There comes a point in our careers where, whether it be an inflection point, layoff, or some form of inertia, that we consider the once unthinkable: it may be time to try something new. Career pivots are not abnormal — 53% of employed U.S. adults who quit their job in 2021 changed their occupation or field of work at some point last year, according to Pew Research. Like so many other decisions, there could be trade-offs to making such a change worth considering.
Below, we help guide you through the three factors worth considering as you venture down the career pivot path to make the best call for yourself — and your future.
1. Considering career pivots: What’s the landscape?
A few months ago, this very article could have looked rather different. “Why shouldn’t you consider a career pivot, hiring is at an all-time high!” were among the statements more commonly uttered once upon a time less than a year ago.
When there's lower risk and higher reward (or at least, the perception of it), it's easier to take that career leap of faith. However, there are many moving parts to the decision, when broken down, are worth weighing prior to making the change. Let’s dig into a few.
Understanding the current job market
In reality, the job market is actually not all that bad — in fact, the unemployment rate in the U.S. was down to 3.5% in March. That said, all employment is not created equal. If you’re in certain areas of the job market, such as tech, you may have seen (or unfortunately, been part of) a recent swath of layoffs.
Depending on your areas of interest, doing a deep dive into the hiring around certain positions and sectors is incredibly important. The path to those answers is not out of reach either. In fact, recruiters are more open to these types of discussions than you may believe.
Setting realistic expectations on salary
Taking on a new career may also affect your wallet, which means considering the level of pay cut you can endure is a vital part in the career pivot process. In order to stomach the volatility, it’s worth considering the following:
1. Your current financial situation
Whether or not a lower salary will impact your quality of life is critical as you consider a career change. For instance:
• Will it require more education or a degree (that the company may or may not provide as an added benefit)?
• Is the starting salary comparable to your current one?
Making an assessment of your finances, inlcuding how long you could manage a lower salary at the expense of a more fulfilling career, means that you can prepare for the unexpected and adapt accordingly.
2. The salary/experience trade-off
There’s trade-offs to this consideration that aren’t only financial. You may want to ask yourself the following:
• Will you be making less but gaining invaluable experience that will make up for it later?
• Are there growth opportunities within the company that you can validate before accepting a position to minimize the risk?
3. Timing is everything
Then there's the big question: Is this the right time in the job market or personally to make this change? There’s a good chance it could never be the right time for multiple reasons, but it’s worthwhile to ensure that at least some of these considerations are within your control and not solely at the behest of the economy or hiring managers.
2. Minding the (career) gap between the known and unknown
Another key piece of the career pivot is your knowledge gap between the new career and the experience you’ve already built up to date. If the change is significant, the gap will be wider, making it imperative that you factor a learning curve into your career move. Some questions for consideration:
1. What are my career goals?
2. Are my current skills transferable or applicable to this new career path?
3. Am I passionate enough about this new career endeavor that I'm willing to build knowledge from a blank canvas?
4. Could (or should) I start this as a side project in order to test the waters before fully diving in?
Do your career research
If you’re able to check off most or all of the boxes above, you’re likely set to move on to the “research” phase of your career pivot considerations. One of the best ways to truly know if the grass is greener is to actually speak to people who are currently in your desired roles, as they have first-hand knowledge of its pros and cons. Here’s a few ways to cover your bases:
1. Tap into your personal network
It’s just a fact that you’re more likely to have an honest discussion with someone you know or who is one-to-two degrees of separation away. There will typically be a higher level of comfort in asking pointed questions that you would not necessarily feel at ease with during a job interview, giving you the confidence to move forward or reassess your options. Who knows, you might even be able to tap one of these individuals for a future testimonial.
2. Compare and contrast role requirements
If you have an ideal role in mind (and if you don’t, even more important to tap your network for advice), take a look across the web for past and present job descriptions and where your current gaps are. Depending on what you find, there could be alternative paths to starting at a higher position or gaining further experience without pivoting from your current role right away.
3. Check (reputable) employer reviews
In the case where there’s only a handful of companies that offer the type of position you’re seeking, there’s likely some reviews out there that could help you decide whether this pivot is right for you. The reason we added “reputable” here is that there are many sites that will elevate favorable company reviews on a pay-to-play basis, which can influence what you see — and as important, what you do not — about a company.
3. Your motivations for making a career change
There’s one other nuance to the career pivot — how you actually feel about such a massive decision. Putting all of the financial and informed pieces together that we outline above is the pragmatic approach, but it’s also worth considering the following:
1. What is it about your current work that has led you down this path?
Consider the drivers of your decision to pivot, and whether or not your satisfaction with the actual work is among them. Some questions you can ask include:
• Is it the actual work, or other factors such as the culture of the company, remote/hybrid setups, or difficult colleagues that have led you down this path?
• Can your malaise be solved within the company you’re currently working for by raising concerns around culture, taking on a new role, or joining another team if everything else fits your needs?
2. Is failure an option?
Even with a high likelihood of success, we need to make room for the prospect of failure. Is that something you (and your finances) can stomach compared to the personal investment you’ve made in your pivot?
3. Is a deliberate transition the better move?
Many members of the Polywork community have found their side hustles energizing complements to their day jobs, making the “work” parts of their lives richer. Therefore, tapping communities you’re a part of (or can join) to make the pivot feel more like a smooth transition could be a path to lower risk (and lesser resistance).