Career Pivoting-A Sign of the New American Dream



Today’s professionals are looking for more than stability and a paycheck.

Gone are the days when you took that first job right out of college, and stayed with the company for 20 years. In fact, the Bureau of Labor states that our generation’s average tenure at a job is 4.6 years, with 2.5 years being the typical length of stay for the younger professionals.[1]

Career experts argue that this is the result of a complex vision of Success that has emerged in our generation. For today’s millennials, compensation is not enough. Equally important are passion, professional growth, variety and flexibility.


Wage-earners seek flexibility and control over their personal lives.

We are living in the era of the independent professional, a trend fueled by technological innovations that enable us to work from untraditional places– to be work nomads, if we please. This move is part of the new American Dream, as witnessed in HGTV shows like, Househunter’s International, where entrepreneurs grab their laptops, surfboards and passports in search of that perfectly balanced life.

The thirst for independent work is enabling the rise of e-lancing with 53 million people, 1/3 of the workforce, identifying themselves as freelancers or doing independent work, according to Jody Greenstone Miller, the Founder and CEO of Business Talent Group.[2]


Here are some signs:

  • You are uninspired
  • The drive to work fills you with dread. It’s not only the long commute. It’s everything.
  • You have plateaued. There is no more room for growth.
  • You call in sick more than you should, and you don’t care.
  • Your job is really making you sick
  • You are leaving; it’s just a matter of when.
  • You would like your family’s support but you are willing to leap out without it.
  • You picked the wrong major, now you hate your job, and despite the loans, your professional happiness is nonnegotiable.
  • A new passion is calling you.
  • You are over working for others. It’s risky but want to work for yourself.
  • You want less work, more play, and less structure.



Marketing Makeover

To smooth the transition, you will need to market yourself, give your resume a makeover, and identify areas where you are weak and in need of training. Highlight your transferable skills. Prepare to convince a new industry that you are ready to succeed in a new environment.

Online Makeover

Spruce up your online profiles. Update your photos, reorganize your skills and talents, and make sure that your LinkedIn profile doesn’t box you into an old persona that could confuse prospective employers.

Convince Your Employer That your Pivot is not an Accident But a True Career Change

If you are career changing, expect prospective employers to be skeptical. You will have to defend your new passion and convincingly explain the end of your previous one.

Avoiding Mistakes

The biggest mistake is waiting for a perfect moment, because it will never come, states Elli Sharef, guest writer for Forbes.[3] Insecurity will keep you stuck and your mind will give you countless excuses why you should not move forward. This is fear talk. If you know you are ready for the change, don’t look back.


It won’t happen overnight. When you finally make the pivot, you may find that the position is not everything you thought it would be. You may have to start in an entry level role, regardless of your years of experience in a previous industry.  Your degree may have little to do with where and how you are placed. You may be assigned duties you feel are beneath you, or responsibilities that push you out of your comfort zone. Getting the pivot right could take a series of trial and errors.

It May Take Some Time

To minimize detours, do your research and make sure you understand the lifestyle, environment and responsibilities that will come with a career shift. It might not work out the first time. If you err, don’t beat yourself down, or backpedal into safety. Take the lessons the detours will teach you, shake it off, and start over.

In the Meantime-Freelance, Intern, Volunteer

Since it can take time to transition successfully, Jody Greenstone Miller suggests taking on project work, freelancing and even interning, a practice, she argues, that is not the sole realm o f college students, but could also work for professional adults. Mature interns, as the movie The Intern (2015) starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway captures, bring a lot to the table; a beneficial collaboration could be reached between the company you are considering and your experienced self. In the meantime, working on projects, or interning will help you stay balanced, avoid obsessing over the timing of the switch, and keep you sociable and sharp.


Sometimes the pivot is not from one industry to another, but from working for someone else to becoming your own boss. In the ultimate leap of faith, the entrepreneur may leave a stable salary, a predictable career path, reserved parking, perks, and a trail of accomplishments behind.

Taking the leap to be your own boss can be scary. Very scary. This is especially true if your background is in one industry, but your dream is to start a business in another,” states Darrah Brustein, a contributor for Entrepreneur.[4]

In addition to the fears associated with leaving a secure job, entrepreneurs may risk disappointing family, a risk that Brustein argues is worth taking, since those who love us tend to come around and support our happiness.


You may find yourself facing this type of fork in the road. From the outside, you may seem like picture of success. But inside, you may be uninspired and done. For Kelsey Ramsden, writer for Entrepreneur, this is a telling sign that an imminent career pivot is in the horizon: “I’ve never met someone who says she regrets leaving a situation she dreaded each day.[5]

How will you manage your next career move?

Will you allow passion and curiosity to drive the next step? Or will you play it safe?

What is at stake is your happiness.

How will you choose?

[2] [Stanford Graduate School of Business]. (2015, May 15). Career Pivot: Build Your Knowledge Base. [Video File]. Retrieved from
[3] Sharef, E. (2013, July 26). An Entrepreneur Tells All: How To Make A Career Pivot. [Web log post]. Retrieved from
[4]Brustein, D. (2015, July 20). 9 Entrepreneurs Tell Their Stories of Pivoting 180 Degrees to Start New Careers. [Web log post]. Retrieved from
[5] Ramsden, K. (2014, August 26). Bravely Facing the Epic Decision of a Career Pivot. [Web log post]. Retrieved from



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