Marc Miller: Pivot Like a Pro

Marc Miller is the founder of www.careerpivot.com, a career design firm for those “in the second half of life” that are looking to make a career change. Mr. Miller has made seven career pivots and he expands on a few of them in this episode. Marc starts the podcast by identifying the realities of a career pivot. Most people will do one of two things, either they will remain in their current field but take on a new skill or they will repurpose their existing skills in a different industry. Most importantly, when people make these incremental career changes they will need help. They will need someone to pick them up when they fall down, like a teammate running a marathon with you or a family member cheering you as you get gasp for oxygen in the 9th mile.

“Most people will do one of two things, either they will remain in their current field but take on a new skill or they will repurpose their existing skills in a different field”

Next, he discusses how people should recover from career failure. He has made three failed pivots and the three most important things to remember are, fail fast, always have a Plan B, always learn something from it. For example, he was a consultant at IBM for six months and hated it. However, he now structures his coaching business in the same way a consultant would i.e., he charges by the project, not by the hour and breaks the work into phases. So despite leaving consulting he still learned from that experience.

When pivoting, failure is always a possibility. For that reason it is important to always have a low risk backup plan. Marc stresses the importance of not waiting too long. When you suspect your new role is not working out execute your backup plan quickly before your prior experience becomes stale. For example, it was easier for Marc to return to his old field after leaving his consultant job at IBM because that had only been there six months. Whereas, when he went to teach Algebra 1 and 2, he found that he had waited too long, and could no longer return to his prior industry, so he had to move into nonprofit fundraising instead of returning to his previous field. For example, Justin would now see a similar difficulty if he tried to return to a sales career after 5 years as an analyst. Even sales managers would wonder if he can still sell which is a sales pitch he’d rather not make anytime soon.

Therefore, before people pivot careers, it is advised to consider the risks and build a strong support system. The deeper you get in a job search the more resistance you will meet. Most often the resistance is internal. Fear, doubt, insecurity grow as time passes without work so after a period of time, which is different for everybody, it might only be your support network that can bring back your confidence. Supportive friends and past coworkers can restore confidence, encourage action, and initiate momentum for a job search that has gone on way too long in the eye of the job seeker.

For some clients, Marc advises them to halt their search for an employer instead of waiting for new opportunities. Reacting to opportunities can be inferior to creating a new career by finding a problem you want to solve and solving it. Justin challenges that some people do not have the luxury to form a new business or even choose the circumstances they find themselves within. Marc touches on what to do if the career pivot is forced on an individual. For instance, if, they have a sick parent or get laid off he says, “don’t be a turkey” i.e. don’t sit back or make assumptions. Always be prepared. Long before a pink slip arrives you should have been nurturing your network, and polishing your resume each year. In the event of a family member suddenly needing more care think back to the months prior, was your attitude good at work so that you had a strong reputation? Did you work hard before a sudden change in circumstance so that your employer will be willing to give you the slack you need now? Justin encountered this recently when his Dad had a heart attack and the family needed some help around the house. While there is no preparing for a health crisis, Justin was grateful his reputation as work was strong enough to have the time off he needed (partial days) and work from home was approved to care for his family. Even when a surprise comes your actions and attitude today can make you more ready to react quickly later. You never know when you’ll need to activate your support network so keep some friends close.

In one story Marc had to make a new friend to save his pivot from turning to disaster. Marc assumed because he had a lot of transferrable experience writing curricula he would be highly sought after as a teacher. He was not. Marc reiterates the need to ask for help. He struggled as a Algebra teacher and learned to swallow his pride and shadow a younger teacher who was more experience than he. A new friend, an experienced Algebra teacher, was the difference between success and failure.

Marc and Justin discuss how to find the career pivot that is right for the listener. Marc urges listeners to know themselves which for Marc means that people need to ask whether this pivot is taking them closer to who they are or further away. If you’re unsure of yourself, which many of us are, feel free to ask others. A simple acronym for professional networking is A.I.R: Advice, Insight, and Reference. When reaching out to your network or forming a new network in a different industry, people will be excited to meet with you if you want their advice or insight. If the conversation goes well ask them to connect you to another person. Recommendations can come in the form of a new connection to another person, connection to an article or training you were unaware of, or suggestion for a book you have not yet read. You can learn more about Marc Miller on his podcast, Repurpose Your Career and to buy his new book, Repurpose Your Career: A Practical Guide to the Second Half of Life.

Join Justin next month when he talks to career coach and resume whiz, Lori Williams about what makes the golden resume, how to beef up your resume, and what mistakes to avoid during an interview.