“Career ladders and jobs for life are a thing of the past” (Helen Tupper & Sarah Ellis). Having a career that pivots and squiggles is no longer something that we feel we need to explain away or skim over on our CV.
Traditional career trajectories that follow a linear path just do not represent the reality of how careers are shaped and developed in today's world. Today’s careers are much more squiggly and represent the level of change and velocity we experience in today’s world.
This means that if the job you once loved doesn’t feel like it fits anymore, or you are craving a career change but don’t have the confidence and clarity to make it happen, then you are not alone. In fact, research from PwC has shown that in 2022, one in five UK employees say that they are likely to change jobs this year. And all the predictions suggest that this trend is going to continue. More and more people are reevaluating and are going in search of finding more purpose and happiness in their careers.
So if you are considering a career pivot or at least want to begin to explore the possibilities and options available to you, here are suggestions of how to get started.
Have you ever been asked the question “where do you want to be in 5 years' time?” and completely frozen or felt uncertain about what to say? Does the pressure of having it all figured out mean that you end up feeling like you know less rather than more? The secret to a successful pivot is in fact the opposite of the 5-year plan. Pivoting requires agility, openness and most importantly curiosity. There is no blueprint to your career, nor does a “right” career exist. Whatever your career “should” be is up to you and the best place to start in figuring out what career is right for you is to be curious.
To be curious means to be eager to learn something. To investigate. To be interested in others. To be curious in our careers means to be open to exploring new opportunities and possibilities and letting go of the desire to know it all. It’s about following your own intuition, asking questions, being inquisitive and exploring those things that excite you and bring you energy.
So what does this look like in practice?
You can nurture and develop your career curiosity by thinking about how you can leverage your strengths and talents. How can you use more of what you’re good at and what makes you unique and special to make more of an impact (and ultimately increase your own feel-good factor)? The first step is identifying what your strengths s are and what you do well (and importantly what you enjoy!) - you may be a whizz on Excel but there’s no point exploring opportunities that require this if you find no joy in it!
Being curious about other people and their careers is an untapped source of inspiration for what is possible for your own career. We all ask the “what do you do question?” and then swiftly move on to what we watched on Netflix last night. Instead, how about asking “what do you love about what you do?”. You could even ask them about what direction they want to head in with their career rather than what has led them to this point. Notice the areas that pique your own interest and ask them to tell you more about it. These sorts of conversations will not only enable you to build better relationships but they will enable you to understand what else exists out there that perhaps you don’t see on job boards and via recruitment agencies.
Understand your values
It’s near on possible to do any meaningful career clarity exploration without understanding your values. Our values are super important in helping us understand what makes us feel satisfied, motivated and happy in our work and life. Everyone has a set of values that are unique to them, like their inner compass directing them, informing their choices and shaping their actions and behaviour. Values are innate in us, although some can change over time as we get older and experience new things. When our values are no longer met, or where we feel like they are being threatened or in conflict, it can lead to us feeling stressed, lacking confidence and unhappy - and in some cases, complete apathy for what we’re doing.
When considering a career change, I would always recommend starting with identifying and truly understanding your values. Taking a career leap or step change takes courage and conviction. By understanding your values - who you are and what makes you tick - you can begin to make decisions with confidence and know you are heading in the right direction. Ultimately, you know your choices will lead to greater satisfaction and fulfilment.
There are a number of different ways in which you can explore your values. The key here is about knowing yourself and knowing yourself well enough to know what will make you happy in your career.
One way is to start by thinking about your career highs and lows. What was it that made that moment a real high or a lowly low? What was important about those things? Noting these down will enable you to spot any patterns or common themes you may not have noticed or been aware of before.
Another way to help you identify your values is by reflecting on your day, week and month and noticing what feeds and nurtures you, what excites you and brings you that all-important joy. Likewise, it’s noticing what has felt the opposite - perhaps energy-draining or stressful or like it’s in conflict. Doing some clear reflection regularly will mean you can begin to understand what your inner compass looks like and is telling you.
Working with a career coach can be hugely beneficial. A coach can help you really dig into what matters most to you. They will be able to ask questions and help you to elicit, uncover, refine and understand your values to a greater depth. Coaching can also support you to explore the different options available to you and show you how you can optimise your values in your actions.
Not all pivots have to be a pirouette
There is often a misconception in careers that a pivot means something big, a drastic change, an enormous step out and into something so different and unrecognisable from where you started. This is not the case.
Whilst some people may say goodbye to it all and change everything, for many of us, a pivot can just mean a small change in the right direction. It could be pivoting to a different company but in the same industry, taking one aspect of the role you love and expanding it to be your full-time role or doing what you did in-house now as a freelancer. With career pivots, we very rarely start at the beginning.
Everything you have done and achieved has led you to this point and will enable you to be successful in the future. Nothing is wasted. All of your experiences are valuable, however varied and different and that’s because there is always a constant in our careers and that is you.
Help other people
Helping other people and connecting others together is my biggest secret for building your career network and a great way to explore new possibilities if you’re contemplating a career pivot. Networking is all about learning from other people and their experiences but the whole process can sometimes feel a bit icky and uncomfortable. This way, by helping others and paying it forward, it doesn’t feel as self-promoting and you may learn a lot along the way.
It could be as simple as writing a recommendation on LinkedIn, sharing someone else’s social media post or even shining a light on your peers who do what you do and showing your respect for them. In your own career conversations, you could also ask the other person who you could introduce them to or offer your support to brainstorm or find a solution to a challenge they’re facing.
You never know where that connection, recommendation or conversation may lead or when (or how) the favour may be returned!
Often it can feel like a mixed bag of emotions when we want (or need) a career change. It’s scary and exciting and hard to know where to start but knowing that change is possible is a great place to begin. There is no reason for you to stay stuck in a career that doesn’t bring you happiness or doesn’t feel right anymore. The ‘shoulds’ or ‘woulds’ do not need to limit you - as I said at the start, your career does not have to stay on the same trajectory. It can be squiggly so embrace it! Begin by following these steps to help you get you back on track to finding your joy.
Anna Hewitt, Founder of Steps into Strides, works with ambitious professionals who want to achieve the next step in their career with confidence and clarity. Anna works with individuals on a 1:1 and group basis and offers team and group coaching for organisations looking to support, nurture and grow their staff.
If you would like to discuss how coaching can support you or your employees please contact firstname.lastname@example.org