Bored at Work? How to Pivot in the Modern Economy.

Don’t let fear and complacency be the only voices in the decision room.

Photo courtesy of Vladimir Kudinov

Some jump in with certainty, confidently declaring their first year. Others linger, crushed under the weight of the decision. Yet, all college students have one thing in common. They’ve barely worked in their field. They likely haven’t delivered a financial analysis on an obnoxious deadline, made an incision in a patient’s abdomen, or built a firm’s website from the ground up.

They also all experience the moment the clock strikes midnight and they’re thrust into their respective (battle) fields. Right then, the diplomas their parents are still proudly gripping become tangible. Some are energized by the opportunity to turn their practice and study into products and services. Some are depressed by not being able to go out on Thursdays anymore. In any case, a significant portion of today’s young grads are slowly discovering that they don’t necessarily agree with their degree.

So, when should you stick it out and when should you make a switch?

Entry Level Apathy or Exit Strategy

There’s a pretty strong consensus around entry level roles. You don’t get much responsibility, you do a ton of paperwork, and, if you’re an entitled millennial, you get paid less than you deserve.

So, it naturally can get hard to distinguish if the field is the issue or if it’s just the fact that you’re the company dishrag that’s putting you off. Spend a few optimistic years soaking in the environments of your field, studying the career trajectories of your colleagues, and taking an honest look at your own feelings on your work. If you start to feel a pivot coming on, what’s next?

Yes, Career Pivots are Scary and Dreadful

Put aside the courage and dedication it takes to move out of your comfort zone into a new field. If you’re looking for a way to quickly and sufficiently paralyze yourself, simply think about the cost. If you assume pivoting requires another college degree, it immediately becomes impossible.

Luckily, this isn’t always the case. Depending on your field of acquired interest and the severity of your pivot, there are a wide array of options to alter your trajectory without emptying your account.

Suit Up & Get to Bootcamp

If you decide you actually want to be a doctor at 27, nobody can help you. In that case, you’re going to need overtly wealthy parents or a mastery of sports betting. Fortunately, many of today’s fastest growing fields have a low barrier to entry. Consider digital marketing, coding or UX design.

Maybe you studied Biology, spend your days in a walled laboratory, and have determined you despise every second of it. Companies like General Assembly or Designation offer 8–12 week boot camps that help you hit the ground running and provide the foundational skills to succeed. Many even claim to offer assistance securing a job in your new field — raw talent sold separately.

Abuse Your Connections — Even if it Feels Wrong

Many of us have connections spread across a wide array of industries. Regardless of how Uncle Jeff will react to you taking an entry level gig at Aunt Karen’s online fashion business, you either pivoted your career or you didn’t.

If the opportunity to abuse your connections presents itself, snatch it, even if it isn’t exactly where you want to be in the end. If it’s close, shuffle your feet and trust the process. By getting firsthand experience in a similar field, you’re quickly finding out if the pivot is moving you in the right direction — experience is almost always more telling than education.

Same Company, Different Career Path

If you’re already a respected member of a large organization, try sitting down with your boss and voicing a passion for your field of interest. Make it clear that you aren’t looking to jump ship, but you want to take your career in a different direction long-term. This process takes time, but it means you don’t have to jump into the unknown quite as abruptly.

Your company may even give you the option to shadow a colleague in your field of interest or get enrolled in internal training courses. When a compatible opportunity presents itself, make sure you’ve done your homework outside of the office to compliment your already established work ethic with clear knowledge and passion for your new field.

Invest Your 9–5 Savings in a New Venture

If you can’t find anyone to let you into your new field, why not create your own door? Entering an industry without experience isn’t always recommended, but there are countless examples of disruptors revolutionizing established markets by harnessing a fresh perspective.

Take the founder of grocery delivery service Instacart, Apoorva Mehta. By identifying a unique business model — grocery delivery from local stores instead of the one-size-fits all warehouse offering from competitors like Amazon, he led the company to the 2 billion dollar valuation it holds today. And — he did it without any experience in grocery or food delivery markets. Don’t bank on this being your story, but you may be surprised at how valuable a fresh perspective can be in an established industry.

Change Is Scary — Career Pivots are No Exception.

Yet, somehow they’re still not quite as scary as the alternate future where you’re 45 and have a countdown calendar to retirement.

By then it’s too late, today it’s not.

Bad information. Emotional responses. Missing the big picture. Whatever it is, we often make decisions we end up disagreeing with. Sometimes bad decisions result in the wrong sauce on your sandwich or an egregious bathroom wallpaper. But, even though your career is inarguably more important, it’s still subject to the same miscalculations as everyday decisions.

Our career trajectory helps develop our story. But, we all know any good book is littered with plot-twists, character introductions, and new, unusual environments. If your career is better off being rewritten, don’t let fear and complacency be the only voices in the decision room.