Become
The Working Women's Guide To... Pivoting Your Career
Words by Greer McNally
Become
The Working Women's Guide To... Pivoting Your Career
Words by Greer McNally
Challenge and change are part and parcel of any modern woman’s career path. Our Working Women’s Guides provide practical, expert-led advice that will help you navigate through difficult times and empower you to thrive in an ever-evolving landscape. In the third of the series we delve into the ways in which you can pivot your career...

Yep, 2020 has definitely been a year unlike any other. It’s made us realise that job security is, well, not actually that secure. But it’s also given us something we have been lacking for a long while – time. That is, time to finally sit down and consider our careers – with the result that many women are now deciding to make a change.

But knowing that you want something different isn’t the same as knowing how to achieve it. After all, some of us may have rolled out of university, thought a job looked good on paper and then found ourselves still doing it 10 years later. 

First of all, don’t worry if you’re unsure about what you want to do. Changing your career is about far more than just what you do for a living. It’s about who you want to be. Life is short, so it’s important you are happy with how you spend it. 

Ask Yourself The Difficult Questions

Start by looking at courses that will help you find what works for you. Natasha Stanley, Head Career Coach at career change specialists, Career Shifters, says she has been surprised by the surge of people looking to make a change. “We’ve been so busy and it’s a really diverse audience base suddenly raising their heads above the parapet,” she says. “We have a lot of people saying I know I don’t want this, but I have no idea what I do want to do.”

And that’s ok. Most of us live inside the bubble of our own reality – and as Stanley says, you can’t be what you can’t see. She knows a little about pivoting herself. She came close to burnout in her twenties and knew she had to make a change. “I used to work in the charity sector doing frontline work for vulnerable groups. I was absolutely terrified of the idea of giving up a career that I’d wanted since I was a kid and had no idea who I would be if I wasn’t the noble charity worker.”

"Approach people you admire and ask them for advice, work experience or to share general industry knowledge – and remember the world is not just LinkedIn. Look beyond it."

She quit her job, put her house on the market and booked a one-way ticket to Greece. “It’s not an approach I recommend,” she laughs. But it did help her to find her current career. “I was trying to teach myself what I wanted to do next with my life and kind of fell in love with the questions that you have to ask yourself when you go through a period of change like this.” 

Test Drive Your Dreams

So, how can you figure out what you want from your career? The first thing Stanley advises is to start with a number of different options, rather than one set job. Then try and test those ideas in the real world in order to find something that makes you feel energised.

“The reality of what a career is like can feel completely different from what it looks like on the outside,” she points out. “I’m working with someone at the moment who is really interested in the theme of food and celebration and how the two interact. So she put an email out to 20 of her friends asking for help and then spent an afternoon helping cater a wedding.” It was a very revealing day. The woman realised it wasn’t for her. “The next thing she is doing is running a supper club over Zoom. She’s taking that high-level idea and saying ‘OK, how can I start to get my hands dirty?’”

We all know that women aren't good at asking for help. So, ask – all people can do is say no. And we don’t mean just your friends and family. Approach people you admire and ask them for advice, work experience or to share general industry knowledge – and remember the world is not just LinkedIn. Look beyond it.

"If you fail at first then that’s OK, but make sure you pick yourself up and keep going."

Don’t worry what other people think about your new career choice. There is an assumption that when people pivot, they are moving from something corporate into something more unstructured. Forget that. Find what is right for you. 

Stanley agrees. “There’s no right or wrong here. It’s about finding the space that fits you,” she says.

Work On Your Flexibility

Finally, set yourself some achievable goals, because it’s easy to lose momentum. If you fail at first then that’s OK, but make sure you pick yourself up and keep going. Do one hour of something really practical and hands-on to explore your ideas each week to succeed.

“People are realising, now more than ever, that career change confidence is the new job security,” Stanley says. “People are going to have to change careers more than once and consider portfolio careers and freelance working in ways that they never had to before. That’s what we need to focus on now. It’s not about maintaining a steady pay cheque, it’s about being able to dance to whatever crazy stuff the planet throws at us.”

So, if you know you are unhappy, take the time to do something about it today. 

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