"…when it comes to our careers, learning to pivot is Plan A. Pivoting, within our roles and throughout our careers, is the new normal."
How we define careers today has changed significantly in recent years. Most organizations no longer offer career paths with “expected” paths of promotion based on time. Given the rapid pace of change currently facing companies today, it is impossible to predict the work that will be needed or which career opportunities will be available. And for some of us, working means opting out of a traditional career or career path completely, and instead championing our own way forward through freelance or entrepreneurial opportunities.
Change is forcing us to look at our work in new ways, and we need new tools to help us navigate the way forward. PIVOT: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One by Jenny Blake provides a process and toolkit for anyone interested in charting their own career course and uncovering new avenues for growth.
A career pivot, as Blake defines it, is “doubling down on what is working to make a purposeful shift in a new, related direction.” You aren’t moving away from your overall vision for what you want to achieve in your career, just thinking about what has previously worked well, and making adjustments to your path forward based on new information.
To figure out your next career move, Blake outlines the key steps of the Pivot Method:
Plant: Understand what skills and experiences you can leverage from your past to anchor your next career move.
Scan: Explore a wide range of opportunities and options available to you, and the skills you’ll need in order to pursue them.
Pilot: Experiment in one or a few ways to test whether you’re ready to take advantage of a new opportunity or move in a new direction (whether within your current role, or outside of it).
Launch: Start moving into what’s next for you and your career.
Following these steps lets you leverage past strengths, understand a wide range of opportunities available, and then intentionally move forward towards beginning to implement these changes—slowly at first, and then with increasing impact and momentum.
Not convinced you need to be thinking about the next steps in your career just yet? You might want to keep reading.
Change Is the New Normal
"Some say the word ‘career’ itself is dead — a throwback to a bygone era — as we move increasingly toward a project-based economy."
As Blake says, “If change is the only constant, let’s get better at it.” Everywhere we look, the pace of change, through new technology and other influences, is creating a world where maintaining the status quo actually means you’re getting left behind.
For individuals, this means no longer being able to count on doing the same job, in the same way, for 30 or 40 years. As work changes, your skills need to change as well. Even if you’re not interested in moving upwards into management or leadership roles, you still have work to do to keep expanding the breadth and depth of your skills in your current role.
This likely doesn’t come as a surprise to most people reading this, but it may add to their stress. Instead of worrying that it’s another thing to add to your ever-growing to do list, start looking at it as a new way of thinking about small, incremental changes that can have a big impact to your career and work satisfaction.
Pivot Is a Mindset
"Pivoting is a mindset and a skill set, and you can get better at both."
One of the most important messages from Blake’s book is that getting skilled at pivoting isn’t about making continual or reckless changes. She isn’t proposing “reckless job hopping or quitting a job or folding a business at the first sign of displeasure.”
Instead, it’s about understanding that you need to regularly scan the landscape to think ahead to the skills you may need to build, based on strengths and successes you’ve had to date, and make plans for adjustments and changes as you move forward. It’s not about thinking about your career once in a while, but about adopting a new mindset for being open to and thinking about change on an ongoing basis.
Despite acknowledging that for some, pivoting will mean pursuing self-employment or launching a side business, Blake makes it clear that her book isn’t a “rally cry to quit your job or fighting against ‘the man’”, but rather to take control of guiding your career at every step and being adept at navigating a workplace that is changing continually.
In fact, pivots should become a more common and comfortable part of workplace conversations. We need to get better about talking about careers at work.
Create a Pivot Culture
"The Pivot Method can become a shared language for having expansive career conversations. When used as a coaching framework, you can quickly help others brainstorm solutions to problems, set development goals, and identify ambitious yet achievable next steps."
There’s a fifth step in the Pivot Method—Lead. Blake emphasizes that the pivot mindset needs to extend to leaders in organizations as well, not only in their own work, but encouraging career pivots in the teams they lead as well. Weaving career conversations into the workplace culture is essential.
In some organizations, leaders can feel anxious about talking to employees about their careers, whether worrying that their organization structure lacks enough hierarchical progressions to offer many promotions, or unsure about how to provide the “right” advice. By thinking about careers as a series of pivots with skill-building to build breadth and range, career conversations can become more about growth (in many directions), and less about progression.
As I read the book, Blake’s message about looking back and “planting” before moving forward really struck a chord. In my efforts to continually evolve my business to meet the changing needs of my clients, I haven’t done a great job of always anchoring to elements that were already working well. PIVOT has pushed me to reflect on my career and my goals in new ways, and I’ve been thinking differently about how to map the next phase of my work in the months ahead.
With in-depth stories and highlights from Blake’s clients and own experience, PIVOT provides lots of examples of how others have embraced using pivots to build new steps forward in their careers. Whether thinking about how or where to begin broadening your skills within your current role, or looking to make significant changes in the next evolution of your work, PIVOT gives you a clear process and approach for navigating what’s next.
Have you made a career change or “pivot” in recent years? What was key to your success? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.