10 Essential Steps for a Successful Career Pivot Without Starting From Scratch

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By Jacob Maslow

If you’re considering a career pivot but don’t want to start from scratch, we’ve gathered ten insightful tips from top Executive Career Coaches and CEOs. From planning while enjoying where you’re at to starting small and maintaining positivity, these experts share their best advice on making a successful transition without starting over.

  • Plan Ahead While Enjoying Where You’re At
  • Network and Tailor Your Transferable Skills
  • Grow With Your Favorite Skills
  • Conduct a Skills Audit to Stay Relevant
  • Utilize Existing Networks for Pivot
  • Self-Assess and Strategize Within Your Current Organization
  • Reverse-Engineer your Career Pivot Approach
  • Self-Reflect, Research, and Create Transition Plan
  • Reposition Your Brand for Transition
  • Start Small and Maintain Positivity

1. Plan Ahead While Enjoying Where You’re At

Start thinking about what is next while still enjoying your current job. Too often, people wait until they feel like they have to pivot or leave their jobs, and then they need help to make good decisions.

When you are under pressure, thinking creatively about your next move is more challenging, and you stop playing to win and start playing, not to lose. Success in a job search or pivot takes time, strategy, and exploration. I always tell my clients, “If you are happy and know it, think ahead!”

Susan Collins, Executive Career Coach, The Network Concierge

2. Network and Tailor Your Transferable Skills

A clear and relevant target is essential to pivot your career successfully without starting from scratch. The first step is identifying transferable skills that can be applied in the new role or industry.

Networking with people in the new field is also crucial to gaining insights and opportunities that may be limited. Continuously learning and upskilling through targeted courses or certifications can help bridge the gap between the old and new career paths.

Last, a well-crafted narrative that explains the career change in an exciting manner can make a significant difference during interviews and networking.

Thomas Powner, Executive Resume and LinkedIn Writer, Career Thinker, Inc

3. Grow With Your Favorite Skills

Look at what you’ve done in your career and what you’ve enjoyed doing the most. Also, think about what you’d like to do in your career that you still need to do. Now, ask yourself, “How can I leverage the skills I have that I enjoyed using while also growing in the way I want to?”

In this way, you can pivot by relying on your transferable skills—marketable ones—and grow in a new direction that excites you.

Jessica Sweet, Owner, Wishingwell Coaching

4. Conduct a Skills Audit to Stay Relevant

As a Career Advisor and a Professional Growth Specialist, one tip for successfully achieving a career change of direction is to do a skills audit and then pivot toward making those skills pay.

You may be surprised to see how much you have developed professionally since you last updated your resume! All those continuing professional development courses could easily open up new doors for you.

I’d also advise bolstering what you can offer with an online course qualification in an industry-specific digital skill.

Given the ongoing shift towards a skill-focused job market in the digital era, it’s crucial to dedicate yourself to continuous professional growth to remain relevant actively.

Katharine Gallagher, Professional Growth Specialist of Education, Career, Recruitment, Productivity, Business, www.katharinegallagher.com

5. Utilize Existing Networks for Pivot

Use the network of professionals and people you already know to help you make a pivot. Once you are clear about your pivot, contact past colleagues and managers to tell them where you’re headed.

Make sure you have a genuine conversation about their career and where they want to go because every networking conversation needs to benefit both parties. Help connect them if you can, and ask the same in return.

Don’t discount people in your everyday life, either! Talk to family members, friends, neighbors, and anyone you’re around regularly to share your new focus. You never know who they might know. Get comfortable sharing where you want your career to head next and what you’ve already done that supports the pivot.

Julia Toothacre, Career Coach, Ride The Tide Collective

6. Self-Assess Within Your Current Organization

First, I recommend conducting a career self-assessment, identifying your transferable skills, and being able to demonstrate these.

Develop a strategy and a plan. What are the steps necessary to achieve your goal?

Many times, a career pivot can often be more possible within your current company or organization, which could require one or all of the following activities:

– Authentic self-marketing

– Initiating exploratory conversations

– “Putting your hand up” to involve yourself in a project outside of your current comfort zone

– Job shadowing

– Learning new skills that will be necessary

Elise McCabe, Founder, Career Transition Strategist, Career Coach, and Outplacement Specialist, Career Management Consulting

7. Reverse-Engineer Your Career Change

Reverse-engineer your approach to making your career change by starting with you. Instead of starting by looking for what opportunities are available to you, get clear on what you want to do first. Identify roles, positions, or titles that align with your goals.

Carry out a position analysis. Read thoroughly through the job description and requirements. Using this information, analyze the position to determine what is needed (transferable skills, job-specific knowledge, experience, education/training), what you offer, and what might be lacking.

You have what is needed for your career pivot without starting from scratch.

Don’t let the assumption that you must start from scratch keep you from pivoting your career. The most effective way to do this is to clarify what you want to do first.

Catherine Nkonge, Med, LPC, Career Coach, Hazina Career Coaching

8. Self-Reflect, Research, and Create a Transition Plan

To execute a successful career pivot without starting from scratch, begin with self-reflection. Evaluate your skills, interests, and values to determine what to keep or change in your current career. Research new career paths by networking and online exploration. Connect these paths with your interests for alignment.

Networking is pivotal. Build connections in your target industry through events, organizations, and social media platforms.

Update your resume and LinkedIn profile to emphasize transferable skills and relevant experiences for the new field. Prepare for interviews by demonstrating how your experiences can benefit your prospective employer in the new role.

Last, create a clear transition plan with a timeline, financial considerations, and milestones to monitor your progress during the career pivot.

Christin Roberson, CEO and Career Coach, The Career Doc LLC

9. Reposition Your Brand for Transition

A successful career pivot involves taking stock of your unique talents. This includes understanding your transferable skills, knowledge, and experience and considering how these can be leveraged in a new role.

If you identify any skills or knowledge gaps, aim to fill these through training, mentoring, or work experience. The strategic repositioning of your brand will enable you to transition into a new role with confidence successfully.

Lisa Larue, Career Coach, The Career Happiness Coach

10. Start Small and Maintain Positivity

Where do you want to go? Then, pick the next closest step to getting there without starting over. Ask yourself if you can stay in your industry but change your role focus or stay in your role but get closer to the new industry. Can you get exposed to it in any sense, even if you aren’t doing the job focus?

Consider being an Office Manager at a counseling center if you’re considering returning to school to become a therapist. Proximity matters; start with inches before you think yards.

And if you are still determining where you want to go, start with what are the next easiest places to go with your experience. Which of those options appeals to you the most? Of the easiest leaps, evaluate them and talk to others, doing them to see which one(s) you might enjoy the most.

Stay patient and positive! It’s always an ongoing fix.

Nikki Ryberg, MHRLR, CPRW, GCDF, Career Coach, Ryberg Group, LLC

Ready-to-Implement Tips for a Smooth Career Pivot

These expert tips are invaluable, but let’s break them down into actionable steps to make it even easier for you to pivot without a hitch.

  • Know Yourself: Take time to self-reflect and perform a skills audit. What do you enjoy doing? What are your best skills?
  • The Power of Networking: Don’t underestimate your existing network. Talk to everyone and be clear about your new direction.
  • Small Steps, Big Impact: Before making a drastic change, see if you can tweak your current role to align more closely with your future goals. Consider job shadowing or taking on a small project in your desired field.
  • Be Your Own PR: Reposition your brand. Update your LinkedIn, and resume, and have an elevator pitch ready that explains your career pivot in an engaging way.
  • Skill Up: Fill any skills or knowledge gaps through courses or mentorships.
  • Plan, But Be Flexible: Set clear goals and a timeline, but be prepared to adapt as you go along.
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