Learning how to Pivot

What are the skills you need to be successful in your career? It’s a common question I hear, whether it’s at recruiting events, working with clients, or simply talking with friends. While there are skills that most would agree are important such as hard work, subject matter knowledge, leadership and communication, one that is overlooked but important is a diverse set of skills and experiences attained throughout your professional career.

A few months ago, LinkedIn released research after analyzing it’s database of members on what where common characteristics of people who made it to the C-Suite. One of their conclusions was that the people who made it to the C-suite demonstrated a broad and diverse range of skills and experiences as opposed to a narrow and focused view:

“To get a job as a top executive, new evidence shows, it helps greatly to have experience in as many of a business’s functional areas as possible. A person who burrows down for years in, say, the finance department stands less of a chance of reaching a top executive job than a corporate finance specialist who has also spent time in, say, marketing. Or engineering. Or both of those, plus others.’

The pace of change and innovation is moving at a breakneck speed. To keep up or stay ahead, you need to identify opportunities, learn new skills, and take action before you get left behind. While it seems overwhelming, there’s a path forward, and by using a career pivot, you can do all these things.

This idea of the Pivot comes from Jenny Blake, author of the book Pivot: The Only Move that Matters is your next one. According to Jenny, a Pivot is “a methodical shift in a new, related direction based on a foundation of your strengths and what is already working.”

Here’s a quick rundown of the Pivot Framework:

Stage 1: Plant – Double-down on existing strengths, interests, and experiences What are you currently enjoying most? What is working best? What is success one year from now?

Stage 2: Scan – Find new opportunities and identify skills to develop without falling prey to analysis-paralysis and compare-and-despair  Who do you admire? Who can you talk to? What new skills interest you?

Stage 3: Pilot – Run small experiments to determine next steps – What experiments could you run in the next month? What about next 6 months?

Stage 4: Launch – Take smart risks to launch with confidence in a new direction

As business and society continues to evolve, one thing that is becoming clear is that the only constant will be change itself. Jenny’s Pivot strategy is a great asset for helping people get comfortable with the idea of constantly changing and evolving and provides a framework for how to think through a change and then get started.

While some of our pivots will mean moving from one job to another, or from one function to another, not all will. In my career I’ve already made a number of pivots and I’ve only worked for one company throughout my entire 20’s. Even if you are progressing at a healthy pace and content with your job the Pivot Framework is important as it can help you identify and vet potential opportunities that can lead to additional growth and development. As the pace of change in business and society evolves and accelerates, pivots will ensure you have the learning, skills and experiences to keep up or even be one step ahead.

For many of us, we don’t know what we’ll be doing in 5-10  years, and given how different the Future of Work could look it’s probably tough to predict what we will be doing. However, utilizing the Pivot Framework can help us make the decisions along the way to identify and move into new opportunities that use our strengths, help us develop new skills, and find meaning and opportunities in the work we do.

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