• Maya Grossman

How to Make a Successful Career Pivot

If you are considering a change or a pivot in your career, this week's advice could help you make a decision and prepare for the change:

You know I like to keep things real, so let me start by saying change isn't easy. It's scary and uncomfortable, but it's the price we pay to grow and learn. To evolve from being the person we are today, to the person we can become. The best advice I can give you is this: get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I got this advice from a Jillian Micheals workout DVD, but it applies to your career and your life. First things first. Before making a big change you should ask yourself: Why am I doing this? --> If you are running towards something, something that excites you, that would make your life better, that will bring fulfillment and growth - by all means, go for it. --> If you are running away from something, adding "massive career change" to your list of problems may not be the best solution. Let's assume Emma is excited to try a new direction. Here are a few things she should consider: 1. Emma may need to take a step back. While she has years of experience and has gained transferable skills, without hands-on experience in her new field of interest, she may need to spend some time gaining the practical experience she is missing. Notice I highlighted "may". This shouldn't be a given. There are ways to plan and prepare for such a move that will allow for a seamless move (more on that later). 2. Emma will probably need to spend HOURS learning and qualifying herself for the new role. She needs to make sure she is willing and able to make that commitment. 3. A big pivot may require months of preparation. It's not something I would not recommend doing off the cuff. Emma needs to know this type of transition requires patience. What does Emma stand to gain? 1. A challenging and fulfilling career. We spend 90,000 hours at work, we deserve to enjoy this time, not feel miserable. 2. New growth opportunities when stacking up skills. There is great value in combining different professions with complementary skills. For example, a product manager who can write code, a marketer with a background in sales, and even seemingly unrelated skills like an oil driller who studied philosophy. There is a unique value that comes from generalists or multi-passionate people. They tend to be more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see (I first discovered it when I listened to this podcast with David Epstein who wrote the book Range). In Emma's case, I would argue she could bring a ton of value to the product role with her marketing background. 3. Owning her career and her future, and gaining confidence in the process.

Wait, so should Emma go for it? The only person who can answer this question is Emma. I believe in pursuing your dream and living up to your potential. If making a pivot will allow you to do that - you should go for it. BUT, if I was considering this change, this is what I would do: First, I would clearly outline how my unique skills (in this case product + marketing) will make me an exceptional product manager. If you are not sure how to do that, I would look for other product managers who started their careers in marketing and ask them. You can find them on LinkedIn or join a community for product managers.

Next, I would outline the right industries, markets, or types of companies where these skills would be most appreciated. Let me explain. While the core of a product manager's job is the same across different industries, there may be nuances. A company with a highly technical B2B product may benefit from a product marketer with technical skills, whereas a consumer packaged goods company selling directly to consumers may benefit from hiring a product manager with marketing skills like customer research and copywriting. If you want to make your transition smooth, you should focus on companies where your background would add value and position you as a top candidate. Now that you know what you are aiming for and how you would bring value, focus on gaining the experience you need, educating, and qualifying yourself for the role. I explain how to do it in this post (I talk about marketing but it applies to any role):

Lastly, the easiest way to pivot is to do it internally. If you can create an opportunity to pivot with your existing employer it would allow you to gain the experience you need without taking a massive step back or having to prove yourself. You can start by splitting your time between the two roles to test the waters, and then make the full transition. I think many of us used to think career success means linear growth, but it's now clear you can move up, down, and sideways and still be happy and fulfilled. Listen to your inner voice and do what is right for you and ignore the outside world or strangers on the internet. The only person who knows what you were made for is you. Good luck!

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