Pivot. I like that word. It makes me think of a dancer, or a gymnast turning to the next move in a routine. I was never a dancer, but I did harbour gymnast dreams once upon a time – first, Olympic dreams (because why not, and because I was six), then only slightly less unrealistic dreams of being a professional gymnast (not a profession that exists as far as I know) and then finally a much more realistic ambition to be a gymnastics teacher.
In the end, like almost everybody else, I ended up working in an office. Doing something on computers with money, as my kids say.
“Pivot” is a word that came up a lot during a press trip to Lisbon earlier this year – self-employed people and small business owners talked on stage about the challenges they face, and about learning to pivot when things go wrong. If this doesn’t work, turn 45 degrees to your right and try something else.
Later that night, out for cocktails with a group of parent bloggers, freelancers, and self-employed women – people like me – I couldn’t help thinking how much I was enjoying my own career pivot. In my old job, there were lots of things I enjoyed, but “networking” wasn’t one of them. I don’t mean dinner and drinks with the team – that was always good. I mean those odd (and I mean odd) occasions when I had to go to external “industry” events and actually network with complete strangers. Talking about Funds. Some people are great at this, but I’m not one of them.
This new Aperol Spritz type networking in Lisbon was much more my cup of tea, so to speak.
I thought about it again recently, when I did a talk on writing in Blackrock Library. Over 17 years working in Funds, I did hundreds of Power Point presentations, and while I never absolutely hated preparing the slides or delivering the talks, I never loved it either. The talk on writing was different – I loved making the slides, and I could have talked for hours on the night. It was one of the most enjoyable “work” experiences of my life. As about-turns go, it was a substantial pivot.
Last month, I spoke about career change at a Mum Talks event – about my own story; the shock of redundancy, the loss of identity, the fear of failure. Then the epiphany – the realisation that I could try something different, turn a hobby into a job. And if it didn’t work, so be it – at least I’d have tried.
I talked about meeting my career coach (the amazing Dearbhalla Baviera of Clearbird Coaching) and telling her I was afraid of taking time out from Funds because I’d lose confidence; how could I do an interview after a year or two away?
“Would you be nervous if you had an interview tomorrow?” she asked.
“Absolutely. Petrified,” I said.
“Well then, if you’d be nervous either way, what difference if you take a year out and try writing?”
What difference indeed.
And the thing is, for a long time, I looked at it one way – having children made work more complicated. Now I look at it differently – having children prompted me to make a career change, and that change turned out to be the best decision I ever made.
Not everyone wants or needs a career change – sometimes it’s about looking for fewer hours, sometimes it’s about working from home, sometimes it’s about taking stock and effecting small changes that make work more satisfying or home less challenging.
And perhaps far from only ever being a career obstacle, kids can sometimes make us take big brave steps we might not otherwise take. Spin. Turn. Pivot.