We tend to think of career changes as abrupt: you take a new job, or return to school, and make a sudden shift into the next phase. In the new book Pivot, Google Career Guru coaching program co-creator Jenny Blake explores the idea of embracing smaller career changes, via pilot projects, building on the career you already have in order to move forward.
“Careers are not linear, predictable ladders any longer; they are fluid trajectories,” Blake explains on her website. “No matter our age, life stage, bank account balance, or seniority, we are all being asked to navigate career changes much more frequently than in years past. The average employee tenure in American is just four to five years, and even those roles change dramatically within that time. Our economy now demands that we create businesses and careers based on creativity, growth, and impact. In this dynamic world of work, the only move that matters is your next one.”
Thinking about changing jobs, leaving an organization, or even switching industries altogether is a big deal, and it could lead to some huge changes that could forever alter the entire course of your career and life. Just because job and career changes are fairly common, that doesn’t mean they aren’t scary.
So, if you’re at a point where you’re beginning to wonder if it’s time to move on to something new, first take a few minutes to consider the concept of the career pivot. It could be helpful to you as you decide how best to move forward. Here are a few points to keep in mind.
Start by thinking small.
Blake said in a recent interview with Fast Company that a great way to work toward this pivot-change is to consider testing out small “pilot projects” to see how they work. For example, instead of quitting your job to go off and write that novel you’ve been hoping to write for years, think about a smaller writing project that you might be able to see through to completion within a handful of hours. Once you see how these pilots projects are received (Blake recommends having a few going at any given time) you can know whether or not these avenues are where you’d like to invest more time and energy moving forward.
“By running several small pilots concurrently, you can see which are going to emerge in the lead,” Blake told Fast Company. “The whole point is to take the pressure off any one having to work.”
Let this build your knowledge, and your confidence.
The essence of Blake’s method is that through trying out these small pilot projects while continuing to do your job, you gain tremendous knowledge about the new undertaking without jeopardizing anything professionally. So, as you try out these experiments, play close attention to how they work out. Learn from your mistakes, and from your success, too. Also, allow the process to build your confidence. Know that you are going about this in a smart way, and the experience is informing you tremendously for the future.
Embrace the learning process.
Blake says that she “can’t imagine a scenario in which a career pilot is a complete waste of time,” but that doesn’t mean that all your pilot projects will be equally successful. And, that’s OK. When you’re considering making a change, no matter whether it’s big or small, it helps to think of it as a process, and to realize that learning something new (about yourself, or advancing a skill) is valuable in and of itself. Plus, you never know where this new learning will lead you. Doing something challenging is enjoyable and important for its own sake, so embrace that process of exploration when considering making a bigger change. Also, expect to check in with yourself again after you’ve done some experimenting. It’s likely you’ll have learned something about the work, and about what you really want, along the way. Check in down the road to see how the learning process has shifted things for you.