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  • Writer's pictureStacey Rivers

Career Path vs. Career Pivot: What’s The Next Step?

While developing new skills is a fundamental aspect of successfully managing one’s career, knowing which skills to invest in can be a challenge for some people. Even more, deciding whether to stay on the path or transition to a new role can also present a difficult decision. Ultimately, complexity is introduced for either direction when determining the right mix of skills needed to take your career to the next level.

This week we will look at factors to consider for skills development whether you stay on your career path or decide on a career pivot (career transition).


You must answer one question when deciding what skills to develop: Are you staying in your current career path, OR are you making a career pivot?

For either decision, the next questions then become, what skills are in demand, and what are your gaps?

Career Path. Traditionally, career paths provide organizational structure and career progression, encouraging employees to develop skills at the next level to be promotable. Career paths are not equal, meaning they are different based on the company and industry. Career-pathing can become an issue when companies fail to update existing paths or add new tracks as new roles and requirements are introduced. Several years ago, HR thought leaders advised that career paths would no longer be vertical or horizontal. What once were “paths” have become “lattices” to describe the movement from role to role based on skills needs and the business demands. If you are unclear about your career path, networking with colleagues who are in roles that interest you can be a quick way to gauge a new direction.

Career Pivot. Just like people move from job to job, career transitions from one path to a completely different course has become a usual way of life. Transferable skills can play a crucial role in creating a successful bridge from one career to the next — understanding how skills in one job can be advantageous in another profession. However, what can cause a hiccup for unsuspecting career switchers is the entry barriers that some people encounter as they try to leap. You can minimize barriers by having informational interviews with professionals in the field to ascertain the potential challenges you may face.

Skills Gaps. “The term ‘skills gap’ describes a fundamental mismatch between the skills that employers rely upon in their employees and the skills that job seekers possess. This mismatch makes it difficult for individuals to find jobs and for employers to find appropriately trained workers” (Brookings Institute, 2019). Assessing your skills gaps for both hard and soft skills (technical and people skills) is imperative for building a solid foundation regardless of the role. According to the LinkedIn 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, 13 out of the top 15 jobs listed were heavily focused on tech roles. The current in-demand skills include data analysis, Python, Javascript, Amazon Web Services, and machine learning, to name a few. The LinkedIn Report “skills unique to the job” section lists the remaining roles as customer-focused requiring specialized skillsets. In this era of COVID-19, technical skills will proliferate in jobs that did not have a technological emphasis. While companies are strategizing about their go-forward plan, now is the time to assess your skill gaps and make a training plan.

Assessing your skill gaps is not as difficult as it sounds. You know better than anyone where you need to improve based on your aspirations.

Here’s a quick story. Early in my career, I knew I was afraid of public speaking, and if I did not develop in this area, it would hamper the career goals I had for myself. I joined Toastmasters in addition to taking other formal training for presentation skills. Every year I challenged myself to grow by participating in different events for practical application. This plan paid off big in 2017 when I was invited to join Turner’s CTO on the HLN set for a global employee broadcast. Had I not addressed what I knew was a gap for me, this opportunity would have indeed gone differently! (Here I am on the HLN set in 2017 after the event — relieved!)

As a learner, once you decide whether to stay on the path or to pivot, the most important thing you can do next is to determine your skill deficiencies. A straightforward way to approach this is to create your process for assessing your skills:

1) Research the latest in-demand skills and certifications for your field.

2) Use a current job description for the role you choose and rate your skills against the requirements.

For more insights about how to quickly assess your gaps, check out the full article on LinkedIn.


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