Have you ever had a perfect-on-paper job but still felt like something was missing? Join the club, says Silicon Valley business strategist Jenny Blake, who walked away from her job as a Career Development Program Manager at Google to launch a business based on her blog in 2011.
“Even though I loved working there and had a perfect-on-paper role myself, something was still missing,” Jenny – who co-founded the Career Guru program at the internet search giant – explains in her new book PIVOT: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next One. “People reacted as if I were breaking up with Brad Pitt. ‘You really think you can do better than Gooooogle?!’” she recalls. “I wasn’t so sure, but I knew I would forever regret not trying.”
Adjusting – or pivoting – our career trajectories has become a necessary evil for Millennials, who struggle to forge a concrete career path during this age of uncertainty. “We can expect to experience significant changes every few years, much more often than was socially acceptable in the past. People are no longer working at the same jobs for forty years with the safety of pensions waiting at the end,” explains Jenny, who cites the advancement of technology as the culprit. “The average employee tenure is now four to five years and job roles often change dramatically within those four to five years. Among workers twenty-five to thirty-four years old, the average tenure drops to three years.”
However, instead of fearing it, Jenny urges us to embrace this accelerated pace of change. “You can learn to enjoy calculated risk and uncertainty in exchange for adventure, flexibility, freedom, and opportunity,” she writes.
Pivot or be pivoted
A career pivot is executed in four stages; plant, scan, pilot and launch. “I define a career pivot as doubling down on what is working to make a purposeful shift in a new, related direction,” writes Jenny, who advises using your existing base of strengths and experience as leverage. “I have worked with people of all ages and career stages. Those who are most successful give themselves permission to explore continually, improving how quickly they spot their next move.”
Forget the five year plan
Much can happen within the job economy over the course of the next five years so instead of hatching a five-year plan, make it a 12-month one. “The days of mapping an entire career path are over. You do not have to specify the details of your life five moves or five years out,” writes Jenny. “Consider what you were doing five years ago. Did you have any idea where you would be today?”
Instead, take a retrospective look at your work history and make note of any career pivots you have already made, urges Jenny. “By learning how to connect the dots looking backward and then forward, we can get better at making career connections in real time, not waiting too long until we are burned out, unhappy and forced to make a change.”
Ditch the concept of the career ladder
“Careers are no longer straightforward, linear, and predictable like ladders. They are now much more like smartphones,” writes Jenny, who continues the analogy by advising us to download the ‘apps’ – for skills and interests, etc. – we need in order to feel fulfilled. While investing in one ‘app’ may seem like a risk, Jenny suggests downloading a series of smaller ones simultaneously. For example, study a subject in your spare time rather than quitting your job and re-entering full time education. “You can reduce risk, experiment with ideas, and enhance your career operating system without sending yourself into a panic by trying to make moves that are too drastic, too far removed from what you are doing now.”
Don’t do anything drastic
Finally, Jenny urges us to carefully consider each move we make. “This book is not a rallying cry for quitting your job and fighting ‘The Man,’” she maintains, adding that choosing the opportune time to strategically change jobs is the key. “Nor is this book a caution to stay out, shackled by golden handcuffs, if you have hit a career plateau.”