As part of my continuing education, I recently attended a symposium that focused on “the pandemic pivot” namely how to best support people pivoting their career or changing industry due to COVID. For some, this is prompted by (fear of) their job being eliminated. For others it may be to take advantage of new opportunities that the pandemic brings such as stay-at-home dads now being able to teach or consult remotely. Among the speakers were several career changers, one of whom had strategically negotiated for an “exit package” when the company she worked for was being acquired, allowing her to grow her “side hustle” into a full-time business.
It gave me a chance to reflect on my own career change and the many career changers that attend our graduate schools. After 7 years in a role and place that I loved, I knew that at some point I’d want to broaden my horizons and ensure I had more skills to be able to pivot, and/or find a higher paying position to help support a growing family. I successfully pitched to my manager and his administrator the value to them of sponsoring an MBA, ensuring that my pitch aligned with the organization’s mission. (As we advise all our students, be sure to focus on how you can add value to the company and align with their interests, rather than focusing on what you personally stand to gain from a program or position.)
Pursuing a graduate degree allowed me to interact with people from a wide variety of professional backgrounds and interests. Especially valuable were electives that allowed me to take classes with and get to know students in other programs. If and when you change jobs or career, you never know when you’ll be in a position to lend a helping hand to someone you went to school with years earlier (and vice versa) – so always look to make connections within and beyond your program and field.
Having trained in counselling, worked in large academic (medical) centers, created internships for college students and a framework for professional development for my direct reports, spending a few years of evenings back in school furthering my own education involved much (family) sacrifice, especially when I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do next. (The Career Center was really helpful to me in my discernment process as were various mentors!)
Ultimately, I realized that my most transferable skills and strengths lay in facilitating the professional development of others and supporting them in discerning their own interests and professional goals. Switching from a focus on counselling and supporting patients and families making complex healthcare decisions to a new career was not easy. However, as I pivoted (and trained) to become a career advisor guiding people at a critical juncture in their lives, I’ve been able to draw on many of the same strengths that helped me excel in my previous role.
Ever seen a job description that seeks candidates with a “bias to action?” Action, especially action in a new direction can take great energy and often we need extra fuel in the form of external resources and motivation. For those preparing to pivot, or simply contemplating which direction to take beyond graduation, know that we are here to help you and provide encouragement and strategic direction. For anyone that’s been hesitating to reach out, take action now – there’s no better time than today.