Pivot: Use Your Skills to Build Your Next Career

Career Blog

Published: May 10, 2017 by Kate M. Spaulding

How Pivot by Jenny Blake can help you navigate this career-building step that is grad school.

I know I’m not alone in pursuing my MLIS as a second career or career change. Before I started, I was a bit worried about being “old” compared to my classmates, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find myself kind of in the middle of the pack. In fact, having a broad range of ages and experiences in my classes here at the iSchool has been great because a diverse population brings with it a diversity of ideas and perspectives. So when Jenny Blake’s Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One came to my attention earlier this semester (Blake is the keynote speaker at AIIP’s conference), it seemed like it might be a good fit here (spoiler: it is).

Blake defines “career pivot” as a “doubling down on what is working to make a purposeful shift in a new, related direction” (p. 7). And one of the things I think is so powerful about this explanation is that, once again, we’re called to consider our skills.

Let me rephrase Blake’s statement: “a career pivot is when you double down on your strongest skills to make a purposeful career shift in a new, but related, direction.” All of us, whether we’re here right out of undergrad or are on our second or third career, have skills we’ve developed. We have experience and wisdom from previous jobs (paid or not), internships, volunteer gigs, assignments, and life that make us valuable employees.

For instance, a lot of my jobs have been in retail or other customer-facing positions. You know what institutions pride themselves on providing stellar customer service? Every kind of library you can think of (and even those you can’t!). So having 10+ years of customer experience under my belt has given me lots of practice answering questions, helping people find what they’re looking for, keeping my cool, dealing with difficult personalities, serving a diverse population, and collaborating with a multicultural workforce. I know I’m not alone.

A lot of those skills aren’t taught in school, so employers love seeing them in job candidates. Highlighting them, and also shifting to add experience+skills via classes, internships, and volunteer positions, will drive your purposeful career development, and ultimately, your purposeful career shift.

Blake presents a high-level process in combination with practical details and real-life examples, including her own. Pivot is worth a read – use it to help you navigate this career-building step that is grad school.


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