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Finding the right 'pivot guide' for your career change

I’m not a professional artist or athlete, but I’ve always been amazed at the intense level of dedication that they give to perfecting their craft. From Misty Copeland to Michael Phelps, they are the ones who typically become poster people for grit and determination. But they would not have achieved that level of mastery without a key tool: a 'coach' or in other words a ‘guide’.

The same tactic goes for the main characters in every kung fu movie or story about fulfilling an epic quest. Even Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter needed to meet a mentor or sensei like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Dumbledore along their hero's journey to greatness.

I know that there’s still a lot of stigma and pride involved when it comes to asking for help. Although it may seem easy, the mental health movement shows us that asking for help (which is totally human and natural btw) is complicated because it’s intertwined with feelings of failure and issues of self-worth. Additionally, an unhealthy culture of competition and comparison adds to the pressure of always looking like you have your shit together.

But the thing about career change and making a pivot is that it requires an attitude of humility. It’s about being comfortable with not being the expert in the room and knowing that you might have to unlearn some mindsets and behaviours that you spent years cultivating in a different profession. It’s ultimately accepting that there’s a brave new world outside of your lane of knowledge and experience that’s waiting for you to explore it.

So if even our greatest heroes need help, then why shouldn’t we arm ourselves with our own set of career guides?

Luckily there’s a whole ecosystem of support at our disposal. While there are tons of articles that talk about ‘People who will help you grow your career’, ‘The types of relationships you need to succeed in your career,’ this article focuses on a specific kind of support: a Pivot Guide. I want to make 2 important distinctions that led to this

Single Lane versus Change Lane

Firstly, you need to know the difference between support systems that help you gain success within a single lane versus those who can help you change lanes and expand your horizons to see new possibilities. The latter is where Rising Sideways fits in.

Secondly, if your aim is to Rise Sideways, then the language that you use for your journey should not be centered around achievement and success which is what most resources will talk about. Although that’s undoubtedly important in the long term, that will add unnecessary pressure when you’re making a pivot. It will most likely make you feel stuck instead of brave enough to make a change, which is the objective. Instead, the language and metrics should be about expanding your horizons and growing.

On that note, if you do want to Rise Sideways, here are different types of Pivot Guides you can use to help you along your journey.

The Brain Trust

I wish I came up with this term, but I first heard Brene Brown mention it during her 2019 talk at SXSW Austin Texas. A brain trust is basically the answer to “If you could call anyone and pick on their brain, who would it be?” It’s a diverse group of people (authors, celebrities, chefs, athletes, artists, creators, influencers, friends etc) that you admire and who can introduce you to new ways of thinking that’s different from your own. For the brain trust to work, diversity is key.

Who’s in my braintrust? Brene Brown, Paragh Khanna, David Chang, Marisa Ressa, Hasan Minaj, Michelle Obama, Anthony Bourdain to mention a few.

Why would you need it:

  • To learn more about a different field, way of thinking, solving problems.

  • To stay inspired

How to create a brain trust: Just create a list and start stalking I mean researching about them, their back story, articles they’e written, interviews they’ve done, etc.

Coach / Mentor

I mentioned in my previous interview that coaching is still an emerging industry in Asia and I’m glad that it’s starting to grow! The coach is similar to a mentor, but the main difference is that a coach is usually not from your industry and takes a more holistic approach to your development. On the other hand, a mentor is usually someone senior who works in your existing field that can help you develop your skills in that area. While the two terms are often interchanged (since it’s still quite nascent), the main point is to find someone who can point you in new directions.

Why would you need it:

  • An unbiased third party who you’re not afraid will judge you

  • It will help you you discover latent interests and connect the dots of your journey

  • Helps you build and maintain your confidence

How to find a coach:

On this website (shameless plug lol). To my knowledge there is no formal directory, but LinkedIn is a good place to start.


Communities are usually created around common points of interest, experiences, cultural background or industries. It’s the modern day equivalent of ‘school clubs’ back in the days of our youth. Not only are communities fun to join because of the socialising, but there are two ways you can leverage it.

Hobby & Cultural Communities: This kind of community is industry agnostic which makes it key to extend your network beyond the boundaries of your profession. You’ll most likely meet a diverse group of professionals who may be in a field that you’re interested in or know someone who is.

Industry communities: There are groups for the career you’re on and there are communities for the career that you want to take on.

Why would you need it:

  • Find people you can learn from and who share your journey.

  • Expand your network beyond people in your immediate professional field

  • Good source of resources

How to find a community:

  • Start with the communities and friend groups that you’re already part of

  • You can also look at learning platforms such as General Assembly

Sounding Board

Inspired by the concept of ‘advisory board’ from the business world, the sounding board acts in a similar way and feels more approachable. When you start exploring something new, you want to put together a sounding board of people you can bounce your ideas on and sense check some of the problems you are facing as you’re experimenting. Unlike having a mentor, your sounding board can provide you with a breadth of perspectives on the new industry that you’re exploring.

Why would you need it:

  • Sense check different facets of a new industry or field that you’re looking into

How to find a sounding board

  • Reach out to people on LinkedIn in different roles and ask if you can have 30 minutes to hear about their experience

Be your own Role Model

Ultimately you are the best pivot guide. You can surround yourself with an A team of advisors and mentors, but career change won’t happen unless you take the initiative to learn. No one else will know what works for you but you. While it’s important to explore, you need to be the one to synthesise that knowledge into a new path or way fo doing things that you think works for you.

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