On Career Pivots :How to (Re) Light Your Fire
Longing to move but standing in place, I see you. At the crossroads of the wrong direction and the one you don’t currently know, it is easy to remain right there. If you are stuck in a job that feels like work, wander with me for a moment. I can see the way forward because I have been at this intersection before. In my career journey, I transitioned from stifled lawyer to burnt-out ad woman to passionless pandemic parent to today’s emerging artist and writer because I learned to be brave, talk to people, and try things.
And I am not special. According to Pew Research, 53% of employed U.S. adults who quit their job in 2021 changed their occupation or field of work. In that year, 47 million Americans quit their jobs — an unprecedented mass exit from the workforce sparked by Covid-19. While resignations have slowed since their peak in 2022, the current workforce continues to demand work-life balance and fulfillment from employment. As companies grapple with incentivizing employees to return to the office five days per week, the work-from-home lifestyle gives colleagues the freedom to grow side hustles into self-supporting businesses. It is easier for hustlers with a clear passion point and target market to cut the cord from corporate America. However, for many, the nagging desire for change is the only identifiable message from the voice of intuition. Without a clear destination, we linger.
Trapped in the wrong direction? Be bold and ask for help
Connecting to people with jobs I admired helped me to understand my options and how to get there. In my current exploration, one such advisor is Dara Astmann. A Westchester-based career coach, Astmann helps clients from around the country evaluate what works best for their families while discovering their own fulfillment needs. Astmann understands because her career story is a lesson in navigating the circuitous route of a modern career. After 20+ years in advertising media and sales at Viacom (now ParamountGlobal), Astmann made a slow and deliberate shift to coaching to embrace her excitement for helping friends and colleagues navigate career shifts.
For clients who long to make a big leap, lead with realism
“Many clients think they need to leave immediately, but it helps to find your way when you are still at your job.” Astmann encourages clients to work with their companies to create what they desire, helping them position themselves for part-time or job-sharing roles as they transition to what comes next. In Astmann’s experience, clients sometimes think they want a big change, but “after learning how to ask for the flexibility they need, they realize they don’t need a huge change to feel satisfied.” Not everyone needs to make a career pivot.
Still longing for an identity shift? Take baby steps
In my own career and Astmann’s, success is the sum of the small steps you take every day. As Astmann puts it, “The point is not to pick a path, but to identify potential paths.” She advises clients to “take one step forward to learn more about each option.” Talk to someone. Research online. Take free classes. Call it a project or an experiment. It will feel a little bit less scary.
Surrender to the story as it unfolds
For writer and marketing consultant Serena Norr, career development comes with hustle and flow. As a college student in the early 2000s, Norr’s interests oscillated from writing to acting to elementary education. Her first editorial positions at Time Out New York and Playbill prove prescient today while building her reputation as a playwright. In the twenty years between then and now, Norr learned how to hustle, building a freelance writing and marketing career, starting her own soup blog and raising three young girls. Like many career shifters, Covid-19 opened the door to rediscover old dreams. Balancing work, the demands of her young family, and Zoom Theater, Norr churned out inventive plays featuring characters that are equally quirky and deep. Unconnected to the New York theater scene, Norr carved a name for herself by entering her plays into contests and saying yes to the opportunities that come from it. When asked what her best advice for career shifters is, Norr’s answer is twofold: “1) say yes, and 2) keep all the channels open. Even if you are in your corporate job, keep doing your art. Do it for the joy of it and have blind faith.”
At her suggestion of joy and faith as a guide, I say, “Amen.” In my own nonlinear route from law to writing, I continue onward because of the joy I feel for creative work and my faith that my words might propel even just one person forward in a search for passion and purpose. To that end, if you feel a stir in your heart that you need a change, acknowledge it. If you feel lost without a sense of excitement or passion, play and experiment. When you find yourself stuck, take one small action that deviates from your usual routine. If you get scared or lose your way, begin again when you feel the call. It is OK to pause or fall on your face–as long as you get back up and keep trying.