Guess what? There is no such thing as “linear” career growth. In fact, very few people scale straight up the corporate ladder nowadays. If you spend the majority of your day dreaming about a different role, don’t let fear or uncertainty stand in the way of making that thought bubble a reality. Chasing personal success (i.e., fulfillment in your work) might mean pivoting your career from time to time, and that’s okay.
However, while a career shift can be incredibly rewarding, it’s important to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, and are prepared for the challenges that come with breaking into a new field. Consider these three questions before you pivot, and you’ll be set up with the fuel and roadmap to advance your career (up, back, or sideways) in your best interest.
1. Is your passion still in your work?
Burnout is real. If you’ve worked in one field your entire life, there may come a time when that work just doesn’t spark your passion anymore. Or, you might feel influenced by something outside of your org—current events, shifts in your personal life, etc.—that ignites new interests you feel drawn to pursue.
Don’t undervalue passion for your career. Passion is what keeps our momentum steady and motivates us to produce work we’re proud of. If you’re burning out in your role because you don’t feel like it aligns with what you’re interested in, the quality of your work may begin to suffer, and along with it, your professional reputation at your org.
Sometimes we feel so bogged down or stagnant that we forget to connect with our personal brand (our strengths and our passions), but doing so will help you find maximum fulfillment and room for growth. If you’re ready to leave your current role behind, but aren’t quite sure where to turn next, reconnecting with your brand may clue you in to what that next destination along your career path looks like.
Bottom line: if passion is missing from your work (and there isn’t a place to fit it in), don’t wait around for renewed inspiration… brainstorm how you can put your strengths toward your interests, and pivot.
2. Do you have room for (fulfilling) lateral growth?
It’s also common to seek a pivot when you feel like you’ve “plateaued” or have no new opportunities. You’ve worked at a job you love for a long time, given it your all, climbed the ranks… and now what?
It could be that the next step up the ladder isn’t appealing to you, or maybe there is no step higher. Regardless, meaningful growth opportunities are essential to job stability and career success. If you aren’t learning new skills, and don’t necessarily have the means to do so within your role, you’ve probably gleaned all you can from that position.
Think about what lateral growth would look like along your current trajectory, even outside of your org. Some orgs offer specific roles that are absent from others, and it’s possible that there is a more niche promotion awaiting you elsewhere that will allow you to dive deeper into things that interest you.
That said, if other industry options still feel like old news to you, pivoting into a new career could be the fix to keep building on your knowledge and drive sustaining growth.
3. What does your bridge look like?
If you find you’re meeting all of the criteria for a meaningful pivot, you might already have LinkedIn pulled up in the next tab over. Hang with us here for one more moment before you send away your resume.
Making a career change is exciting, but unless you think realistically about what doing so successfully will entail, it can become just as exhausting as the role you’re burning out from.
Step one: have a clear destination in mind. Where will you pivot?
If you start pitching cover letters to four different industries, odds are you’re not going to build the best case for yourself in any of them, and repeated rejections will only dampen your confidence. Pinpoint a role that will maximize your strengths and your passions, and use what you like/dislike about your current role to weed out the lot.
After all, shifting into a lukewarm position just for the sake of it isn’t going to better your career stamina. Especially if you’re already feeling burned out, you owe it to yourself to save your energy for the right pivot.
Step two: build a proper bridge to advance your career.
This one is key. If you’re making a significant shift—engineering to marketing, for example—it’s going to take a lot more than a well-tailored resume to seize that next role. Before you make any big moves, network outside of your department and seek practical advice about breaking into your new field of interest.
These connections might also be able to broker introductions for you to hiring managers and help them see the value in your unique background.
Pro-tip: take the initiative to build up your brand in public forums with this new goal in mind. Displaying how your strengths play into the passion that’s driving your career shift will make it easy for hiring managers to collect receipts on your pivot potential.
Friendly reminder: it won’t be easy (but it will be rewarding)
Be realistic: if you’re starting fresh in a new field, you might have to accept a slightly lower salary or a less senior title. Don’t let that scare you. Passion drives progress, and the renewed energy you will feel from taking a risk and following your instincts will likely carry you back up the ranks in due time.
Career advancement takes many twists and turns. Some of these directions will feel like “wins,” and others may feel like “steps back” at the time, but if you ground every career decision in your passions and your skills, you’ll be set up for success.