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Using the "But" to Find Your Next Career

#careerchange Jan 22, 2023
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Career pivots are hard. Unlike lateral moves between industries, career pivots require you to think about how your next career or job is better aligned with your skills, interests, and values and plan on how to get there. This kind of research is intimidating and overwhelming. Many of my clients come to me with the question: “I’m a [insert job title here]. What jobs am I qualified for?” But asking what they are qualified for, instead of asking what they want to do, limits my clients to a list of jobs that they aren’t excited about. They come to me for help breaking out of this cycle. If you’re stuck on figuring out what you to do next, here is an exercise to help you focus on what’s aligned with you rather than what you’re qualified to do.


Find the But in your career


Earlier in my career, I took a job at a university career center. My work involved teaching students enrolled in career classes and working with students in individual appointments. In the career classes, we matched students with people working in a variety of industries for informational interviews. The students could request 2 matches from any job or industry they wanted. We had 4 or 5 weeks to make the matches for the students, and, depending on the course enrollments, we had to make 300-400 matches each quarter. I say “we” because I supervised a small team of students who worked part-time to make the matches. We had 3 computer terminals, a shared Outlook inbox, 3 phone lines, and an Access database of previous matches. I had no previous experience doing this work, but I loved it. I loved the fast pace, the problem-solving on the fly, and meeting our match goals each quarter. Although this experience honed my project management skills, I saw it as a one-off, unexpectedly fun part of my job. I didn’t connect this work to customer support, CX, or operations. However, now that I’m a Partner Success Manager, working with Operations teams, I see how this “one-off” experience prepared me for my current job where I spend my days talking about SLAs, KPIs, volume, and Week over Week performance trends. 


Many people have similar experiences to mine where some part of their job unexpectedly reveals an interest. I’ve heard many statements like “I didn’t expect to like programming, but when I had to take a course in it, I loved it” or “I didn’t know that I liked managing logistics until I led a conference planning committee.” You probably have had these experiences too. Such moments in our work and careers can be very insightful even if you come back to it years later, as I’ve done with operations. If you’re exploring a career pivot, you can use this as an exercise to uncover skills and values that you might have overlooked. Start by writing down times in your work (you can even go back to high school or college jobs), where you did something that was unexpectedly fun; you went above and beyond your job description to do; or something you enjoyed that was a smaller part of your job. 


Your next step is connect those experiences to skills. This is an important step; we often focus on the duties and tasks we have to do without thinking much about the skills behind them. But in a career pivot, it’s the alignment with your skills, values, and interests that matter and that will help you find a career/job that makes you happy. Here’s an example of me connecting a skill with experience:  


Running a mini-call center operation helped me understand that I love to create workflows or processes that make things more efficient and solve problems. Creating workflows and processes is the skill. Here are two examples of how I’ve used this skill.


Skill: Creating workflows and processes

Example #1

The university career center had an internship for credit program that generated revenue. I took over managing the program and increased revenue by 66% within two quarters by leading a team to revise the onboarding process to make enrollment easier.


Example #2

As a recruiter for a non-profit, I had 32 open roles. I reduced the number of open roles to 8 within 4 months by creating an open shift board visible to the entire company. This lead to increased employee referrals. 


Use this template to create your own list of skills and experiences. 


Once you’ve found skills that you love using and examples of how you’ve used them, you can evaluate how you use those skills in your current job and decide how frequently you’d like to use the skills in your next career or job. Career pivots aren’t easy, but with work and attention, you can pivot successfully.

Do you have questions about your job search and how I might help you?  Schedule your free 15-minute appointment today!

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