Wednesday, September 27, 2023

How to make a successful mid-career pivot

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Jaime Leverston is CEO of Cabin 8 Mining.

One of the most common topics I get asked about is the career switch I made two years ago. With a number of companies dropping out thousands of employees in the fourth quarter of this year, many professionals may be considering a career pivot of their own.

Twenty years ago, when my manager at a major tech company casually asked me what I saw for my future, I answered without hesitation, “CEO.” He was incredulous, but I was serious. Why shouldn’t I aim for the top job? Now, after a career of more than 20 years at traditional tech companies, I was given a role that put me at the forefront of an emerging industry, and today I am the CEO of a publicly traded digital currency miner. I decided to make this pivot because, like many established professionals, I was ready for a new set of challenges and the excitement of learning a new space.

Traditionally, switching industries has been a career move for younger and more junior team members still navigating their careers. This is no longer the case. A career pivot to a new industry is also of interest to many mid-career and senior leaders. Many career paths are still emerging from year to year, so it may make sense to pivot if you’re looking for new responsibilities and opportunities.

The average age of career changers is 39 years old, according to a Survey Indeed 2019 of 662 full-time US employees. Interest in this kind of career transformation is growing worldwide: Only 35% “of those who quit in the last two years found a new job in the same industry,” McKinsey reported. Here’s what I’ve learned about navigating this transition as an established professional moving into a new industry.

Give it enough time.

While the time it takes to land a new job depends on the level of the position and your strength as a candidate, it can still take months to land a new job. If you’re looking to make a complete career switch, expect it to take even longer and give yourself time to explore options and better understand how you can contribute to this new industry.

Identify the correct next industry.

When considering the type of industry you want to move into, it may help to start with the framework of whether an established or emerging industry is a better fit for you. An established industry can be more predictable and mature, while an emerging industry generally moves faster and is less defined. Each offers different learning opportunities and work styles.

From here, finding the best match in this new industry starts with understanding what leaders in those industries are concerned about and want to solve. This starts with learning as much as you can about the industry. Attend conferences, view job openings and announcements, and understand current industry bottlenecks and needs. Talk directly to industry leaders and find perspectives and first-line insights on key challenges and opportunities. That’s how I came to know that my unique half-tech/half-financial background would be a good fit to help the digital currency space at this early stage of its lifecycle.

Do a personal and professional experience audit.

Treat yourself and your career as you would a company. Think about what you can contribute and what you need to succeed.

Start by listing the skills and abilities you’ve developed throughout your career, and look beyond what you may have done in the past. What are the business, strategic, or organizational challenges solved, opportunities seized, or successes achieved beyond industry or job specifics? How can your past experiences contribute to the way you solve problems in the present? Search your attributes to find transferable impact points, professional lines, and skills and experiences that would interest your target audience. My experience of transformation and growth became the common thread connecting my previous career chapters to the currents of my new industry and company.

Consider how your journey and perspective can also benefit your audience or team. For me, I saw how male dominated my current and target industry were. I have made changing this reality part of my unique offering.

Customize your story.

As you enter a new industry, revise your career pitch and story so that it reflects the issues and priorities of the industry leaders you’d like to work with. When making an industry shift, be prepared to share why you want the industry to take a leap and how you expect to make a positive impact.

Finally, don’t be afraid to use your newcomer status as an advantage. A fresh look can provide important new perspectives, and as a result, companies can no longer assume that they have to fill vacant positions with talent profiles, as they have done in the past.

Tell your network.

As much as I prepared myself to receive opportunities, all my roles came from my network or from others who made an opening to my abilities. This is the case with many positions, especially in technology. Some estimates suggest that up to 85% of positions be filled through networks.

When you’re ready to explore positions, reach out to your network and let them know you’re exploring opportunities outside of your current industry. Share the details of your story so they can keep you in mind when new openings arise.

Making a shift in the industry midway through your career can be challenging and stressful, but it can also be immensely rewarding in the long run. Research by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt showed that people who choose change are more satisfied than those who don’t. As I reach the second anniversary of my new position, I certainly agree. The past two years have been even more exciting and fun than I could have hoped for. Business Council is the leading growth and networking organization for entrepreneurs and leaders. Am I eligible?


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