The Tools to Make the Big Pivot With Your Career

Jun/17/2021 / by Sonia Ashok
Image credits: Shutterstock

As the cursor blinked on the mostly blank screen of my residency application essay, I burst into tears. I just could not keep pursuing a career in medicine when my heart was not in it.

It did not take me a long time to figure out that I did not want to be a doctor. I knew it within the first few weeks of medical school. (Maybe it did take a while considering that I made it all the way to, and through, medical school!) As a bright young Indian girl with an interest in science and math, my career path was expected and prescribed. What took much more time and introspection was figuring out what to do next, and how to do it.

Making a career pivot meant not only opening up my vision to other possibilities but standing up for my autonomy. My parents, community, and advisors questioned my decisions. Many told me that I was wasting my years of education. The truth is that the stress, overwhelm, and burnout I experienced by pursuing a career that I was not connected to was not worth any amount of money, prestige, or favored child status. And I still had a lot of life to spend on a career that inspired and fueled me. I had a 5-year career in health policy before pivoting to tech startups and then career coaching. I finally began to find true happiness in my work when I let go of the unwritten rules of what my resume should look like.

Looking to create a pivot of your own? Here are the tools I used to help myself and my clients successfully make the shift.

Listen to your intuition

Think about what you love and what you’re good at. Envision the career that feels aligned with your passions and interests. Take some time to journal about what your ideal career looks and feels like.

Embrace your truth

Turn down the voices telling you what you “should” do. Is your dream to be an entrepreneur, an actor, an accountant? Don’t let the opinions of others influence what goals you set your sights on. Think, too, about what you are willing to work toward. Be realistic about the steps it will take after your pivot to realize your goal (another degree, a lot of networking, periods of uncertainty as you grow) and if you can commit to them.

Find freedom over fear

One of the hardest things about a pivot is the FOMO or potential regret of walking away from your current career path. Listen: You are not too old. You are not too late. Start now. In five years, you will be five years older no matter what. Do you want to be five years older doing what you’re doing (and hating) now, or having attempted to do what you love?

Build your path with your pivot

It’s a myth that you lose out on your past knowledge when you make a pivot. All the experiences you have had until now have made you the interesting person who brings a unique skill set to your next role. I bring my bedside manner and understanding of psychology to my work in coaching. The engineer who becomes an interior designer has a special eye for how structures work and fit together. Even your extracurricular interests, like fiction writing, cake decorating, or computer gaming can give you valuable transferable skills that can inspire your future career prospects and set you up for success.

Whatever you’re doing now, remember that a successful career pivot is within your reach. Consider your possibilities and make your next move.

For more insight, check out this Balanced Life column on Pivoting Careers