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How to Plan (and Make) a Career Pivot

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Nov 16, 2022

How to Plan (and Make) a Career Pivot

Dave Fano

If you're looking to make a career pivot, we have some advice for you: Plan, plan, plan!

In this class, we're going to talk about how to build your plan for managing your career shift. You can use it for other parts of your career, but really it's focused on putting some structure and rigor around planning a career pivot or a career shift. 

We will use Teal’s approach to how we think about your career shift by following the agenda below:

Approach

In this section, we're going to talk about Teal's approach to making a career shift and how you think about doing it.

We're going to go back to our framework for fulfilling work. Without having clarity on all four dimensions of what fulfilling work is for you, the shift is going to be tricky, and it's not going to be as fruitful as you'd hope. 

If you're in this class and you haven't done the styles, values, interests, and skills classes yet, highly recommend that you go do those.

Remember that careers are non-linear, and so is the process for making career decisions. 

What we want to try to do is help you have some structure and a framework, not necessarily a step by step playbook. If you follow the process and think about this iteratively, then these non-linear movements will feel a little more structured and will put you in control.

We want you in the driver's seat of this process, and if you approach it with a growth mindset, it's going to be that much more exciting. What we mean by a growth mindset is seeing the challenges as opportunities to learn. A fixed mindset thinks of intelligence as static so that you avoid challenges. You give up easily and have fear of failure.

Growth mindset is going to embrace the challenges. It's going to persist in the face of setbacks, learn from failure and reach higher levels of achievement. Research from Carol Dweck, a child psychologist, shows that when you bring a growth mindset to work, your fulfillment goes way up. All these things that are challenges, that pressure that you put on yourself to succeed, actually become opportunities to learn.

That becomes exciting because we all want to learn, and we all want to grow. If we approach things that way and don't think about them as situations in which we might fail, but actually embrace that failure, that these are situations to learn and grow, then the process becomes exciting.

A career transition might have lots of bumps in the road, but your passion will guide you. Remember that passion is developed and not found. You will get out what you put in. If you can do those things you're passionate about on a day to day basis, they’re going to really charge you up, get you excited, and fulfill the kind of work that you’re looking for. 

Define Your Shift

Let's define what kind of career shift you're looking to do. Some are pretty straightforward and not that heavy of a lift, and others can be quite daunting. Let's go ahead and codify this to help you think about what you're doing. 

There's really three kinds of shifts. You can be doing an industry shift, a function shift, or both.  Let me explain what that means. 

If you're doing an industry shift, that means you're keeping to the same occupation. This is the easiest career shift. 

A function shift becomes a little bit tricky and can be of moderate difficulty. 

Some companies really value that you have the domain knowledge because they think that's very hard to pick up. Sometimes you might be able to make this shift within the same company, which might make it a little easier. The good thing about functional is oftentimes you can use your network, which might be trickier in an industry shift.  

Then the hardest is to do both, to switch industry and to switch function. When I say the hardest, that's not in any way to scare you from doing it. We just want you to prepare. We want you to know that you're going to have to put in a little bit of extra work to make that case, but these happen. Every day, people make full on switches from industry and function, pick a whole new career. That's much more exciting for them and they don't regret it for a second. 

Know that you can do all three, but it is important for you to know which one you are picking so you can prepare yourself for the amount of effort and energy that's going to come along. We don’t want you to get discouraged in the process. 

Just know that some of these may be a little bit of a heavier lift than the others. 

Looking at the career exploration process, this class really covers the end of that process. You're going to start with your values and skills. You're going to understand what's important to you, what you want to be doing. Then you're going to cycle through those options. Then you're going to analyze those options. Now you're going to make your plan, which is really what we're going to cover in this class.

Determine Your Goals

In this section, we want to talk about determining your goals. It's important that you state when, how, and what you want to do. Goals will help you focus your effort.

They'll keep you energized, and they'll give you purpose. Too many times, people embark on this journey without a destination. Setting the goal can become overwhelming and scary because there's a chance you don't hit it, but that's absolutely okay. That's not failure. What can lead to failure and perpetual discomfort is to not state these. You can always change them, but we highly recommend that you set goals. 

There's a very simple framework for goals called SMART. We like this framework for a career shift. It’s specific, so it can’t be too broad. It’s measurable and attainable. Don't psych yourself out by doing something that you can't actually achieve because then you'll probably drop it. It's relevant. It ties to your intentionality and what you want to do right now. Most important of all, it's timed. If it's open-ended. 

This is how you set a smart goal. 

You want to think about the range in which you want to do them, either long term and short term. You really want both because the long term will give you a little bit more of that north star, and the short term will give you these daily tactics and daily things that you want to be doing. 

Here’s an example of a long term goal:

  • Work in a marketing role for a food related startup company that is mission driven and provides a flexible work from home schedule in 1 year

You want to accomplish this in one year, but what will you be doing day in and day out to get there? Here’s an example of that short term goal:

  • Connect with and build relationships with 10 marketing professionals from food related startups of various stages in the next 3 months

Even better is that you set a date that you're going to do this by. Now you can start to give yourself daily goals. Here’s an example:

  • Reach out to 5 people a week that might lead to 1 meeting a week over the course of 3 months

There you go. You'll have hit 10 professionals that you'll have networked. 

It's really important that you continue to go back to your “why”. Why are you doing this? That's that intrinsic motivation on why this matters to you. Don't just set these goals for the sake of it. Dig deep. Are there aspects about what you're doing right now that are not exciting? Are there things that you want to be doing and that you want to get there sooner so that you can be fulfilled by your work faster? 

There's going to be days you're going to be exhausted. And it's like, why am I doing this? There's going to be rejection. There's going to be challenges along the way. 

If you have your “why”, and you're clear on that end goal you want, it's going to be easier to get back up and keep making progress.

Create a Plan

In this section, we're going to talk about how to make your plan for managing your career shift.

First, we want to make sure that there isn't anything holding you back. When you embark on something large like this, there may be reasons for you not to do it. You want to address these gaps from where you are and where you want to go. You want to make sure that those gaps are well understood and documented.

Are they knowledge gaps, skills gaps, or experience gaps? They're going to prevent you from potentially reaching your goals. The more you can document them, the more you can start to incorporate them into your plan. 

If it's knowledge, you can pick that up. You can read, you can start to volunteer. If it's skills, you can start to take classes, do your own projects. If it's experience, you can start to build up that portfolio also through volunteering and different ways of attaining that experience to make progress. You want to keep yourself accountable by taking action. You want to be doing things. You want to make progress.

You want to keep yourself accountable by creating action steps and the timeline that ties to your smart goals. The action steps are going to tie to your long and short term goals. 

So think about these inputs that you would do, these action steps to help you achieve your goal.

With that, you can then start to form habits. 

If you aren't familiar with the lunch club, we talk about it in other classes. It's this great networking tool where you can meet people with similar objectives, and they pair you, and they handle everything.

You could also reach out to your network. You can post them on LinkedIn, but you create that habit, that cycle of repetitive behavior, and it's going to help you achieve these goals. 

Here's a simple framework for how to create accountability.

  1. Implement a process
  2. Create a schedule
  3. Identify any obstacles
  4. Ask for help from your network
  5. Track your progress
  6. Revisit goal and process quarterly  

These are things that you can do every day. You can check off what you've done and you will see they're going to be compounding because they're going to start to trickle in over time. Before you know it, it's going to feel like it's hitting on all cylinders. Create that schedule and block out the time. Otherwise life just takes your time. It'll get taken by activities with your family. It'll get taken by activities with work. It'll get taken by recreation.

We can't recommend enough that you get in a routine and you set these measurable objectives because these are all about you being proactive and you taking action. 

You're going to want to take a pause and see if there's anything that might get in the way. There's this great concept called a premortem, where you can try to predict the things that could go wrong so that you can then plan for the things that you could do.

Think about the things that might get in the way and give yourself these preemptive plans for how to manage them so you're not caught on your heels. You can be on your toes, ready to charge and address them if they come up. 

Track your progress. Remember, what gets measured, gets managed, so track these on a regular basis and you will see you'll start to make progress, and you'll start to get the outcomes you're looking for. 

We've built a little tool here, Teal’s Career Shift Planner tool, for you to plan it. Making a transition like this, there's really no playbook for it, but we've got some general timelines that we've seen generally work for people. Watch the video to see a thorough walkthrough of how to use this tool. 

Like I've said a few times, you can change your goals. That's not to say to do it willy-nilly because you want to set them, and you want them to be important, but don't fear setting them. What we see is too many times, people don't want to set the goal because they're worried they won't hit it.

The main intent of saying this to you is to set the goal. If you miss it, that just means you were trying really hard and you set too aggressive of a goal. That's okay. Think about the gym, no pain, no gain. If those muscles don't burn, you're not making progress. So push yourself. If you don’t put these goals in place, it could go on forever. 

What we don't want is for you to continue in a job that's not fulfilling, not exciting for you. You're not charged up to go, and nobody deserves to have to do that. It can be done that you can be in a job that's exciting and fulfilling, and the work energizes you. That's what we want to help you get to, faster and better. So set those goals, but don't let them prevent you from embarking on this process.

Wrap Up

The main thing we want you to take from this class is plan, plan, plan. Build yourself a plan. This process of managing a career shift or looking for a job is entirely up to you. Growing your career is something driven internally by you. 

It's not about work that we have to do. It's the work that we want to do. The good thing about that is that the work that we want to do is probably the work we're going to be good at, which is going to be the work that we're going to be better paid for. 

Then you start the virtuous cycle. So this class is about putting that plan on paper, setting those goals, lining them up, knocking them down, making that progress inch by inch, and getting to that new, exciting career that you’re excited about.

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Dave Fano

Founder and CEO of Teal, Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience building products & services to help people leverage technology and achieve more with less.

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