Perfecting the Pivot: What You Need to Know Before Changing Careers

By BrainStation August 14, 2019

One University of Phoenix survey found only 14 percent of American workers believe they have the perfect job — and more than half want to change careers. 

And the younger people are, the more they’re looking for a switch: Nearly 80 percent of workers in their 20s said they wanted to change careers, followed by 64 percent of people in their 30s and just over half of people in their 40s.

Luckily, there are opportunities out there like BrainStation’s diploma programs which are designed to equip individuals with the skills they need to transition into a new career. But whether you’re a Product Manager with a burning desire to get into User Experience Design, or a Writer wondering about going back to school for Web Development, pivoting to a totally new career is bound to be a daunting process. 

So if you’re planning on taking the plunge, what do you need to know?

We asked for some advice from Gwen Elliot, a Course Producer for e-commerce giant Shopify and an Instructor at the University of Toronto’s school of continuing education.

Do Your Homework

If you’re mulling over a career switch, it helps to do some in-depth research on your field of choice — and Elliot says it’s crucial to figure out answers to a few key questions.

The first big one is whether or not it’s a growing industry. Passion projects are one thing, but you’ve also got to pay the bills, right? 

“When switching from TV to online education, I discovered the e-learning industry is on track to hit $331 billion by 2025 and continues to expand,” Elliot says. “Check out Google Trends or find research or media interviews with experts for the industry you’re interested in.”

She also recommends figuring out whether or not a particular company you’re interested in is doing good work in the world.

“In North America, we’re in a privileged position to get to choose our career,” Elliot explains. “When making a career change, do the research to find out how the company can impact people’s lives and if it aligns with your values.”

Look Inward

There’s a lot of panic and anxiety that can come from a career change, but it’s important to go with your gut. 

Elliot says it’s crucial to reflect on what you can bring to the table — and remind yourself that you should feel excited about what you have to offer. “Yes, it’s great to receive benefits and perks from a company, though I find it more rewarding when you can see how you can make an impact,” she says.

And the best way to get a sense of the right move? Meditation, according to Elliot.

“I’m not joking,” she adds. “Switching careers can be a stressful and potentially scary time in your life. Take 10 minutes in the morning and/or evening to calm your mind before going into a new day.”

She recommends checking out the Calm App or Declutter the Mind as a good starting point into learning how to clear your head.

Ask for Advice

When you’re looking into a career switch, you can feel totally alone — and like you’re lagging behind the pack. “I certainly did!” Elliot says. “So I channeled that energy into reading, taking online courses, and meeting experts in [the] industry.”

You’re also bound to have lots of questions about your chosen field, and it’s important to remember that’s totally normal and okay. 

There’s no harm — and only insight to gain — from networking and reaching out to potential mentors to get answers. 

“Ask anyone and everyone to find out,” Elliot recommends.

Cut Yourself Some Slack 

At the end of the day, switching careers is a big decision that might not go quickly or smoothly. But if that’s the case, give yourself a break.

“If you have super high expectations of yourself to crush it right away, you may be setting yourself up for burnout,” Elliot warns.

So if needed, take a breather, and remember that your career as a whole is going to be a long and winding road — but that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it?

If you’re looking to make the jump into a digitally-focused career, BrainStation offers diploma programs in UX Design, Data Science, and Web Development designed to help professionals transform their careers.