The 5-Step Midlife PIVOT Plan
The ability to pivot will become increasingly essential, this writer says
While the idea of creating a second act in life is nothing new, it traditionally referred to retired people shaping their next life stage. Professionals in the prime of their careers weren’t expected to launch them. But many fields — like magazines, where I worked for decades as an editor — are imploding. A few others: money management, the music business and travel agencies. So midlife career pivots are becoming increasingly essential.
I’ve been fortunate to make a successful pivot into a brand strategy consultant. In doing so, I’ve come up with a five-step PIVOT plan to help people shape their next act. PIVOT is an acronym: P=Philosophy; I=Insight; V=Vision; O=Other Skills Needed; and T=Transformation.
The PIVOT method lets people overcome what’s held them back from identifying and successfully pursuing their job goals.
Here are the five steps to a midlife career pivot, with a bit of explanation and, I hope, inspiration:
P is for Philosophy: Get Over Getting Angry.
Unfinished emotional business often trips people up before they start looking for a new position. Frequently there is anger, resentment, jealousy and other negativity that keeps you focused on the past rather than looking towards the future.
Perhaps you’re having trouble letting go of your anger at an employer who fired you, feel insecure because you failed at your last job or are jealous of the person who took your position at your previous company. You need to take an honest look at your emotional state before pursuing a job pivot. You can’t pivot if your feet are stuck in the mud of resentment, revenge or regret.
Mourn and move on. It' s only when you accept that the status quo has changed that you can start carving out a satisfying future.
Keep in mind: employers are accustomed to considering candidates who worked at businesses that folded or laid off staff.
So shame is not only unnecessary, it’s a luxury you can’t afford. How you use your time and energy now will make all the difference between being successful at defining and realizing your next act…or not.
Mourn and move on. It’s only when you accept that the status quo has changed that you can start carving out a satisfying future.
In other words, develop a Philosophy — a mindset about your job search that enables you to be positive.
I is for Insight: Take Stock of Your Skills and Strengths
Too many of us think of ourselves as our job rather than as a person who does our job. If you only identify as a newspaper reporter and then find yourself out of work with few prospects in that declining industry, you may feel at a loss. But if you think of yourself as someone who thrives on curiosity, resourcefulness, a sense of adventure and a desire to help others, you have new options based on those qualities. I know a former magazine editor who is now a detective! Her research and investigative skills are called into play in her second act just as they were as a journalist.
When making a list of your skills and strengths, don’t limit yourself to ones you used in past jobs. Think about how you function at home and in personal relationships.
For instance, are you the person who always knows how to find the right expert? Are you a great advocate for families, friends or causes? Are you the out-of-the-box thinker who comes up with creative solutions? Are you known for your organizational abilities and attention to detail? Do you have lots of self-initiative and determination (valuable skills for an entrepreneur)?
If you have a hard time nailing your strengths, ask friends and relatives what qualities come to mind when they think of you.
In other words, gain Insight into what you bring to the job market.
V is for Vision: Think Expansively About Job Possibilities
Many people, feeling insecure about tackling something new or having a narrow perspective, restrict their thinking about work options. However, in our age of acceleration, it's vital to think broadly about how you can apply your skills. Release yourself from self-imposed restrictions, and research industries and jobs you may not have considered but for which you have much to contribute.
You also need to give up expectations that may no longer be realistic. Your second act may not be as well-paying or as prestigious as your first. But it’s likely to have other benefits — perhaps a better commute or work/family balance or greater emotional rewards. Working at a nonprofit may be more satisfying, knowing that what you’re doing is making the world a better place, even if it’s not as friendly to your bank account as your corporate career.
In other words, expand your Vision of who you can be and what you can do to succeed at this next stage in your life.
O is for Other Skills Needed: Fill in Gaps with Additional Education
Once you take a fresh look at your skills and strengths and have broadened your outlook regarding your career path, start looking at job openings. Brace yourself.
You’ll likely see lots of positions with two to three pages of job responsibilities, requiring only two to three years of experience. The message is clear. This is a beast of a job and the company is seeking someone young and cheap to fill it.
Yes, that is discouraging. But don’t hesitate about applying. You may have to ease up on your salary requirements but, if you have relevant experience, go for it!
What if you don’t have all the skills required? Find a course online or offline that can bring you up to speed. General Assembly, Coursera, LinkedIn’s Lynda, and SCORE are just a few resources that offer classes to help you be a more attractive candidate.
In other words, acknowledge what Other skills are needed for you to have enhanced job opportunities.
T is for Transformation: Spin Your Story
Finally, you need to make sure your presentation to prospective employers is confident. This means believing that your skills are transferable, that you are worthy of having a second act and that you bring a lot to the party. If you feel insecure about your ability to venture into your second act, others will feel hesitant about giving you the opportunity.
Craft your story as a job candidate, and then talk it through with friends. Shape it until you feel comfortable. Then rewrite your LinkedIn profile and resumé so they focus on where you want your career to head. Emphasize the skills that will be relevant in your new position, rather than what you did in the past that may have less relevance.
Employers often use applicant tracking system bots to find prospective candidates on online job sites and those bots are looking for keywords relevant to the job openings. Be sure your profile and resumé include the right buzzwords for the jobs you want.
To prepare for job interviews, role-play with a colleague you trust so you feel strong and confident.
In other words, embrace your Transformation. The process of perfecting your pivot involves presenting yourself in a stronger, better and convincing manner.
Like learning dance choreography, a job pivot involves mastering one step at a time. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and pessimistic. But thinking of your job search as a five-step process may alleviate some of the pressure.
Recognizing that the future may hold exciting possibilities may even make the pivot process pleasurable. Who knows? Your pivot could end up being the answer to your dreams.