The Career Pivot

by aheadhuntertakesaim

The Career Pivot

A reader of the A Headhunter Takes Aim blog wrote me the following letter;

Good Morning Hunter,

 I have been in the market for a new job since being laid-off in April.  On a few job boards, I have submitted my resume and applied to numerous positions, but have only received a few responses.  Some have progressed to the interview stage and didn’t work out, but most end after the first phone interview due to experience, culture, scope of the position, or even money.  My background is in Environmental Health and Safety, but am trying to use this opportunity to transfer into more of an operational role since I am close to finishing my MBA.  Much of my experience is transferable to operational based position because my focus was more of process and policy development versus the straight audit and fix reality of the Safety world.  I would appreciate some advice to help my straighten my ship and get me headed in the right direction of my job search journey.  Any information or opinions would be much appreciated.  I have attached my resume for review.



 What John is trying to do is pivot from one career path into another. This is a very common desire but not always the easiest to pull off.

How and When to Pivot

Complete a new degree or gain additional training – The best time to pivot is when some milestone has been reached. In Isaiah’s case, he recently finished his MBA. This provides a good answer when asked why he wishes to change his career path. He can reply that he wishes to apply his knowledge gained by his MBA.

Other times to pivot are;

Loss of job – Losing a job is always tough but it may also give you the opportunity to explore new industries or roles within potential employers. If all goes well, it may end up being the best thing that ever happened to you in the long run.

Industry sector is diminishing – It is not always good to be the last man/woman standing. Hopefully your skill set is transferable to a new industry. If not, it is time to get additional training and pivot.

Bored with current career and want to make a change. – Most candidates I talk to phrase this as “they have stopped learning and desire an opportunity to learn new things and grow”. It is a much more appealing answer.

Personal change – Personal change is often a driver of pivots. Perhaps, you can no longer be a road warrior in order to be closer to home to care for an elderly parent. Perhaps, you have come to an stage in your life when you no longer as interested in building as you are in giving back and want to do non-profit or charitable work. These are all good reasons to pivot.

 Pivoting is hard to do

Pivoting may be hard to do. I always tell candidates that finding a new job is a game of equals. If no one is exactly what the employer is looking for, how close are you compared to other applicants? Also, your current background may spark the employer’s imagination. What you bring to the table may actually be of greater value than someone with the exact background they were initially was looking for.

Try to pivot within your current employer

The best way to pivot may end up being within your current employer. Your current employer is already familiar with you background and capabilities. Have an open dialog with your current supervisor. Talk to mentors, target supervisors and human resources about your future career path. Companies will often go out of their way to accommodate valued current employees rather than lose them to another employer.

I know during my performance reviews, I was often asked about my future career path. If your company does the same, it is a perfect opening. Ask what additional skills or training they feel would be needed to make the pivot within the company.

What is John Doing Wrong?

With the information provided I didn’t see anything blaring indicators that John is doing wrong. He has a very well written resume and a clear idea what he would like to do in the future. It may be it will just take time and perseverance until Isiah finds the right opportunity.

A few things that John may do to improve his chances are;

Make sure each resume submitted to potential employers is tailored for the opportunity he is applying for.

May sure his cover letter addresses how his experience and new education/training qualifies him for the position. He may even state in the cover letter that he recently completed his MBA and now wishes to apply what he has leaned in a more operational role. This may make it clear to the recruiter looking at his resume that he is not trying to waste their time with a resume that does not meet their requirements but rather is trying to pivot into a new role.


Paul Shanfeld is Vice President; Recruitment at Tech Career Search, Inc. ( Paul spent over 20 years in the Wireless Industry working for some of the most recognizable names in the industry. He has held executive positions in sales, marketing, product management, business development and strategic planning.

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