The Time for a Professional Pivot is Now

June 16, 2020 Career Advice,Careers

By: Talia Adell Stinson, Philadelphia, PA

The world has literally been turned on its side in recent months, with nearly every industry being affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Amidst personal challenges that come along a struggling economy, many are finding themselves out of work or professionally stuck even as the world begins to reopen. Overtime, the economy will slowly recover, however some industries may not fare well in the new normal into which we are going to emerge. My career path has been interesting, and my trajectory has afforded me many opportunities early on; I have a background in project management, technology product development, research analysis and as a writer.

For me, a professional pivot was inevitable, even before COVID-19 and the current economic downturn. I had transitioned out of full-time public service as a research analyst about a year ago, and took some time to think about what I wanted to do next. Even in applying to other roles, I realized I hadn’t really nailed down my passion, which I ultimately wanted to be connected to what I did with my career. During the holiday season of 2019, I was fortunate to receive notice for a call of submissions to a local newspaper asking for story pitches about a time when the writer changed their perspective. I wrote about how I’d moved to the east coast just under a month before September 11, and how my experience in processing what was happening in the world during that time affected my career focus. I’d originally moved to the east coast from Ohio thinking that I would go to law school and be a lawyer. However, somewhere along the way I quite literally changed my mind, and pursued opportunities tied to civic engagement and community involvement.

After I submitted the piece and then saw it in print, I realized that I hadn’t written anything that really meant something to me in years. And, that was it- I realized that I was getting closer to connecting what I wanted to do with my professional life. For me writing is an artistic expression, as well as a powerful means by which I could support myself. Throughout the winter, I began studying on how to support myself, while still searching for full-time roles, applying and interviewing. I was also studying the economy, and I knew something was coming, and it wasn’t going to be favorable for anyone. The analyst in me knew how to watch the signs, the patterns, and how to track the changes even before they actually happened. Ultimately, I just did what came naturally: I assessed, retained information, and used it to make choices that made sense for me.

Part of my studies included building my social capital; I needed to meet people who thought a bit more like me and could understand how I functioned. Before too much longer, my career as a freelance project manager and writer began to take off. I had been learning to write proposals in brief, how to talk about myself the right way, and how to be an effective collaborator from my home. I have been fortunate to slowly begin to grow a small client base, and I learn more every day about how to continue to grow in my new professional normal, amidst the changes we are all facing in the real world.

I share my story as a means to be helpful to anyone out there grappling with how to move forward at a difficult time, and how to use a setback or moment of uncertainty as a push forward. My professional pivot saved me in more ways than one. It’s not easy and I am still adjusting. However, most importantly, I am learning. My advice to anyone who is struggling to figure out what to do next or how to emerge from what feels like global quicksand, is:

  1. Get back to what matters to you. So many of us follow traditional career paths, or those we feel are supposed to mean something to us. Even while it’s difficult, it’s so important to get closer to what you feel most passionate about. Once you settle in on that, you’ll begin to think about your career differently, and as long as you accept yourself you’ll be on your way. The change will start at home, with you.
  2. Seek out people who can relate to what matters to you. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but the way I networked and connected with people had shifted over the course of a few short months. I’d recommend thinking about both who you seek out and how you interact with them; I’ve met some incredible people in the first half of 2020, even amidst some of the most challenging of circumstances. When you find new members of your tribe–ones who make you feel good about yourself and can be supportive of your professional choices–stand close to them, even amidst uncertainty.
  3. Be open to learning something new. We all have the power to be an expert, to capture attention in a room. However, the most powerful pivots are connected to a willingness to be a student, and being open to listening. I’ve read books, articles, taken online masterclasses, and more in the last several months. All of my research and studying has paid off for me, and helped me to make the progress I’ve made to date, and I’m looking forward to continuing to grow in this new space. Don’t be afraid to be a student for the sake of yourself; invest in yourself today to set yourself up for a better tomorrow.

The economic recovery will be both long and challenging. There are many variables that are involved in reviving industries that are able to survive these difficult times. As many are heading back to work now, and others are considering new career choices, my hope is that we all come out of this time learning a bit more about ourselves, and taking the newfound self-discovery and committing it to action.

Now is as good a time as any to pivot within your career- here’s to reinvention and new chapters to your professional story.

About the author

Talia Stinson

Talia Stinson is a professional writer and project manager in the Philadelphia area. She has prior work experience in the nonprofit, for profit sectors, and local government sectors . Talia is a two-time University of Pennsylvania alumna (C’05 and MPA ’10). An Old City resident for over ten years and local to Philadelphia for nearly 20, she has worked in education, technology, business development, consulting, and politics. Talia is a longtime diligent advocate for the arts community. She is currently the Board Secretary for Art-Reach, a local nonprofit whose mission is to enrich lives by connecting underserved audiences with cultural experiences so that they may enjoy and benefit from the transformative power of the arts.

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