An insider’s guide to making a successful career pivot
One year ago, armed only with my MBA, I made a triple career pivot across industry, function and geography, without a single connection in the industry and almost zero relevant experience.
The role I got, was never advertised online.
I accessed the hidden job market at my target company.
Here’s how I did it:
Forget coffee chats and embrace ‘Ideation chats’
Too many early and mid-career professionals overuse ‘coffee chat’s’ to network and get job referrals.
The harsh truth? Organic, mutually beneficial ideation is more powerful that any Networking tactic.
Remember networking is a 2-way street!
Move away from coffee chats and enter the era of ideation.
A request for a coffee chat translates to: ‘Hi X, Can you please take out 30 mins from your already mad schedule to listen to ‘me’ talk about ‘my’ career and refer ‘me’ to ‘my’ dream job?’
See the problem?
Instead, an offer for an ideation chat says, ‘Hi X, we seem to share a common passion for ‘Topic Y’ and I would love to take out my precious time to get into an intellectually stimulating discussion about ‘your’ industry, get ‘you’ thinking beyond the monotony of ‘your’ day job and energise ‘your’ grey matter!’
Now, this one’s all about them!
Catch my drift?
I was referred for my role by a VP, whom I had written to via LinkedIn in Jan 2022 requesting exactly this – ‘An ideation around career mobility’
I prepped hard before this chat. I scanned her LinkedIn activity and figured out what she thinks and feels about career mobility and the broader industry.
I was like a sleuth, dissecting her biggest pain points and challenges. This is what I focused on. I did my research and had 1-2 super insightful questions, comments, or trends ready to share when we met. Coming from a technology startup and career coaching background, I realised, I brought useful insights to our discussion.
Never underestimate how powerful your previous, seemingly, unrelated background can be. There’s strength in unique and diverse perspectives.
Cracking your dream pivot is a Long game. So, be patient or surrender now!
Even when there is no sign of opportunity, stay in touch.
For the first 3 months, nothing happened, but I still stayed in touch with this VP, even if just to say hello every 3 weeks, and even when I got no reply.
Then suddenly, about 3.5 months in, it happened!
She wrote back saying that an interesting role (aka my dream role) had opened up in a neighbouring team and she would love to refer me for this role to the CEO.
Well, that was my aha moment! The magic really does lie in the patience.
Imagine if I had given up on this connection after month 1 or 2 or even 3?
Never underestimate the power of serendipity and well, the six degrees of separation
The six degrees of separation says all people are 6 or fewer social connections way from each other.
Never underestimate the power of speaking to seemingly unrelated employees at your target company or even the broader industry.
One good conversation with a brand manager at a marketing team could get you an edge because this brand manager happens to work super closely with the head of sales and ends up suggesting that you seem like a great fit for the company.
More is always better than less, when it comes to building human connections across your target organisation.
We all know that an internal referral is always worth 100 times more than a job application via indeed.com. So, remember, to spread your web enterprise-wide, who knows which thread connects you to your dream job!
Learn the language of the role and company from insiders and please, go beyond the job description!
In prep for my interviews, I spoke to people who had played or supervised my desired role in the past. This helped me evaluate fit and more importantly, speak the language of that role and company, helping me ace the interviews.
I began to see how this role was lived and how it fits into the overall strategic imperatives and matrix of the organisation.
This also made me ‘genuinely’ curious and ask real questions when the hiring manager asked, ‘so, do you have any questions for me?’
By the time my interviews arrived, I had begun to become fluent in the language of the company and the role. Also, I asked tough and most importantly, real questions to my interviewers!
I had 3 rounds in a matter of 2 weeks and well, got the job! : )
Be bold. Career Pivots are not for the faint-hearted.
This was my third attempt at a career pivot and well, it worked.
So, buckle up, be strategic, stay the course and pivot away!
Cambridge Judge alumna, Divya Dewan graduated in 2022 and was a Forté Foundation scholar during her MBA year. Read more about her Cambridge MBA experience >
Divya Dewan is now Practice Leader, Career Development & Mobility at the recruiting consulting company, LHH, based in London, UK.