Big Ideas

How to Pivot Toward Success

When it comes to figuring out your next career move, why not double down on what's already working, suggests author Jenny Blake.

Photo by Mark Hanauer
Photo by Mark Hanauer

By almost any definition of success, Jenny Blake had it made. She left a thriving startup for a five-year run at Google, working on the internet giant’s training and career-development teams. In 2011, she published her first book, Life After College, a career guide for recent graduates. But Blake still found herself wondering what was next.

“I felt like I was going through a mid-life or quarter-life crisis every few years and I kept hitting ‘pivot points,’ or career plateaus, and felt like there was something wrong with me,” Blake told Convene in a recent interview. “Was I destined to be unhappy? Why couldn’t I just accept what I had? Then I came to one of two conclusions: There’s either something wrong with me, or we are all going to be asked to ask and answer these questions much more frequently than we have in the past.”

Once she started doing research for her latest book, Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One, Blake became convinced that her own career concerns were part of a bigger picture. “It wasn’t just me, we are all feeling an increased sense of needing to pivot, and that change is the new normal,” she said. “That realization motivated me to find out how can we get better at it, and so I adopted it as the motto for the book: If change is the only constant, let’s get better at it.”

What is the Pivot Method?

The Pivot Method is a four-stage process to map your next move. And that could be done within your existing role or business, or as part of a bigger career change. So pivots can be both large and small. The defining feature of a pivot is the methodical shift in a new, related direction by dou-bling down on what’s already working and on your existing strengths. That’s what distinguishes a pivot from a 180: In the career-change landscape we hear things like “take great leaps” or “leap of faith,” and a pivot is not about doing that. A pivot is a very methodical way of shifting from an existing base of strength.

What’s the best way to identify your strengths?

Well, for most problem-solving go-getters, it’s not their first instinct. The mistake that I made, and that I see many pivoters making, is that the moment they hit a pivot point or plateau, they start looking outside of themselves for answers. But first ask, how are you already getting clients if you’re self-employed, and think about what you enjoy most. Start to fill in the blanks with what your ideal average day would look like. Then ask yourself how much you want to be earning, what kind of impact you want to have, and whether you want to stay in your current city. There are many more known variables than you might think to help you determine what success looks like a year from now.

In the book you also discuss the many benefits of taking small, calculated risks.

Smart risks help test the waters of a new direction. It might be a different pricing model, or a change in a system or pro

cess. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking. No matter what happens when it comes to career change, you’re self-employed. If we make the wrong move, we are worried that we are not going to be able to provide for our most basic needs, or maybe we’re trying to make moves that are too big upfront. Ask yourself if you can keep your current book of business, but pivot one service offering. Maybe an event planner has been doing corporate up until now, but they want to get into [other events]. Instead of trying to become an expert at it, ask yourself if there’s room to expand in the market that you’re in. 

PCMA Admin