Some people are lucky enough to find the right job or career path early in life, and they never dream of changing careers. Others prefer changing jobs every couple of years to experience something new or take on a new challenge. But for anyone who feels stuck in a rut, making a pivot is possible. You don’t just have to move jobs — you can change careers.
“People are rethinking how work fits into their life instead of how life fits into their work,” says Joanne Lipman, former editor-in-chief of USA Today and author of the book “Next,” all about helping workers find their sense of purpose. “That’s why companies are getting so much pushback when they now ask workers to return to the office five days a week. That’s especially true with younger workers, who no longer see their place of employment as the place they want to retire from like their parents and grandparents may have.”
In general, Millennials spend slightly less than three years in each job. GenZers spend a little more than two years at each job, Lipman shares. You have more opportunities for reinvention than you think. Here’s where to start.
1. Start With Your Gut
Our gut feelings are usually right, Lipman explains.
“The reason that it tends to be correct is because it actually doesn’t come out of nowhere,” she says. “Gut feeling is literally physical. It’s when your body gets there before your brain does.”
Successful pivoters aren’t people who just “dropped one identity suddenly and then said, ‘I’m going to adopt another,’”she says. Instead, people generally “inch along” toward making a career change, heading in the direction that their passions have been steering them towards for a long time. Sometimes, we may even start on our path to change before we’re even consciously aware of it.
For example, take the marketing professional who has a yoga and wellness side hustle, who eventually starts their own marketing firm for yoga studios. The seeds were planted long before the shift took place.
If you’re not sure where your gut is leading you, try flipping a coin. While the coin is in the air, see if you wish for it to land one way or the other. That’s your gut talking.
2. Search For Reinvention in Changing Careers
Have you ever heard the term “necessity entrepreneur”? It applies to people who get pushed out of mainstream careers and reinvent themselves as a result.
“Necessity entrepreneurs tend to be women, people of color, and increasingly, baby boomers who are reaching retirement age and being squeezed out of the workforce before they’re ready,” Lipman says. “All of these groups end up becoming entrepreneurs or having to reinvent their careers, because they don’t have a choice.”
That’s when the “search” process begins. For many of us, it’s the first step in the process of reinvention. This stage is when you begin collecting information and experiences, Lipman explains. This could involve a course you’re taking, baking cakes for birthday parties or volunteering at a hospital or charity. You start to pursue your passions, wherever they may lie, and you begin to see what sticks. What lights you on fire as you consider making a career change that will stick and offer fulfillment.
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3. Struggling Is Where All The Work Comes In
Struggle is the step many of us don’t like to talk about.
“This is where you start to disconnect from your previous identity but you haven’t quite figured out the new one,” she says. “It’s really uncomfortable and we feel miserable when we’re in it, which is why we don’t talk about it.”
Generally, when people tell their reinvention stories, they tend to skip over this step. But this is where all the hard work gets done.
“I call it ‘The Cinderella Myth,’ because we’re brought up on this idea that transformation should happen overnight,” Lipman says. “It’s Cinderella or Spider-Man or Superman. It’s ‘American Idol’ and ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.’ All this teaches us that transformation should happen instantly. And that means that when it doesn’t happen for us, we feel bad about ourselves.”
The truth is, a career change isn’t an overnight story. It’s normal and natural for the process to take years.
If you’re struggling, Lipman recommends envisioning what it would feel like to be the person you want to be.
“How would others perceive you?” she asks. “And very importantly, what are the steps you would actually have to take to get there? It’s not simply enough to imagine who you might be, you’ve got to actually get outside of your head and take action on it.”
4. Embrace The Stop
“The stop is something that pulls you out of your routine,” Lipman says. “That could be something you choose, like quitting your job, or it could be something imposed on you, such as being laid off.”
It could also be anything that pulls you out of your routine, like a child going to college, a divorce, or even an illness. Whatever it is, it gives you perspective that you need to get a handle on all the thoughts that have been floating around in your head and work towards the solution.
The solution is the transition. Your transition. Your career change, life change — whatever it is you’ve been seeking. You may be a Wall Street trader who (literally) buys the farm. You may be a full-time working mom who scales back to part-time work in order to build an Etsy storefront. Or a stressed-out engineer who decides to write a novel.
Whatever it is, don’t be scared by life change if it seems extreme. When women reinvent their careers, Lipman says, they frequently end up pivoting into something very different that’s often purpose-driven. It means it may look very different than their last few decades of life.
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