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Career Wanderlust or Pivot?

Career Wanderlust or Pivot?

How do you know when it’s time to make a career move? What questions or thoughts are coming up for you?

I am worth more money. Can I get more challenging assignments? I deserve a promotion.

These are all the types of feelings that will begin to dominate your thoughts and signal that it is time to think about a move. Ideally, identifying career wanderlust early is helpful, but if you wait and hold these thoughts too long, you may start to feel dissatisfied and discontented. This can impact not only performance, but your wellbeing.

As coaches, we often see clients who want to make a career change, but are having difficulty deciding what the change could look like and when they should take action. Rarely is it clear at the start of a coaching engagement if the client is simply feeling stuck in their organization or current role versus wanting to pivot to a different type of career.

Pivoting to a new career can mean moving to a new functional area, a new industry, a new organization, becoming a manager or a host of other changes that significantly change the nature of one’s career. So when determining if and when to make a pivot, it is important to give yourself time and space to really think. And we mean really think. What are your goals? What is your career strategy?

[Related: How to Successfully Pivot in a Saturated Market]

Is this career wanderlust? Or do you really need to make a career pivot? Wanderlust is just that; in those moments when work is dissatisfying or stressful, thinking about another position is tempting.

This is the time when having a thought partner that you can trust is critical. Someone who can help you identify the truth. Is the change you desire influenced by short-term factors in your role or are there bigger issues of dissatisfaction?

This is an important distinction; wanderlust represents those moments of visualizing that the grass is greener elsewhere. Deciding to pivot is when you realize it is time to move, and the decision is supported by multiple factors. And when it comes time to pivot, it is important to have a career strategy.

How do you create a strategy if you don’t have one? Most of us by mid-career know what we excel at, what we like, and where we get the most acknowledgement and praise; but do we look at these pieces as part of a bigger picture?

Creating a strategy for your career will help guide you toward a pivot. Strategy in its simplest form is creating a plan and action steps; however, to create a plan you first need to understand what you have, where you would like to go, and what is needed to get there. Whether seeking a new company, title, position, or something completely different, you will need to develop a vision for the future that matches your desires.

[Related: Three Ways a Gap Can Boost Your Career]

Now is the time to fully understand your abilities and skills, what you want more of, what you want less of, and where you want to stretch. This self-knowledge is key to helping you find the right pivot direction. To quote the famous line from Hamlet:

To thine own self be true.

You have to know yourself and stay true to what brings you satisfaction and joy. Ask yourself: Where do your talents shine, and where do you thrive?

When facing a career pivot, there are several factors to consider. First, consider how your leadership skills have developed and which ones distinguish you. Your decision-making ability, your leadership presence, your ability to manage conflict, your work ethic, how you influence others, and many more, will manifest in good times and challenging times during your career. Consider which ones you have mastered and which are still lacking.

Second, understand your work style preferences, your strengths and weakness. There are assessments that can help you better understand your preferences, work style, thinking style, and how your strengths match career options. A career or executive coach typically administers these assessments and can help you understand how to interpret the results.

Third, look carefully in your own backyard. Can you create or redefine your career within your current role and/or organization? Do you have a manager that is supportive of your growth and development? Being willing to have this conversation with your boss, mentors, or other leaders with influence within your organization should not be overlooked.

So, the next time you envy your colleague who left the organization, or feel tempted to leave your job, consider whether you have wanderlust or if it’s truly time for a career pivot. Take your time to self-reflect and enlist others to help you assess the important factors in any career decision.

Most importantly, remember, this is not a sprint to the next position, this is your marathon - this is your career.

[Related: How to Pivot and Slay Your Way Into Your Inner CEO Power]


Springer Alvarez is a team of executive coaches working with companies and professionals who are navigating the new world of work. Their work includes insights into current trends in talent management, leadership development, and preparing for a future of work that is mutually beneficial to both employers and employees.

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