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How to Pivot Like a Pro: 5 Steps for Making a Successful Career Change

Wake Forest School of Professional Studies has partnered with Career Maven Tiffany Tate to offer SPS students relevant career resources. As Founder of Career Maven, Tiffany works with clients to demystify the job search process while also partnering with organizations to reimagine the future of work.

If you’re a working professional who is considering a career pivot, you’re not alone. 

Many people find themselves in a job or industry that no longer aligns with their goals or interests as they move along the arc of their career. Others are faced with making the choice to pivot due to organizational shifts, personal life transitions, or other outside factors. Making a career change can be daunting, but it can also be a chance to pursue something new and fulfilling. 

Here are five steps to take as you explore your options:

1. Reflect on your strengths and interests

The first step in any career pivot is to take stock of your current skills, strengths, and interests. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? What are your values and priorities? Think about the kinds of tasks and activities that energize you, as well as the things that drain you. This self-reflection will help you identify potential paths that are a good fit for your strengths and interests. If you are having trouble identifying your strengths, consider asking a friend, former colleague, or former manager that you have a positive relationship with to offer feedback on what they would consider your strengths. Reflecting on where you’ve added value in the past is a great way to jumpstart planning for the future.  

2. Research potential new careers

Look for industries or job roles that align with your interests and skills. Use online resources like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed and other industry-specific websites to learn more about job requirements, salary expectations, and role expectations. You can also reach out to people in your network who work in those fields to get a better sense of what it’s really like. 

Not sure if you have a network? By way of being enrolled in a Wake Forest University School of Professional Studies program, you have one built in! Consider past colleagues, community engagement partners, and social organization contacts as built in networks in various areas of your life. 

Exploring what’s out there can begin online but end with a face to face conversation with someone working in or near the areas of interest that you have. This person can help you gain clarity about what the role or industry is all about.

3. Consider your non-negotiables

Switching careers is a significant life change, so beyond finding something that aligns with your interests and strengths, it’s important to also consider the financial and lifestyle implications of making a switch. These non-negotiables are the things you might consider “highly important” when it comes to saying yes to the new opportunity ahead. 

Research the salary range for your desired job and compare it to your current income. Consider whether you’ll need to take a pay cut (and if that’s manageable for your life) or if you can negotiate a higher salary and other associated other benefits that will make the numbers work. 

You’ll also need to think about any additional education, training, or experiences you’ll need to optimize your impact in the new role. Perhaps you’ll be leading a larger team than what you’re used to, working in a hybrid or remote environment, or adapting to new tools and technologies. 

4. Network and make connections

Networking is crucial when it comes to making a career change. Hopefully, you’ve already reached out to people in your network who work in your desired field.  Now, it’s time to attend networking events and industry conferences to meet new people and build your connections. You can also join professional organizations or industry-specific groups to expand your network. 

Rather than think of networking as “who you know,” consider networking an opportunity to gather information and insight about companies, roles, and cities of interest. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions about opportunities as they come your way. 

5. Take the leap

Once you’ve reflected on your skills, interests, and non-negotiables, done your research, and built a network, it’s time to make the jump. Remember, making a career change can be intimidating, but it can also be incredibly exciting and rewarding. Keep your end goal in mind and stay positive as you navigate the transition. You may need to adjust to a new environment, learn a new place, and build new relationships, but with time, effort and dedication, you can and will succeed in your new career venture.

A career pivot can be an exciting opportunity to pursue your passions and find a more fulfilling career path. However, it’s important to do your research, build your skills and network, and consider your personal non-negotiables before making the leap. With the right preparation and mindset, you can successfully make a career change and achieve your goals.

Wake SPS students are able to access Tiffany’s webinar, “Pivots & Pathways: Career Exploration for Professionals” in the Pearl Cafe here. 

Her next webinar is “Career Branding: How to Share Your Career Story” on Wednesday, June 21st at 12:00 pm ET. Students can register here.