White arrows leading to a yellow arrow that is turning around next to a woman in a suit

Are you thinking about a career pivot?

By Craig Petrus, Executive Director of Career Services, Warrington College of Business

Whether you are a current student or have been in the workforce for a number of years, we all have those moments in time in which we wake up one morning and think to ourselves, “I want to do something different.” Whether it is completely changing the trajectory of your career into a different industry, function, or company, or looking inside your current company for a new challenge, these thoughts are natural and healthy to have. Many successful business executives get excited about the overall challenge of learning something new and accomplishing a new career goal in their life. So how do you do it? How do you make the pivot into a completely different career knowing that there could be a steep learning curve when faced with a new company, industry or function?

Continuous Learning

Upon your decision to make a significant move in your career, you can’t just “wish” your way into a new career or job. You have to recreate yourself and the professional image you portray in order to be seriously considered for a significant move. You accomplish this by possessing a mindset of continuous learning. Immersing yourself through research and self-education towards your end goal is crucial so that you start to think, speak, and act like a business executive in the area you are targeting. It is very important to do this type of homework prior to engaging in any conversations with individuals about what it is you are going after, as first impressions can make or break the progress of your pivot. Why? Because when you do have that opportunity to explore your career change with individuals and when you are actually in a position of being considered for a new role, you need to position yourself as someone who is confident in your ability to perform in your new career and have demonstrated the significant time and effort you have put into learning all there is to know about your new career direction, industry, function or company. In today’s world, self-education resources and information are at your fingertips. Resources to consider for continuous learning are LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com), Vault Career Guides (accessible through UF’s online business library), industry associations, functional certification information, and of course, company websites.

Transferable Skills

Identifying the crucial skills needed in a function/industry you are targeting is important. Knowing how they can (or cannot) relate to your current skills and how you communicate this however is equally, if not most important in any career pivot. Through your continuous learning efforts (as described above), you should become self-aware enough to know what skills are crucial to the job you are focusing on, what crucial skills you currently possess, and what skills you need to acquire in order to be seriously considered for your next career move. A great way to identify needed skills for a particular job is through the study of multiple job descriptions and the ability to identify themes of skills that seem to repeat themselves. A great exercise in identifying themes is to look at multiple company’s job descriptions and physically print them out on paper. Once you have them in front of you, highlight in one color those that you feel you have, and with a different color, those that you do not possess, in which you need to acquire. For those skills that you feel you possess based upon your study of the job description, start to document resume bullet points and interview stories in order to build upon your foundation of establishing yourself as a viable candidate. For those skills that you do not possess, go out and get them, to the best of your ability. Some skills can be easy to acquire (technology, software, professional development training, etc.), while some may not (leadership experience, level of responsibility, etc.). As you explore this aspect of the pivot you are trying to make, you have to be self-aware enough to know what you can and cannot acquire, have or do not have, in order to put forth a strong case for yourself and your pivot. It is important to possess realistic expectations as well along your journey, as some skills and abilities required for a job are non-starters for those that assess job applicants.

Networking and Building Your Bench of Advocates

In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of any career pivot are the people around you, those that can help you along the way and those that become future advocates for you and your journey. There is no better way than to learn about a new function or industry than to speak to someone who is already there. There is no better way to learn more about a company that to speak with someone who is already working there. A great way to positively impact your learning process is by conducting Information Interviews with those individuals whom you identify and inspire to be within your target company, function and/or industry. Take the time to interview them about their success stories, their challenges, what skills they possess, what insight and advice they can provide for your journey. You have a wealth of information right in front of you, so take advantage of these moments to become a sponge and learn as much as you can during an easy 15-30-45-minute phone call or cup of coffee. Remember though, first impressions are everything, so be sure to come prepared. This is why the importance of continuous learning and gaining a good foundation of knowledge is important prior to engaging in this activity. Showing the person in front of you that you have done your homework and asking excellent questions will go a long way in determining whether or not the person you are speaking with becomes your future advocate or it is a “one and done” conversation.

To learn more about how UF MBA can help you pivot your career, join us at a Topgolf information session.

How do you identify and start to build your bench of advocates? A great way to source individuals is through LinkedIn and a search of the University of Florida – Warrington College of Business LinkedIn page. By clicking on the “Alumni” tab of our LinkedIn home page, you have access to over 22,000 current students and alumni of the Warrington College of Business, all which can be searched and filtered down into several different categories such as where the live, who they work for, what they do, what they studied, what they are skilled at, and how you are connected with them on the platform. Once you have identified those that you want to reach out to, connect with them on LinkedIn with a strong, personal note (all within 300 characters), requesting a few minutes of their time in order for you to learn more about what they do and how they got there. For those advocates you identify at your currently company (functional pivot), reach out to them and ask them to lunch or a cup of coffee.

Pivoting careers is not always impossible to accomplish. You just have to be self-aware enough and possess realistic expectations to know who you currently are, the strategy that it is going to take to get you there, and whether or not you are up for the challenge and hard work of getting there.