6 Steps to a Successful Career Pivot

Whether you’re burned out on your current industry or hoping to expand your experience, pivoting your skills in a new career direction is an idea worth exploring. Many professionals worry that doing so will require them to start over, but I find that, when executed strategically, a career pivot need not require a step back in terms of compensation or authority. It all depends on how you plan and implement the pivot, of course.

Step #1: Identify Your Transferable Skills

The first step on your path to a new career direction should be to identify and analyze your transferable skills – those skills you possess which are sought-after in most industries and companies. By their nature, transferable skills are universal and worth their weight in gold, so it makes sense to clarify yours early in your planning process.

Type in the words “transferable skills worksheet” into your favorite browser and you’ll turn up dozens, but most of these are better suited to new college grads than experienced professionals. For more comprehensive skills assessment, visit the CareerOneStop.org. Scroll down the page and click on the Skills Matcher to help you hone in on the skills you possess. Next, click on their mySkills myFuture assessment to find potential career fields and industries into which your skills may transfer. Lastly, rank your skills and input your strongest ones into O*Net Online to browse occupations associated with specific professions.

Step #2: Document Your Transferable Skills with Success Stories

Once you’ve delineated your transferable skills and ranked the most important ones (those you most want to use in your next job), document each item on your list with one to two CAR (challenge | action | result) stories. These stories are the building blocks for exceptional career communications tools such as resumes and LinkedIn profiles and your interpersonal communications encounters (voice mails, emails, letters, interviews, networking).

Great CAR stories are measurable and time-focused. In other words, they include details that measure your impact (dollars, percentages, numbers, rankings) and demonstrate how the story relates to time (timeframes, dates, deadlines, past versus present, present versus future). When you start marketing yourself in a new career direction, your CAR stories will play a key role in helping you to realize the success you want – without them, your transition will languish, take longer, and may be unsuccessful.

Step #3: Clarify Your Values

A part of the maturation process that most of us move through as we age is to gain greater clarity about what we treasure in our work and personal lives. Your values can help to ease your career pivot by (a) showing you which directions to pivot toward, (b) giving you the language you need to make your career portfolio and communications sound more authentic, and (c) helping to distinguish you from other candidates seeking the same kinds of roles.

Your skills, credentials, and experience get you interviews when you apply for jobs, but it’s your personality and cultural fit that get you the job offer. Your values are an essential piece to the puzzle of you and how you may fit into the team you’re applying to join, so showcasing them in your career communications tools is a good idea, but you can’t do that until you first identify what you value in your work life and define it for yourself.

Here again, there are all kinds of values assessments available online, but CareerOneStop has two great resources I recommend you try.

Step #4: Hone in on the Talents, Gifts & Passions that Drive You

Talents, gifts, and passions are harder to identify and there are fewer handy assessments you can turn to for help. But a good friend or two may be all you need. By asking others to say what they see in you – what you’re good at, what you do easily that others struggle to do, why you do what you do – you’ll get a sense for some of your core capabilities. Here are five key questions you can ask them:

  • What would you say I am good at when it comes to my job?
  • What would you say I am good at when it comes to working with people, data, or things?
  • What is it that I do easily that others find challenging?
  • What have you heard me express passion about in a work setting?
  • What issues or problems upset me the most in my work?

Once you identify a talent, gift, or passion, describe it in who-what-where-when details and tie them to some of your CAR stories from Step #3. As you do so, you may notice that related talents and gifts seem to cluster around passion themes. This is not coincidence, but a sign pointing the way to your life's purpose.

Step #5: Brainstorm New Career Possibilities

Steps 1-4 are all about collecting data. Once you’ve done so, use your data to brainstorm a list of jobs, careers, employers, and industries that would match and make positive use of your skills, experience, credentials, achievements, values, talents, gifts and passions. Career professionals and reference materials such as the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and the Occupational Outlook Handbook can help you with this.

Shorten, refine, categorize and prioritize your list, then conduct some career research to help you narrow and rank your list of possible career pivots. Be careful, though, as this research step is an easy rabbit hole to get lost in. If you’re working with a coach, she or he can help guide your research while holding you accountable to a fair timeline. If you’re going it alone, set some deadlines for yourself or find an accountability partner to help you do the same thing in an informal way.

Step #6: Revamp Your Self-Marketing

Once you’ve selected your desired career pivot, you’ll need to overhaul your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, and networking tools and messages to match the industries, employers, and career fields you want to pursue next. Each industry or career field will require a different set of keywords to incorporate and will likely also require a different set of CAR stories to highlight. This is another area where a professional such as a job search coach or resume writer can be enormously helpful since the good ones know how to help you position your skills, values, CARs, gifts, and passions, select the right mix of job search strategies, and execute your pivot.

Yes, each one of these steps contains myriad sub-steps, which make this process a bit more complex than it may first appear, but this work is well worth doing if it helps you create or sustain more vibrance in your work life. As professionals work longer throughout their careers, it’s becoming critically important to find jobs that feed you healthy challenges and deep joy ~ doing so will enrich your work life and position you for a life-giving retirement on your terms.

When you’re ready to remake your resume as part of your career pivot, make sure you revamp your position overview statements that you include with each job you list. Here’s how to do so.

About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer. She has helped clients in >35 industries on 6 continents and has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.