, everyone should be doing this to make themselves more attractive in the hiring manager's mind.

  3. Allow for a transition period: Completely changing your career can be difficult – especially in mid-career. Know that it will take a while to move from the old you to the new you.  A transition can occur while you’re working full time but carving out time for exploration will be critical.

  4. Think of small wins: Set up a strategy to achieve as many small wins as possible.  Challenge yourself and consider your failures as a time to learn and be more informed about your career path and new direction.

  5. Projects/side hustles: Without a huge commitment, it’s much easier to test the waters when you’re able to work on a temporary project or side hustle.  Even if it’s for a discounted rate, it will give you more experience in the area you want.

  6. Someone new: Find your tribe.  Branch out and meet others who have similar interests. Find a Crowdcast event with interesting people and be sure to ask a question so that your name is recognized.  Follow up through LinkedIn and see what happens. Becoming closer to the people in your desired career is all part of the process.

As for my friend, Margo, she opted not to partner with the footwear designer.  She’d worked with him for a few months and learned their personalities were not a match and she wasn’t going to settle.  She wanted to partner with someone who challenged her and had a similar drive to succeed. Realizing the type of people she wanted to surround herself with was just as important as the type of career she wanted to pursue.  At 53, she decided to build a consulting firm and now she has a business partner who complements her personality, skillset, and aspirations.