The lucky few know what they want to do when they grow up at the very start of or even before their careers. For most of us, though, it takes a little trial and error to figure out the best professional path for ourselves, and sometimes that path requires us to slam on the brakes and make a three-point turn in the other direction to get to where we are going. It is what we at The Mom Project call: a career pivot.
A career pivot is when you shift from one professional direction to something else entirely. There are a few ways this can look. First, it could be changing careers, from customer service to graphic design. Or, it could be a significant change but in a similar industry, like going from being a CPA to an accounting professor at a nearby college. It could also mean staying in the same profession but making a significant change, like going from a regular full-time job to running your LLC as a freelancer.
Regardless of the specifics, any career pivot will require some extra work. But, understanding and anticipating the extra hustle is just part of it. You also need to have the time and energy actually to do it. Otherwise, if you can’t commit, you’re more likely to fail; if you fail once, you may have difficulty gathering the courage to try again. Suffice to say. Timing is essential when it comes to a career pivot.
When is the Right Time?
First, it’s essential to acknowledge that there’s never a perfectly suitable time to make a pivot. You’ll never find a time for this career move to be easy and seamless. No matter the circumstances, a career pivot requires determination and work. Similarly, you can always find reasons not to make this move—and timing is often one of the easiest excuses to fall back on. It’s kind of like when you’re thinking about having a baby. There will never be a perfect time when you’re ready for the challenge ahead. You can always find some reason to justify your decision to wait.
There is a significant difference between using timing as an excuse and acknowledging that it is a real barrier to what you want to accomplish. For instance, if you are in the trenches of new parenthood with a teething infant who doesn’t sleep through the night, that is an excellent reason to put off a career pivot that would require you to work extra outside your regular 40-hour work week, because you’re probably legitimately too exhausted to put in the work that’s required of you. However, if you’re simply using parenthood as a reason not to push forward, then you should probably just accept that you won’t be making this career pivot because you’re not going to be a parent.
So, to figure out whether or not this is the right time to make a career pivot, you’ll need to take a good look at your situation and do a little soul-searching.
Assessing Your Situation
As with any significant decision, it’s essential to ask some questions and weigh the pros and cons of a career pivot before moving forward. It is a high-risk-high reward situation, so you want to ensure you’re in a position where you can succeed. Some important points to consider include:
Will this pivot require additional education or training? If so, do you have the time and financial means to move forward with this right now?
If you’re unable to do any prep during your downtime at your current job, do you realistically have the time and energy to put in the work after hours?
Are you in a spot financially where you can take a salary cut to start over in a new role/industry? (If applicable)
Have you asked yourself why you want to make this pivot? What makes this career direction different and more appealing than what you’re currently doing?
Can you think of any obvious obstacles that would no longer be a factor if you were to hold off on your pivot for six months to a year?
Is your desire to pivot a reaction to something you don’t like in your current role, or is it an okay thought-out plan that you’ve been focused on for some time?
How is your mental health? Will you be able to cope if this pivot doesn’t go as planned realistically?
Some of these questions are pretty heavy, but to help you look at your circumstances and decide if now is the right time for a pivot or if holding off for just a little longer would increase your chance of success. However, as important as these considerations are, do your best to ensure it is not your fear that’s answering the questions and holding you back. Remember, it doesn’t matter how good the timing is. Every career pivot requires a little bravery and blind faith, so you can always come up with reasons not to try—it’s just a question of whether or not those reasons are legitimate or excuses.
Take the Risk
As scary as they are, career pivots are usually incredibly rewarding and worth the work and sacrifice it takes to make them. You are the only one who can decide whether the best time to leap is now or six months from now, but whatever you do, don’t put your aspirations on the back burner for so long that they begin to feel unattainable. If today isn’t the day, that’s okay, but put a plan in place so that you don’t lose sight of what could be simply because the road to get there seems scary. You can do this.
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