About to Pivot? Five Pitfalls to Avoid

A career transition can be really exciting. It’s also often accompanied with uncertainty, doubt and frustration. Regardless, if you’re looking to make a larger change in your career it can be overwhelming thinking about where to start.  

While there’s no specific recipe to follow to successfully make a career transition, there are a few pitfalls and challenges I’ve seen many times play out that could be avoided.


Thinking Grad School Will Guarantee You A Job

Are you in the nonprofit world thinking of getting into corporate responsibility? Or are you working in finance or consulting and thinking you want to shift into the nonprofit sector to ‘do good work’ in the world?

Many people go back to school when they’re considering entering a new career field. Often it feels like you need an academic credential to prove you’re capable of making the change. Or you think you’ll build a network of peers who will help you find your next position. Sometimes this is the case. But it’s often not.

A graduate degree – business, public administration, law, or other kinds – can definitely introduce you to another world and get you prepared for the type of topics, issues and challenges you might face in a different sector. But it doesn’t guarantee you a job. It does guarantee you’ll be out a big chunk of change before you’ve even tried out the new field.  

So before you decide to take on the time, energy and financial commitment of another degree, make sure it really makes sense for you.

Try asking yourself, why do I want to go back to school? What am I specifically looking to get out of it? Is it necessary? What other ways are there to gain knowledge of a different industry that don’t cost a ton of money and take years?


Jumping In Before Testing Out Your Interest

Some people use grad school as a way to test out their interest in something. That’s great – as mentioned, it can just be an expensive test.

Let’s pretend you currently oversee programs but think you’d like to shift into digital marketing. You might want to think through what types of work you’d be doing in a digital marketing role and actually try out pieces of that work. What better way to find out if it’s actually what you like, and get some real experience than actually testing it out! 

Or if you’re interested in shifting into the nonprofit world, you might consider joining a small nonprofit board, or volunteering in another capacity.

Thinking about being a professional coach? Think like a designer and prototype! Start coaching those you know and see what it’s like to do it in a more official way. You don’t have to have a website, business cards and an LLC set up! Just start with one client and see where things go. If you decide you don’t like it after trying it out, you’ve just saved yourself a bunch of time and probably money!

Try asking yourself, how could I test out a part of what it would be like to make the shift in my career I’m interested in and do different work? What ways can I try out something to see if I might like it as a full time job? Need some ideas on how to prototype? Check out our Life Design Series

Only Focusing on Traditional Job Search Techniques

Resume. LinkedIn. Networking events.

We all know the traditional tasks and pieces that go along with job searches and career changes. But what works for you?

Seriously. Take a minute to think about how you got jobs in the past. Was it through a former colleague? Was it from going to an industry conference and meeting people? Was it through looking through lots of job postings and applying to a few that seemed to be spot on for you?

There’s a tendency to feel like you have to be ‘out there!’ networking and going to events every evening to meet people because you don’t know who you might meet that might have the best job for you! That’s partly true, but for many people this is exhausting and awkward. If you find it draining and dread the thought of it, you’re probably not at your best when you’re at big, social networking events.

Traditional networking events might not actually play to your strengths of how you build relationships. You might build a smaller number of deeper relationships that yield just as much value. Think about how you form relationships with people and think about what kinds of relationships you like building – that will probably lead you to uncovering the best route for you and tell you what the best networking style is for you.

Try asking yourself, what are the skills and talents I bring to my work and how can I apply those to my job search so I’m playing to my strengths and not burning out by trying to do what everyone else does?


Networking Before You Have Clarity

Whether it’s big, networking mixers or one-on-one coffees with former colleagues, it’s critical to spend the time thinking through what you want to communicate so you’re coming across polished and professional.

This doesn’t mean you have to know exactly what you’re looking to do next – in fact, you should be open about the fact that you’re exploring different career paths. Because that’s probably why you’re networking – to learn more and get more info on your interests to determine what the best move is for you next.

But when you do start networking, you want to have a clear, eloquent 90-second ‘story’ or ‘narrative’ that tells people who you are, what you’re exploring, why it’s of interest to you, and the info that you’re seeking to determine if this is the right path for you and how you might explore it further.

So ask yourself, can I communicate to different people why I’m interested in talking to them without giving them a 5-minute overview of my life? Do I know what I’m looking to get out of a networking experience or conversation so that I maximize both their and my time?


Not Giving Yourself Enough Time

There are tons of factors at play that makes it impossible to predict how long it will really take to make a career change. Where you live, your salary level, your experience level, the type of change you’re trying to make and other external factors all play into how long it takes.

Even if you’re staying in the same industry and looking for a similar job, a job search can take months to a year. If you’re trying to make a bigger pivot, it’s probably going to take you more time.

I’ve seen serious job hunting clients find a job in less than 6 weeks, and many have searched rigorously for more than a year before securing a final position.

You want to start laying the foundation for change, and starting to look before you find yourself so frustrated at work that you’re loosing energy because you’re so drained by your current job. The more burned out and miserable you are in your current work often the longer it takes to find something else. So start now!

So ask yourself, do I think I’ll want to be in this job in six months? Or a year? What would I be looking to move into next? How long should I give myself to make the transition so I don’t end up feeling stuck and drained in my current position?


Again, everyone’s search is different and there’s no one ‘right approach’ to figuring out your career path.

Got another pitfall to avoid? Let us know!