For many, we might have the impression that we must choose a path and stick to it. You might feel that this applies to a life path or your career choice. This can be a particularly daunting thought at pivotal moments in our lives; leaving school or university, facing redundancy, when we’re up for a promotion, getting married (or divorced), when we have a family, when we return from parental leave, when we become the carers for our parents or dependants… and so on.
There are so many junctures in our lives where we might reassess and readjust. But the reality of choosing to pivot and change can be an overwhelming, daunting and nerve-wracking prospect. In fact, 34% of Britons want to change career but have no idea where to start and 61% of women want to change careers since COVID-19.
Increasingly, I’m learning that our lives don’t take a linear path. The best, most successful, most interesting, and most well-rounded people have, more often than not, pivoted. They’ve had a journey to get where they are. They’ve overcome challenges, they’ve learnt about themselves along the way, they’ve been at rock bottom, they’ve felt stuck, they’ve done the work on themselves, they’ve taken the risks and they’ve got the stories to show for it.
It makes them better.
But change is daunting. As human beings, we crave certainty and safety. Change is far from that. So how can we become happy, confident and comfortable with taking a pivot in our lives? How can we feel:
- A sense of possibility
- Confident in our ability
- Belief that we can be successful
- Clear on the choices we want to make?
I’m proof that it’s possible.
Having studied at LHS (1996-2003) and then Warwick University (BSc in International Business with French), I looked into my future, aged 21, wondering what on earth I wanted to do. The “path” that we all followed back then was a single minded focus on getting a graduate job (ideally in London so we could do the ‘Clapham thing’!) and work out the next step from there.
The graduate job I accepted (I had four offers which was a sliding doors moment… who knows what my path might have been had I chosen a different starting point??) was at Kraft Foods, based in Cheltenham. What followed was four years of incredible friendships, learning curves, commercial experiences and cutting my teeth in the corporate commercial world in one of the world’s biggest companies who supported me incredibly, every step of the way.
Pivot point 1
My first pivot was one that I hadn’t anticipated, and honestly, knocked me for six. The office in Cheltenham was to be closed and we were all under consultation, eventually resulting in numerous redundancies. I’d never come across something that felt so dramatic and unsettling, but it taught me one of many great lessons about life: there’s nothing more certain than change.
From here, I moved to London, working for Johnson and Johnson. I progressed through the ranks with support from incredible line managers who unlocked my potential and encouraged me in a way I hadn’t experienced before. My responsibilities remained in the commercial sphere, but I added more breadth; Category Management, Commercial Strategy and Line Management.
Pivot Point 2
As a home bird, I knew I wanted to move back to Nottinghamshire. Aged 30, the time felt right, but the question was… how? Was it possible? Would I have to choose: personal over professional? Could I progress my career AND follow my dream of moving home, buying a house and setting down roots?
It turns out the answer is a resounding YES. I was headhunted by Boots to lead their own brand healthcare business. Within the blink of an eye, with all my worldly belongings in the back of a van, it was a “goodbye” to Richmond, West London and a big “hello” to West Bridgford, Notts.
One of the many learnings I took from this phase of my life, leading up to my pivot #2 was to lean into building your self-belief. You’re full of skills, traits, behaviours, attitudes and capabilities that are valuable and useful to others. Believing this to be the case is an important mindset to try to build. You are valuable. You are enough. You have worth. You can make choices that work for you. You are never trapped. Life is yours to make of it what you choose.
After Boots, I moved to work as a Customer Director with Mars. Another incredible organisation filled with remarkable people doing great things.
Pivot Point 3
In 2020, the world caved in on itself. The pandemic knocked us all sideways. During that, my husband called time on our marriage and simultaneously, I realised I was burning out at work- I’d lost my mojo with the career I’d built and I’d lost confidence in my ability to deliver results.
To say that this was rock bottom would be an understatement. The world was locked down, my marriage was over and the future as I knew it was taken from me. And the thing I’d always relied on as one of the cornerstones of my identity, my career, was also up in the air.
I’ve never felt so lost or so low. But it was during this time that I worked with a coach. I wanted to try to find myself, work out who I was and what I wanted. I needed to decide what I wanted the future to hold, what my next steps might look like and build myself up emotionally to take them. My learning from this pivot point is that rock bottom is a position of strength.
This Pivotal Moment in my life started a new path: I retrained, left the corporate world and set up my own business as an Executive Coach. I work with driven professionals who feel stuck to unlock their potential and find fulfilment on their terms.
How can you approach a pivot and feel prepared?
I work with many clients in this space, and there are 5 key steps in my PIVOT programme that we work through to help them to navigate their pivot and be successful and happy.
Tapping into your truth is the first step of it all. So often, we make choices based on what we believe we ‘should’ do or what other people expect from us. But how often do we check in with ourselves and make the choices which suit us best? Taking the time to reflect inwards on what is important to you is an investment in yourself that can’t be overlooked. Questions you could ask yourself are: What do you truly want? What is truly important to you? What will make you happy? My suggestion here is that you think about the things that are non-tangible. For example, consider “financial freedom” rather than “earning over £100k”, or consider “balance” rather than “working 4 days a week”. These more macro elements are your core values: the things you need to have in your life to feel most fulfilled and happy. They are the foundational building blocks of who you are.
This is the opportunity to take stock of who you are, exploring the strengths and beliefs you hold that are going to serve you in service of making your changes.
Firstly, consider what are the strengths, behaviours, traits and attributes that make you who you are? What are your unique skill sets? What are your superpowers? This can be a hard one to navigate because instinctively we don’t recognise in ourselves the great stuff that we can do, but try to break through the wall of humility and be honest with yourself about who you are.
Secondly, review the beliefs that you hold. What do you believe about yourself that will propel you forwards? Do you believe, for example, that you have value to offer, that your skillset is relevant, that you have the tenacity to follow through on a change? Conversely, what are the limiting beliefs that you’re carrying that could be holding you back? These are the ones that are worth looking into in more detail and working on them to unpick them so that you can turn them into beliefs that serve you. Classic limiting beliefs are “I’m not good enough”, “I don’t deserve it” etc. All of these beliefs fuel your inner critic and limit your belief that you can achieve things.
As Henry Ford is famed for saying: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
What does the dream look like? If you could suspend the reality of the situation that you’re in right now, what would you like your future career/life to look like. I find the best way to do this is to grab a sheet of A3 paper, some pens and some magazines for inspiration. Create yourself a diagram, a vision board with cuttings or a mind map. Ask yourself the questions of: where do I want to be? Who is with me? How does it feel? You might want to think about all of the senses: what does the environment feel like, how does it smell, what’s the temperature like? Consider how you will feel in yourself when you get there; what bubbles up for you as you imagine yourself in that space?
This is a powerful exercise because it helps our subconscious mind (the powerful one) to relate to what we are looking for and by visualising it, the mind will work behind the scenes to piece the elements together to make it happen.
Based on the elements you’ve worked on already, this is a chance for you to bring together your thinking to date and review the options open to you. This phase can feel wildly exciting or really daunting (or a bit of both!!). This is often because we are bringing the pivot into reality which can involve being pushed out of our comfort zone.
If things feel too daunting, it can help to map your thoughts on a comfort zone model- determining if each element is in the comfort, stretch or panic zone.
For those things in the comfort zone, what will it take to get them done? From here, you can make an immediate plan. If something is in the panic or stretch zone, its worth asking yourself: what is it about this task or idea that puts it in this zone? By breaking down your thinking behind the task, it will help you to respond more rationally to something that feels overwhelming. You can determine what it is that you need to do to make this task more relatable and feel more achievable. This will calm the mind, provide you with clarity and help you to act.
- We get to the final stage: transformation. By now, we know:
- What we need in our lives to make us happy
- What our strengths and superpowers are
- What beliefs we’re holding that can serve us
- What beliefs we’re holding that are limiting us and what we want to do about these to overcome them
- What our vision is for our future
- How we feel about the ideas that we have and what we need to do to break the tasks down into manageable elements that are comfortable actions for us to take
Now it is time for the transformation to happen- it’s time to make the plan!
There are three key elements of making a plan: what are you going to do, when are you going to do it and what do you need to enable you to do it.
By breaking down your plan in this way, you can create a clear task list with deadlines. You can work out what resources and input you might need from others. And most importantly, as you progress through these tasks, you can feel the satisfaction of ticking each of them off. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing and feeling like you are making progress!
A final critical element to consider is accountability. How are you going to ensure that you hold yourself to account and deliver the things that you have committed to yourself that you will do? For some, personal accountability is easy. For others, it can be necessary to block time out in the diary to protect time to get things done, or you may need an accountability partner (a friend, partner, coach). Work out what it is that you need to get things done and ask for the help you require. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve when you have the resources you need.
So, finally, the big question for you: are you ready for your Pivotal Moment?
Thank you to Jo Jackson for writing this article to help us celebrate International Women’s Day, Women’s History Month and our incredible alumnae.